What do I eat before and after my workout?

A common question that many clients ask when it comes to nutrition is, “What should I eat before and after my workouts?” Nutrient timing is an important issue and can make a great impact on whether you are achieving your health and fitness goals. If you are always exercising on an empty stomach or going a few hours after a workout before you have a meal or a snack, you should try some of these tips to better fuel your workouts and help your body start building muscle.

When to Eat?

One major mistake that people make when it comes to eating around their workouts is not so much the food they eat but more often the timing of when they eat. The best time to eat before a workout can range between 60-120 minutes so try to vary your meal time before your workouts to see what works best for you.  Skipping a meal completely before a workout is a big mistake!

The post workout meal timing is extremely important and can determine your success when it comes to building muscle or even losing weight in a healthy and long term way. I have come across many exercisers who are under the false belief that eating immediately after their workout will ruin all the work they did during their walk, run, or weight lifting session. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Unless you plan on eating something loaded with sugar or devoid of nutrients, eating immediately after your workout is essential to give your body a chance to start repairing tissues and building muscle. Research on nutrient timing shows you have about a 45 minute window after a workout to start eating something so try to get something healthy into your system while your body is still sweating.

What to Eat?

Just like every meal you have throughout the day, both your pre and post workout meals should ideally contain some carbohydrates, protein and fat. For your meals before and immediately following your workout, increase the carbohydrate consumption by one serving (an extra serving of apple, pineapple, carrot, etc). This extra carbohydrates before your workout will give the body some extra “fuel.” Having some extra carbs immediately after your workout will help you start storing energy more quickly for your next workout and will also speed up the rate of protein synthesis (building muscle). Here are some options that will work for both your pre or post-workout meals

  • a pita pocket with hummus
  • whole grain bread with peanut butter and sliced apple
  • some yogurt with almonds or cashews and dried cranberries
  • turkey or chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, and mustard on whole grain bread and half a banana
  • shakes or smoothies are a great option for a post workout meal when they are made correctly (good quality whey protein, some fruit and low-fat milk or yogurt)

If you can time your workout to happen before your breakfast, lunch, or dinner that works great as long as you don’t wait too long to eat and you make sure it’s a healthy meal.