“What should I eat before and after a workout” is one of the most popular questions I regularly get from clients and bootcamp members.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all for every individual, there are some basic “rules” that will help.
Before a workout:
You want to eat foods that provide energy, and something with a little protein for those muscles too! While many people don’t like to eat before a workout, I typically find that most people will do well with a snack up to an hour before exercise. Those who workout early in the morning before breakfast tend to do well on a protein shake, a small piece of fruit, or sometimes can get by on sipping BCAAs throughout a workout. If you workout later in the day, a small meal or snack an hour or two before training might be perfect for you. Regardless, if you’re going to eat anything, you’ll want something made up of carbs and protein. Think “energy and muscles.”
- An applesauce cup or a banana (any piece of fruit, really)
- Greek yogurt (plain) mixed with your fave berries and a splash of honey
- A small, snack-sized meal such as a couple oz. of lean meat with rice or quinoa
- A protein shake and an apple
- Hummus and veggies
- Ground turkey or chicken with sweet potatoes
- Oatmeal with a scoop of collagen or vanilla protein powder
- Egg whites and salsa
- Whatever gives you energy that also won’t make you sick when you try to workout! (nothing heavy or super fatty like a steak, peanut butter, guacamole, cheeses, etc.)
After your workout:
This is similar to pre workout, but the specifics here are a little bit more important. Instead of fueling a workout, you’re now trying to recover from one. Researchers have found that the best way to recover from a workout (including maximizing on muscle building and fat loss as well), is to have protein and simple carbs (ones like fruit that digest quickly and easily) post training. And not only that, but in a ratio of 1:2 – 1g of protein for every 2g of carbs. The theory is that it takes 2g of carbs to actually transport 1g of protein back to the muscles for recovery. Those who have a protein shake post-workout WITH carbs tend to recover better and faster than those who skip the carbs.
- A protein shake/smoothie made with berries and bananas. Skip the kale and spinach – you don’t want fiber post-workout. Fiber slows down absorption of the carbs + protein.
- You could also opt for a lean meat like fish or chicken and pair it with white rice (yes, white – you want simple, fast digesting carbs).
- Want a fun treat? Pair your fave candy (think gummy bears, jelly beans, skittles – the ones high in sugar but zero fat) and chase it with a scoop of protein powder mixed with water.
Scared of Carbs?
Don’t be! Carbs are essential for energy, hormone health, muscle growth, and muscle recovery. A lot of research shows that the timing of “when” you eat your carbs can play a big role in body composition – meaning – if you’re trying to stay on the lower side of your carb intake, plan to eat your carbs about 1 hour before your workout and 30 min to 3 hours after your workout. If you can consume 50-60% of your daily carbs in this window of time, you’re essentially going to “use” these carbs for energy production and recovery.
Keep your fat LOW.
Fat, while a fantastically important macronutrient, digests very very slowly. This isn’t optimal for training or recovery. So training on a meal high in fat tends to make people feel sick and sluggish. I’ve done it before and I felt like I couldn’t move. And recovering with foods high in fat may even be worse than training on them – when you eat something high in fat post workout, the super slow digesting fat prevents the protein and carbs from getting to the muscles. Carbs digest fast and that’s why we need them to help us get the protein to the muscles. When you add fat to the mix, it holds the protein and the carbs back from getting where it needs to go. Nothing irks me more than seeing someone post their peanut butter recovery smoothie or their avocado toast and calling it “post workout recovery.” A) it’s low in protein, and B) it’s loaded in fat. It’s just a healthy snack better suited for another time of day. It’s not really helping anything recover.
So eat your foods higher in fat when you’re out of your training window. And keep your carbs for inside that training window.
My caveat to all of this:
If your diet, and by diet I mean food choices, aren’t already optimal ones, work on THAT first. You can’t out-train a bad diet, and learning to make healthier food choices needs to be step one in your journey right now – not necessarily what time of day is ok to eat peanut butter. IF, however, you’re already doing everything right and you need that extra little change-up to help push you through a plateau or boost you towards your goal, (or simply just need to recover better), then you can start looking at nutrient timing and see what you can switch around to help you with your goals.
Here, let me help you out! (Free stuff!)
To get you started, I’ve got TEN of my fave pre and post workout snacks/meals in a FREE .PDF for you. Just click the link and it’s yours! Share this post with your friends and on social media so that others can download them too. Pre and post workout fueling is tough for everyone!!
If you like these recipes, you can find even more here: 25 Pre & Post Workout Recipes
PS- All of these recipes have at least 15+g of protein and 30+ grams of good, wholesome, energy producing, optimal recovering carbs.
Eat and workout with me!
Have fun training and reach out if you need any more recipes or meal planning assistance. Meal plans start at $35 (including customized macros) or a pdf of 10-12 recipes is just $10. Go to https://strongfigure.com/nutrition-help/ if you want more info!
Don’t forget to tag me in your IG food and fitness photos!! @Strongfigure_Steph @strongfigure @strongfigurebootcamp! 😀
Need training assistance to go along with your meal prep? We JUST launched our very own “At Home Bootcamp Programming!” Click the link to read more and get in on the fun. 😉