Pre and Post-Workout Nutrition with Sample Menus

Getting good nutrition before working out is like topping up the fuel in your car before a long journey. It’s important to know what you should eat, when, to get the most from your workouts.

5 min read - 05 May 2021 A plate full of healthy vegetables and eggs What should I eat before a workout?

Make sure you eat healthy, whole carbohydrates before starting to exercise. Whole carbs give you energy by breaking down into glucose and entering the muscle cells. Examples of whole carbs include some vegetables, whole fruits, legumes, potatoes, and whole grains. This gives you the fuel you need to work your body at maximum capacity. Avoid eating refined carbs like sugar-sweetened beverages and bakery products.

In addition to whole carbs, it's a good idea to also consume a small helping of protein before your workouts. Protein repairs the micro-tears that occur in the muscles during your workout, helping them to get bigger and stronger. You can choose sources of protein that are easy to digest like nuts, yogurt or a boiled egg. Be careful not to eat too much protein before your workouts because protein digests slowly in the stomach and takes away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles. 

What happens if I don’t eat well before a workout?

Not eating enough before a workout can cause dizziness or nausea. It can lead you to injure yourself as well. On the other hand, consuming the right amount of the right foods will maximize your energy and help you burn more calories.

When should I have my pre-workout meal?

The ideal time to eat is between 30 minutes and 2 hours before your workout. If you’re a morning person and like to work out in the mornings, you probably won’t have much time before your workout, so a small portion of a whole-grain cereal would be ideal. If you have more time before your workout, you can eat slightly larger portions.

Here are a few pre-workout snack examples:

  • Smoothie with a mixture of fruits and milk (can be plant-based milk)
  • Apple or pear and peanut butter
  • Yogurt with granola and berries
  • Dried fruit with mixed nuts

What about my post-workout meals?
The balance in the post-workout meal should be the opposite of the pre-workout meal. You should have both whole carbs and protein, but this time more of the protein and less of the carbs. Since the main growth of the muscles occurs as you rest after training, you should focus on protein in your post-workout meals, as that will help you build muscle. You should eat within a maximum of two hours after training, but preferably sooner than that.

Here are a few post-workout meal examples:
  • Baked salmon, brown rice, and roasted veggies.
  • Red meat with a green salad.
  • Lentils/chickpeas/quinoa with steamed vegetables such as spinach, green peas, broccoli, edamame, etc.

Hydration is also vital

Both before and after working out, your body needs more water than usual. Good hydration increases your workout performance. Don’t forget to take sips of water during your workout when you feel dehydrated.
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