Last Updated on August 2, 2023
When you begin a journey based on health and fitness to lose weight, gain muscle or just get fitter, it’s common to ask whether eating before or after working out is better. Well, to keep the answer short, we can say that both pre-workout and post-workout meals are as important as the workout itself and have their own pros.
To dig deeper into the subject, here’s everything you need to know about pre and post-workout meals.
- 1 What is a pre-workout meal?
- 2 What is a post-workout meal?
- 3 Hydration is also vital
- 4 Lose weight with fasting
What is a pre-workout meal?
A pre-workout meal is the combination of things you eat before your workouts. A well-balanced pre-workout meal can make you achieve your fitness goals faster by giving you the energy you need and helping you with muscle gain and weight loss.
What to 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 that can give you the fuel that your body needs to work at maximum capacity include:
- Vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beets
- Fruits such as apples, bananas, pears, and peaches
- Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, beans
- Whole grains like barley, brown rice, buckwheat, oatmeal
In addition to whole carbs, it’s a good idea to also consume some protein before your workouts. Protein repairs the micro-tears that occur in the muscles during your workouts and help the muscles to get bigger and stronger.
You can choose sources of protein that are easy to digest like nuts, greek yogurt, or boiled eggs.
Be careful not to overeat protein before your workouts because protein digests slowly in the stomach, removing oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles.
Avoid consuming refined carbs like sugar-sweetened beverages, bakery products, and sweets.
When is the best time to eat the pre-workout meal?
The ideal time to have your pre-workout meal is between 30 minutes and 2 hours before your workouts.
If you’re a morning person and would like to work out in the mornings, you probably won’t have much time before your workout, so a small portion of whole-grain cereal would be ideal. You can eat slightly larger portions if you have more time before your workout. Here are a few pre-workout meal examples.
If you have 30 minutes before your workout:
- Smoothie with a mixture of fruits and milk (can be plant-based milk)
- Apple/pear/banana and peanut butter
- Yogurt with granola and berries
- Dried fruit with mixed nuts
If you have more than 30 minutes:
- Egg omelet + ½ avocado
- Turkey or chicken breast sandwich with whole-wheat bread
What happens if I don’t eat well before a workout?
Not eating enough before a workout can cause:
On the other hand, consuming the right amount of the right foods will maximize your energy and help you burn more calories.
After you eat your nutritious pre-workout meal to get fueled up and complete your workout with a fully energized body, the time to have the post-workout meal arrives.
What is a post-workout meal?
A post-workout meal is a combination of the things you eat after you finish working out. A well-balanced post-workout meal is essential for muscle gain and bodybuilding as the body needs to fill its energy resources and repair the damage that occurs in the muscles.
What to eat after a workout
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 as the proteins take the main lead in repairing and building muscles.
Here are some 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, or edamame
- Turkey on whole-grain bread with vegetables
- Tuna sandwich with whole-grain bread
When is the best time to eat the post-workout meal?
You should have your post-workout meal within a maximum of 2 hours after your training, but preferably sooner than that.
Since the main growth of the muscles occurs as you rest after training, don’t forget to make yourself comfortable after you finish your post-workout meal.
What happens if I don’t eat well after a workout?
During the workouts, your energy resources get emptied and micro-wounds occur in the muscles that need to be repaired.
So if you don’t feed yourself with a nutritious meal after you finish your workout, your muscle gain won’t be as much as you want and you will feel exhausted.
You may lose your will to continue training eventually for the following days because of the fatigue you feel.
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.