Nutrition

Here’s What You Should Really be Eating Before & After a Workout (it may not be what you think)

The FitOn mythbusters are here to help you find the best foods for your training program.

By: Rebecca Jacobs

If you find yourself confused about what and when you should be eating both before and after a workout, you definitely aren’t alone. So many of us wonder what in the world we are actually supposed to be eating. Between all the confusing info out there, it can make it hard to determine if you should be having that protein shake before after that cardio sesh.

If you want in on knowing what works best for pre-workout fuel, and which foods work best after your workout, read on.

What to Eat Before Exercise

Carbs

Most athletes and fitness enthusiasts know just how important carbs are for energy during our workouts, so much so that some athletes will choose to carb load before a big event. However, for the average gym-goer, large amounts of carbs prior to a workout isn’t really necessary, which leads to the question of what should you be eating, and when? To help fuel your muscles with glucose to support energy levels during your next cardio or strength training workout, you will want to add some carbs to your meal 2-3 hours before your workout. Things like sweet potatoes, brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa, and fruit are all excellent options.

Protein

While protein is often thought to serve as a post-workout fuel source, adding some protein to your pre-workout meal may also rev up your workout a little. By adding some clean protein sources to your diet before you hit play on your next FitOn workout, you can help support muscle recovery, increase strength, and muscle performance (sweet deal!) And, studies have found that enjoying some good old whey protein before a workout was especially beneficial. So go ahead and add a scoop of whey protein to your pre-workout smoothie, or sprinkle some in your cup of unsweetened almond or coconut milk yogurt. Just be sure to stick to 100% grass fed whey protein to stay away from those yucky hormones and additives.

Fat

Adding some fat to your pre-workout meal can help supercharge your energy levels by providing you with some longer lasting energy as opposed to just fueling up with carbs. Fat will help prolong those energy levels, and may even help you push yourself just a little bit longer each time you workout. The important thing here is to stay away from damaged fats. Anything that says trans, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated on the nutrition label should be avoided- in fact, run, don’t walk away from these products. Choose healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and whole eggs instead.

Pre-Workout Food Choices

Hungry yet? After all that talk about food, we want to share some healthy options you can snack on before working out. And, keep in mind that it’s best to enjoy a balanced meal or snack 2-3 hours before working out, if possible. If life gets in the way, don’t sweat it. You can enjoy an easily digestible snack about 45-60 minutes before you start exercising. We have shared some of our fav options below.

  • Coconut milk yogurt with flax or chia seeds and raw honey
  • Blueberry banana smoothie with almond milk and collagen protein
  • Avocado Toast
  • Bowl of oatmeal with nut butter
  • Handful of nuts with a side of berries

What to Eat After Exercise

Ok, so you just had a sweat dripping awesome workout, and you are totally toast not to mention starving. But, what do you fuel up on? Is it best to enjoy a full meal, or should you blend up a quick protein shake? We’re here to break it all down for you.

A Balanced Meal is Key

Just like how you want to combine some sort of complex carbohydrates (you know, the slower releasing ones like oats and quinoa,) protein, and fat before your workout, you want to enjoy a balanced meal post-workout as well. Or, if you can’t get around to making a full meal, that’s totally ok too. You can blend up a balanced protein shake instead.

Here’s why having a bit of each macronutrient is super important for post-workout recovery.

Carbs

Eating some carbs after your workout is going to help replenish those glycogen stores that you just burned through during your workout. Your body dips into these stores to use as energy, but you can use them up pretty quickly, especially with regular exercise. So, do your body a favor and give these stores a much-needed boost with some healthy carbs from things like starchy veggies (sweet potatoes, beets, squash,) or things like brown rice, quinoa, oats, or carb-heavy fruits like bananas.

Protein

Getting some protein in after your workout is going to be key to building those muscles you’re working so hard to get. Refuel those tired muscles by getting 20-40 grams of protein after your sweat sesh for optimal results. While it may sound like a ton of protein, you can easily pack in this much by adding a scoop of collagen or bone broth protein to your post-workout shake and add in a half a cup of unsweetened Greek yogurt for an added post-workout protein boost.

Fat

Many people worry that having too much fat after a workout will hinder their body’s ability to absorb nutrients. But, fear not because healthy fats are not going to take away from all the benefits of the other nutritious foods you enjoy in your post-workout meal. So, go ahead and add a quarter of an avocado to your protein shake, or drizzle some coconut oil over your sweet potato. The healthy fats can help give you a much-needed energy boost while also boosting the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. So, honestly, there’s no need to fear healthy fats.

Post Workout Food Choices

When it comes to what to fuel your body with after an intense workout, we have you covered. We also want to mention when you should be eating after your workout.

It’s best to chow down on that post-workout meal about 45ish minutes after your done working out. But, if it’s not right within that time, don’t panic, just try to get snacking asap.

And, to help you figure out which foods to eat post-workout, we have listed some of our fav go-to post-workout food choices.

  • Rice pasta with ground turkey and broccoli
  • 2 rice cakes with almond butter and hemp seeds
  • Protein shake with almond milk, banana, flax seeds, and collagen protein
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs with a side of fruit and a slice of gluten-free toast

The Takeaway

Nutrition plays a huge role for both pre-workout fuel to give you the energy to dominate that workout, and post-workout fuel to help support muscle recovery, and to replenish those glycogen stores. The bottom line is that the better you eat, the better your workouts will be. So, don’t cheat yourself by skipping pre and post-workout meals, it could be just what you need to give your body the boost to power through those last five reps of each workout. With increased endurance comes faster and better results, so go on and get your pre and post-workout fuel on, your body is counting on it!