Pre and Post Workout: What Should I Eat?

Fueling your body right before and after a great workout session is critical for proper muscle recovery. Many people never consider the nutritional aspect of working out, but without eating properly your workout won’t be as effective as you think it was. Here’s a quick low-down on some tips and ideas on what to eat pre and post workout! Pre-workout: The main goal of the pre-workout fuel is to reduce the completion of muscle glycogen and to reduce your muscle protein breakdown. Carbohydrates, protein, and a little fat are key things to look for in a pre-workout snack.


Carbohydrates are essential in the pre-workout nourishment. Carbohydrates provide our bodies with its main source of fuel, also known as glucose. Around 1-2 hours before your workout, aim for a meal high in carbohydrates, such as fruit, half of a whole wheat bagel, or a granola bar. Be aware that foods that are high in fiber--such as, broccoli, lentils, fiber bars--may cause bloating, cramps, and gas before a workout, so try to avoid fiber rich foods before a workout. 

Fat and Protein:

Although fats and proteins are not digested as quickly, they are important to fueling your body pre-workout. Fat and protein keep you full longer and can keep your endurance going for energy-dependent sports, such as cycling and distance runs. Studies have shown that by consuming a little protein like whey, roughly an hour before an intense workout session, you can actually increase your basal metabolic resting rate (your metabolic rate while doing absolutely nothing) by nearly 6%. Pair lean choices like a low-fat cheese stick or a tablespoon of peanut butter with one of your carbohydrate choices

Pre-Workout Snack Ideas: 

Keeping the above nutritional facts in mind, HER Campus came up with some ideal pre-workout snacks: reduced-fat cheese and crackers, cereal with reduced-fat milk, an apple with peanut butter, steel-cut oatmeal topped with fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and granola, peanut butter on whole wheat toast topped with bananas, and cottage cheese topped with fresh fruit. 

Post-Workout Snack Ideas: 

As with the pre-workout, proteins and carbohydrates are also essential to post-workout snakcs. It’s important to get a balance of carbohydrates and protein into your system within an hour of your workout session. Don’t forget to replenish the liquids and electrolytes you’ve lost as well—water, sodium, and potassium are all important for your body to function. Protein and carbohydrates are key in post-workout nutrition in terms of reducing muscle protein breakdown and increasing protein anabolism, reducing the soreness and muscle fatigue, replenishing your glycogen levels, and also reducing your cortisol levels. Carbohydrates are important in a post workout meal for their function in glycogen replenishment. By consuming carbohydrates, you are raising your insulin levels, which will shuttle carbs and amino acids into your muscles to use for recovery. Protein is essential in muscle growth and recovery after an intense workout. After your intense workout, protein catabolism (breakdown) begins, which means you need to refuel and replenish the protein that’s being broken down. By consuming the protein within an hour after your workout, it can be broken down into its simpler building blocks, called amino acids, and used to promote lean mass gain and strength. Liquid meals after a workout are a great way to get the nutrients to your body fast compared to solid meals. Here are some nutritious and delcious protein shake recipes for your post-workout:

  • Chunky Monkey: Half of a medium banana, 1 tablespoon of peanut/almond butter, 1 cup of low-fat chocolate milk/almond milk, 1 scoop of chocolate flavored protein power, blended
  •  Strawberry Cookies N’ Cream: Half of a medium banana, 1 scoop of cookies and cream protein powder, Half cup of frozen strawberries, blended
  • Banana Nut: 1 banana, half cup of milk, 1 scoops vanilla whey protein powder, handful of almonds, blended
  • Chocolate Coffee Shake: 1 scoop of chocolate whey protein, 1 cup skim milk, a handful ice, 1 tbsp instant coffee, 1 cup of water/milk, blended • Superfruit Shake: ½ of a peach, 1 cup of orange juice, 1 cup of protein powder, 3-4 frozen strawberries, 1/3 of a banana, blended.

Follow these tips if you want to take your workouts to the next level. Because you simply CANNOT outtrain a bad diet.