Workout Nutrition: What to Eat Before & After

Workout Nutrition: What to Eat Before & After

A common question I hear is, “What should I eat before I work out?” It’s easy to get confused on whether you need carbs, protein, or nothing at all. Maybe a granola bar will do the trick. Or should I just drink a lot of water? If you want to get the most out of your workout, you need to pay attention to what you eat before and after you hit the gym. 

If you are doing a strenuous workout for 60 minutes or more, it’s a good idea to fuel up prior and replenish after. This can help to maximize your efforts while you workout and  maximize your results when you’re done. Carbohydrates and protein can be paired together as snacks both before training and after, with the before-snack being carbohydrate rich and the recovery-snack being protein rich.

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Before you start, you want to eat carbohydrate-rich foods. This tops off your muscle stores and is one of your body’s best fuel sources. You also need to eat small amounts of protein to build muscle tissue and prevent those sore muscles after your workout. 

If you haven’t eaten in the 3-4 hours before working out:

  • Eat a light low-to-moderate glycemic load snack, providing 75–150 calories.

  • Eat it 1-2 hours before exercising, so it can provide a needed energy boost. 

  • Make this snack a 2-1 to 4-1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. (For example, a 120 calorie snack following a 2-to-1 ratio would contain 20g of carbohydrates and 10g of protein.)

You might also consider grabbing a cup of coffee or tea before your workout. Caffeine has been shown to sustain maximal endurance and intermittent high-intensity, long-duration exercise, because it helps you work out for longer periods of time before feeling exhausted. Consuming caffeine an hour before resistance training can increase total repetitions and significantly decrease muscle soreness in the following days. (It’s important to remember the effects of caffeine can vary depending on dosage, timing, exercise intensity, duration and habitual or naive caffeine use.)

Foods to avoid pre-workout? Anything high in fat and fiber. They can cause an upset stomach. A healthy diet does include fiber, but the key is to eat those high-fiber foods 3-4 hours before your workout and drink plenty of water.

There are plenty of natural foods out there that can give you the boost you need before you begin. Almonds, Avocados, Eggs, and Bananas are all great pre-workout foods to give you the energy you need. 



A lot of people worry about what they should eat before a workout, but don’t forget about that post-workout snack! You put a lot of effort into your fitness regimen. Make sure you end it on the right note so your body can be ready to perform again.

Following your workout you have a 15–30 minute window to replenish what you have burned! A great snack should include a combination of carbohydrates and protein.  The purpose of the carbohydrate after a workout is to replace the muscle fuel (glycogen) utilized during the workout. The protein will help stimulate the development of new muscle tissue.

  • It’s recommended that, within the first hour, you eat 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. (0.45g = 1lb)

  • You need at least 20g of protein within that first hour.

The primary goal is to supply your body with the nutrients it needs to recover and to maximize the benefits of your workout. 

A healthy post-workout meal will:

  • Help replenish glycogen stores that were depleted during workout

  • Restore energy levels and reduces fatigue, helping the body repair muscles and build strength 

  • Promote protein synthesis to help repair damaged muscles

  • Hydrate your body

You want to look for meals or snacks that include lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Hummus, quinoa and salmon are all good choices. 


And don’t forget to hydrate! Depending on the intensity of your workout, water or an electrolyte drink are needed to replenish your fluid losses.

It doesn’t make sense to put in so much effort for your fitness regimen and then ignore your diet. To be well rounded, you need to pay attention to both. Next time you plan your workout schedule, don’t forget to plan the food before and after you hit the gym!

Favorite Pre-Workout Food:

A simple piece of Ezekiel bread with a little peanut butter and sliced banana

Favorite Post-Workout Shake:

Jay Robb Chocolate Protein Shake

  • 1 Tbsp Cocoa Powder 

  • 1 cup Fat-free Fairlife Milk

  • 31 grams Jay Robb Protein Powder Chocolate

  • ¼ Cup Water 

Blend all together in blender with 1/4 - 1/2 cup ice depending on desired consistency. Add more or take away water if needed.

Calories 205 / Carbs 11 g / Protein 39 g / Fat 1 g / Fluid 0 fl oz 

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  1. Hurley, C.F., Hatfield, D.L., Riebe, D.A. (2013) The effect of caffeine ingestion on delayed onset muscle soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 27(11)3101-3109. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182a99477

  2. Goldstein, E. R., Ziegenfuss, T., Kalman, D., Kreider, R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., & … Antonio, J. (2010). International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 71-15. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-5

  3. Del Coso, J., Muñoz, G., & Muñoz-Guerra, J. (2011). Prevalence of caffeine use in elite athletes following its removal from the World Anti-Doping Agency list of banned substances. Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism, 36(4), 555-561. doi:10.1139/H11-052

  4. Clark, M.A., Lucett, S.C. NASM Essentials of Sports Performance. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2010.

  5. Fabio Comana MA, MS, NASM-CPT, CES & PES; ACE CPT & HC; NSCA CSCS; ACSM HFS, CISSN, Exercise Physiologist and Faculty Instructor – SDSU, UCSD & NASM

  6. @salmonhouse and @mealplan_app