What to Eat Before and After Your Workouts

Thinking of pre-workout and post-workout foods may seem counterproductive when you’re thinking of exercise. After all, you’re hitting the gym to lose the calories, right? But knowing what to eat before and after your workouts can actually help you be more effective in the gym and do a better job of shedding the extra pounds.

Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Foods You Should Be Eating

To help you better understand just how useful eating food before and after your workout can be, we’re going to share which foods you should be stocking up on and why they’re so beneficial to your fitness regimen.

pre-workout greek yogurt with berries
image source: shutterstock

Pre-Workout Foods

  • Simple Carbs

    Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not all bad. In fact, simple carbohydrates can be an excellent boost of energy before your workout. If you’re low on glucose before a workout, there’s a greater chance that you’re going to feel tired and drained during your workout. You probably won’t put as much effort into the workout or might even call it quits halfway through. Try eating something like:

  • Protein

    Like carbs, it’s important to get a good dose of protein before a workout. This is especially true if you will be weight-lifting. When you lift weights, you create small tears in the muscle fibers, and the body needs protein to repair those fibers. While you don’t want to consume a heavy serving of protein that will make you sick during your workout, you do want to opt for foods like:

    • Nuts
    • Greek yogurt
    • A slice of lean turkey
    • A hardboiled egg
    • Milk or soy milk

Pre-Workout Snack Ideas:

  1. Cut an apple up into small wedges, then spread a little bit of peanut butter over the wedges. This is a great combination of simple carbs and protein.
  2. Add 1/2 cup berries to 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt. The Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein, while the berries will provide the energy boost you need.
  3. Make a smoothie with 1/2 cup of milk, 1 cup of fruit, and some ice. Drink this before your workout for the necessary carbs and protein you’re looking for.

It’s recommended that you eat any pre-workout food about 30 minutes to 1 hour before your workout. This will give your body time to digest the food and properly utilize it for your workout.

post-workout peanut butter toast
image source: shutterstock

Post-Workout Foods

  • Complex Carbs

    If you don’t eat carbs after a workout, you could suffer from low blood sugar and end up feeling completely wiped out. It’s important to replenish your glucose levels by eating some complex carbs. Since your workout is over, you don’t need to worry about the carbs being quickly digested, therefore, skip the simple carbs. Instead, aim for complex carbs like:

    • Quinoa
    • Brown rice
    • Nuts
    • Whole wheat bread
    • Dark, leafy greens
    • Whole wheat pasta
  • Protein

    Just like you would before a workout, you should make sure to stock up on protein. As discussed, eating protein will help with muscle protein synthesis. While eating protein before a workout will potentially help reduce the amount of tissue breakdown in your workout, protein that’s consumed after a workout will help in the recovery process of the muscle fibers that have already been torn. Go for lean protein like:

    • Fish
    • Cottage cheese
    • Beans
    • Tofu
    • Protein bar
    • Protein shake

Post-Workout Snack Ideas:

  1. Enjoy low-sodium tuna scooped into lettuce cups.
  2. Add some blueberries or peach slices to a serving of cottage cheese.
  3. Make a protein shake using peanut butter, milk, and a banana.

It’s recommended that you consume a post-workout snack within 45 minutes of finishing your workout.

If you’re looking for a recipe idea for a pre-workout or post-workout snack, try our recipe for no-bake energy balls!

Proteins or Carbs?

Whether you choose to have a carb-centered snack or protein-centered snack is dependent on what kind of workout you are partaking in. If you’re running on the treadmill, you’ll probably want to concentrate on a pre-workout snack of simple carbs and a post-workout snack of complex carbs.

If your workout is centered around weight-lifting or other muscle-stretching activities, aim for proteins both before and after your workout. Many of the snack ideas suggested often combine a mix of carbs and proteins, making it even easier to decide what to eat, as you can have both!

Don’t Forget the Water!

While it’s important to eat certain pre-workout and post-workout foods for optimal results at the gym, it’s just as (if not more) important that you get adequate hydration. When you sweat, you lose a fair amount of water and electrolytes.

It’s important to replenish your body with water before, during, and after a workout to reduce any risk of dehydration or fatigue.


Jones, J. (2018, January 08). What to Eat Before and After a Workout, According to a Registered Dietitian. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://www.self.com/story/what-a-registered-dietitian-says-you-should-eat-before-and-after-a-workout
Top 10 Pre Workout Foods. (2018, March 12). Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://www.myprotein.com/thezone/nutrition/pre-workout-foods/
Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After a Workout. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eat-after-workout#section5
Born and raised in Southern California, Beeta has embraced a healthy lifestyle focused on farm-to-table cooking, natural products, and wellness routines. When she's not writing up recipes or discussing the latest natural living trends, Beeta enjoys spending time trying new restaurants, traveling with family and friends, and relaxing at home with her furry companion.