Pre- and Post- Workout Nutrition

Here are the best foods to eat before and after a workout to fuel up the right way.


By Katie Ringley


When it comes to pre-workout nutrition or post-workout nutrition, we tend to make it more complicated than we need to. There are some basic principles that can be applied in an easy way so you can flexibly choose many different foods to fit your nutritional needs. Many times, however, athletes will figure out what works best for them, and they will stick with the regimen for years to come.

The simple rule before working out is that you’ll need to gain enough energy in order to complete the workout efficiently. The most readily available source of energy is going to be carbohydrates. To make sure that you are able to use these carbs during your workout, it is best to eat 30-60 minutes before your training session. The type of carbohydrate that you want to aim for is a fast digesting carbohydrate so that you are able to use this energy source.

Some examples of fast digesting carbs are white rice, white bread, low fiber bagels, fruit, or even something like cereal. You’ll also want to make sure that you have fast digesting protein combined with the carbs in equal parts to help with muscle recovery and growth. Whey protein isolate or egg whites is a great example of a good pre-workout protein source.

During your pre-workout nutrition, you are trying to fuel your workouts. Your post- workout nutrition should focus on repair and recovery. Infamously, this is when people drink protein shakes. However, it’s important to eat a good complex carbohydrate combined with a fast digesting protein. Your glycogen storage has been depleted, and in order to grow and recover, you need to replenish them.

Again, fast acting protein includes whey isolate or egg whites, but you can also have a meal post-workout such as chicken with sweet potatoes, or oats and a protein shake or Greek yogurt with honey. The important thing is that you are replenishing your body. Post-workout meals should be consumed within 1 hour of the workout to be able to have the best effect on recovery.

It’s also important to recognize that adding in extra calories to your pre- and post-workout meals is not going to aid in weight loss if you are adding in additional calories to whatever your baseline is. It might be a good idea for you to schedule your meals around your workouts so that you don’t have to add in these extra snacks as added calories. If you feel you have enough energy to do a workout based on your previous meal and don’t need something 30-60 minutes before your workout, then that’s okay. Just make sure to replenish after.

When deciding your pre- and post-workout nutrition, it’s also important to consider whatever activity you are going to be doing. If you are lifting, then the rules above apply.

If you are running a marathon, then you will want to make sure that you have food before, during, and after. Before running long distances, eat some long digesting proteins, such as oats, an hour before, and then have some quick sugar right before you begin, such as a banana.

As much as nutrition is a science, it’s also a preference. Try to listen to your body’s natural hunger signals in telling you when it’s most comfortable for you to eat, and aim to eat the combination of carbs and protein that I stated previously. If you are not hungry right after your workout, then don’t feel as if you need to force food. Consistency in working out and good nutrition is key to a long standing health and happiness.

Katie is a pharmacist from NC. She moved to New York City with her husband and two teacup yorkies for an adventure. After completing her doctorate in pharmacy last May, Katie decided to pursue nutrition coaching. Katie specializes in creating custom macronutrient profiles for clients based on their individual goals. You can find Katie on her blog Katiesfitscript.

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