Meal Matchmaker is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission. Learn more.

What to Eat Before and After a Workout

Last Updated on December 30, 2022

Anyone who works out regularly knows that nutrition and diet are an important half of the battle. Eating right can help you reach your goals and perform better. However, while many people focus on what to eat before a workout, it turns out, it's also a good idea to pay attention to what you put in your body after one as well.

Whether you are preparing for a marathon or doing weight training, you have to get the right amount of vitamins and minerals. We looked at medically reviewed guidelines to help you get the most out of your exercises

The Importance of the Post-Workout Meal

Your muscles keep glucose in glycogen stores, which is what fuels you during a workout. When you exercise, your glycogen levels deplete, and so does some of the protein in your body. When you finish your prolonged exercise, your body works hard to repair your muscle proteins and rebuild the glycogen stores.

For this reason, it matters what you choose for a post-workout snack. Consuming carbs and protein can help:

  • Recover and reduce fatigue
  • Restore muscle glycogen synthesis
  • Improve muscle growth (muscle protein synthesis)
  • Decrease protein breakdown

Eating for Recovery

There are several macronutrients involved in the recovery process after your workout. Each macronutrient has its own function.


Carbohydrates help you replenish your glycogen stores. The rate of depletion depends on your body type and activity level. An endurance sport such as swimming or running will use up more glycogen than weight lifting. So, runners may need to go heavier on the carbs than bodybuilders.

Experts say that you want to eat carbs within 30 minutes of exercise, and you want to have 0.5-0.7 grams per pound of your body weight. This practice is especially key for a person who works out often. If you rest for a day or two between workouts then it's not as crucial.


Evidence from studies shows that consuming at least 20 grams of protein can maximize your post-workout recovery. Since you may experience protein muscle tissue breakdown, your body needs to replenish those amino acids. (2)

Additionally, another process called insulin secretion helps with glycogen synthesis. Research shows that ingesting protein and carbs at the same time can speed up muscle repair. Research suggests that you should follow a ratio of three grams of carbs to every gram of protein.

The recommendation is to eat 0.14-0.23 grams of protein for every pound that you weigh.


Surprisingly, you don't have to avoid fat altogether when you eat after a workout. Sure, you want to limit your fat intake, but research shows that it doesn't affect your nutrient absorption. In one study, people who drank whole milk after an exercise session had more muscle growth than those who drank skim muscle.

Having a little fat in your post-workout snack does not affect recovery. Some healthy fats that you can try include peanut butter, trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, and avocado.

Not a fan of putting meals together? Browse our top meal services for losing weight to make things easier.

What to Eat Before a Workout?

You may also be wondering what to eat before a workout. And, when should you eat a pre-workout meal? Ideally, you want to consume a snack no less than 30 minutes before working out. If it's a full balanced meal, then eat it between two and three hours before.

Don't eat too much directly before you exercise, or you may get an upset stomach. If you only have time for a snack, eat something with a high protein content or carb content, such as:

  • a piece of toast
  • crackers
  • oatmeal
  • fruits
  • Greek yogurt
  • a glass of soy milk
  • a hard-boiled egg

You should also be sufficiently hydrated before you hit the gym. Include plenty of water in your pre and post-workout regimens.


What should you not eat after a workout?

Eating the right foods after a workout can help your body recover, help you build muscle, and build your immune system. However, the consumption of the wrong foods can do exactly the opposite. According to a sports nutrition coach, you want to avoid:

  • a sugary protein shake with artificial protein powder
  • an over-processed protein bar
  • sports drinks
  • salty or fried foods
  • caffeine, such as coffee

Some good post-workout snack ideas that can replace these poor options include grilled vegetables, baked sweet potato, a banana, coconut water, a healthy smoothie, or smart carbs such as berries. It is also important to eat something as opposed to nothing because your body needs nutrients and minerals to keep up performance.

When should I eat after exercising?

According to nutritionist Rima Kleiner, "Eating protein-rich food after a workout helps build muscle, reduce recovery time, and increase strength." So, you want to have a solid protein intake and a good carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. Some example meals and snacks include:

  • Proteins. Plant-based protein powder, egg whites, tuna, baked chicken breast, salmon, cottage cheese, and eggs.
  • Carbs. Sweet potatoes, quinoa, chocolate milk, leafy green veggies, blueberries, bananas, and rice cakes.
  • Healthy fats. nut butter, flax seeds, and coconut oil.

According to most wellness advice, it's best to stick to good carbs that can help you with your fitness needs. Consider brown rice and things such as a slice of whole-grain bread when you make a sandwich.

Your protein depends on the intensity of your training. Athletes doing strength exercise training may need extra. When in doubt about how to meet your goal, make sure you seek medical advice.

Finally, you want to avoid using a sugary electrolyte drink as part of your post-workout nutrition. Professional athletes can get away with it, but for most people, there are better ways to replenish electrolytes and energy.

What should I eat after a night workout?

Sometimes you prefer to or have to work out late at night. If so, you may have covered what to eat before a workout and don't want to overdo it afterward. It's important to eat after a workout to rebuild your muscle cells after resistance training.

Try to eat a healthy meal an hour before you work out so that you don't have to eat a lot right before bed. Some great sources of protein with not too many calories are:

  • natural yogurts with almonds or a handful of fruit
  • boiled egg with the yolk
  • peppers and hummus
  • spinach salad with fish
  • granola bar

Stay away from foods high in sugar and sodium. Although people consider it a bad thing to eat before bed, our bodies need nutrients and hydration after intense exercise.

What should you eat before and after a workout?

Any trainer or sports medicine dietitian will tell you to carefully plan your pre-and post-workout meal. What you eat affects your energy levels and your blood sugar levels. When you break a sweat, you are using up glycogen storage that you need to replace.

Before you work out, drink lots of water and fluids to avoid dehydration. You want to build a lifestyle of good habits so that making the right choices is second nature. Some tips for any athlete include:

  • rice cakes with almond butter
  • leafy greens and whole grains
  • foods high in antioxidants
  • peanuts and dried pineapple
  • pear or apple
  • omega-3 fatty acids

Get a combination of products on your plate that benefits your body. Remember that you need good carbs in addition to protein. If you don't want to prepare meals, a whole-grain turkey sandwich with a green smoothie is always a good way to go.

Should I eat before or after workout?

This is a common question that people ask. It all depends on what kind of workout you are doing, how intense it is, and how long it lasts.

If you are going to work out for more than an hour, then eating before your session will help you keep up with the energy demands of your body. If you are only going to spend 30 minutes in the gym then there is no need for a pre-workout meal because a quick snack will do just fine.

If you're doing intense workouts such as weight training or HIIT cardio, then a pre-workout meal will help you boost your energy levels and strength.

If you are doing a light workout such as a long walk or stretching session, then there is no need for a pre-workout meal.

Eating before your workout can be helpful if it is not more than an hour and it doesn't leave you feeling bloated. If you feel that eating before working out has an adverse effect on you, then stop doing it altogether and snack after your session instead.

Do I need to eat before a workout?

Some people say that they drink coffee or water, and others say they drink some protein shake or eat a high GI (Glycemic Index) fruit. Others prefer work out on an empty stomach because they say they feel nauseous when they eat and then work out.

However, according to research, it's important to eat before working out to provide fuel for your body and to prevent exercise-induced hypoglycemia. When you exercise, your body uses up energy to perform the activity. During this process, your blood sugar levels may drop. Eating before exercising helps prevent this from happening and keeps you going strong for longer.

It doesn't matter if you're doing intense physical activity or low-intensity exercises, such as walking or stretching. It's important to have something in your stomach before you exercise.

Research suggests eating carbs such as bananas or whole-grain cereals. If you plan to work out let's say half an hour after eating, it's best then to eat light. You can choose to have a sports drink, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, an energy bar, or even coffee.

Just make sure to eat or drink something your stomach is used to. If you eat or drink something you've never eaten or drunk before, there is a high likelihood that you're going to suffer from an upset stomach.

Which are the best pre-workout snacks?

There are many pre-workout snacks that you can eat before you head to the gym. However, the best pre-workout foods are those that contain protein and carbohydrates. These ingredients help boost energy levels and provide your body with all the nutrients it needs for an effective workout session.

The best pre-workout snacks include a banana or apple with peanut butter both are high in protein and carbs.

A cheese string is another great option as it provides your body with quick energy that lasts for at least an hour. You can also eat a handful of nuts before going to the gym, but make sure that you do not eat too many because they may cause indigestion.

Other great pre-workout snacks include instant oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit smoothie.

What are the best pre-workout meals?

When it comes to pre-workout meals, the best choice is a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. This combination will provide you with enough energy for your workout session as well as sustained energy throughout the day.

Here are some great options:

  • A slice of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and banana
  • Oatmeal with berries, nuts, or seeds
  • Brown rice with chicken breast with veggies like broccoli
  • Beans on toast
  • Peanut butter sandwich

If you are trying to lose weight, then the best pre-workout meal is one that is high in protein. This will help to curb your hunger pangs and prevent binge eating later in the day when you feel tired from your workout session.

Is it OK to skip breakfast and exercise?

The answer is no. Skipping breakfast can cause low blood sugar and decrease your energy levels, which will make it harder to exercise. If you do not eat anything before exercising, then have a healthy snack after your workout session has finished.

This will help to replenish your energy levels and prevent you from feeling hungry or weak.

How much should I eat before a workout?

There’s no exact answer to this question. Everyone is different and has different needs, so the amount of food that you eat before a workout will depend on your body size, metabolism, and fitness goals.

If it’s your first time working out in a while then you should probably start off with a smaller meal before you exercise such as an energy bar or banana. If you are already used to exercising regularly then you may be able to eat more before your workout session begins.

But generally, it’s a good idea to have a small meal before working out. You don’t want to be too full that you feel nauseous or have cramps during your workout session.

How important is it to eat before working out?

No matter your weight or fitness goals, eating before working out is crucial. For instance, can you go for a hike without eating something? Of course not, because you will get tired, weak, and even faint.

The same goes for working out. If you don’t eat before hitting the gym, you will feel weak and tired. You may also get dizzy and faint because your body doesn’t have enough energy to keep going. But if you eat before working out, it can boost your energy levels.

Some people tend to avoid eating before working out, especially those that are trying to lose weight. However, doing this can cause more harm than good. The body won’t store fat if it doesn’t have enough energy, and when this happens, it will start breaking down lean muscle mass to provide you with the energy you need. This will result in your body losing weight and also making your muscles weak.

Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Nutrition

Your workout is only one part of a life of balance and health. Making gains in your weight loss program or in building muscle mass relies on your post-workout meal as well as asking yourself, "What to eat before I workout?" For the best results, you need to drink water and consume a range of healthy proteins and carbs.

These suggestions hopefully gave you useful examples of foods that would benefit you. Remember that timing of your meal is just as important as the content. However, keep in mind that everyone is different, and we can all get our fuel in different ways.


  1. Kerksick, C., Harvey, T., Stout, J., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., Kreider, R., Kalman, D., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., Ivy, J. L., & Antonio, J. (2008). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 5, 17.

  2. Biolo, G., Tipton, K. D., Klein, S., & Wolfe, R. R. (1997). An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. The American journal of physiology, 273(1 Pt 1), E122–E129.


Join the discussion here on Facebook.

Hi, I'm Paul. Welcome to my website! I, along with my cronies, are leveraging our years of working in the food industry to review meal and drink delivery services. We review. You eat happily ever after.

Read These Next

Exploring the Nordic Diet: What Is It and What Can You Eat?

Exploring the Nordic Diet: What Is It and What Can You Eat?

Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

Types of Meat and Their Benefits: A Tasty Guide

Types of Meat and Their Benefits: A Tasty Guide

How To Transition To A Carnivore Diet

How To Transition To A Carnivore Diet

Top Choices: Best Carnivore Diet Supplements

Top Choices: Best Carnivore Diet Supplements

What Is The Sirtfood Diet?

What Is The Sirtfood Diet?
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}