The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Workouts

The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Workouts

11 Nov 2019

Your diet depends on your fitness goals, says social media influencer Lauren Jacobsen

When it comes to getting a fit and lean body, we all know working out is an important part, but what about what you eat?

The food you eat before helps fuel workouts, while the food you eat after helps accelerate the recovery process. It’s no longer acceptable to just grab anything before or after your workout and hope for the best.

There’s some supporting research that shows the benefits of proper nutrition and your workout results. If you’re serious about your body goals – want to lose body fat and tighten up those muscles, it’s important to have an eating plan.

Eating the right foods at the right times will go a long way towards getting and maintaining that knockout body. Keep reading for a few key tips about what you should be eating before and after your workouts to stay energised, build lean muscle, lose weight, and speed up recovery!          

But First, What Are Your Goals?
What you eat before you workout will depend on a few factors - when was your last meal and what are your fitness goals? If it was within the last 1 to 2 hours, you more than likely have enough fuel in the tank to go the distance during your workout. If it’s been over 2 hours since your last meal, you could experience a workout fail without eating something. 

Next, you should consider your fitness goals. If you’re trying to burn fat and lose weight, it’s important to direct your body with your nutrition. If you’re holding onto fat – the body has a source of energy to utilise.  If you feed your body with carbs, it will use this as its main source of energy instead of burning through the fat it has stored during your workout.

In this case – you will not require a heavy carb-based meal, but rather a high protein one. If your goal is building and maintaining your muscle – you’ll need a balance of both carbs and protein. Carbs to keep you energised and protein to keep those muscles sustained.

Your workout is the last component. If your workouts are focused on lifting weights and low on the  cardio – you probably won’t require too much carbs;

however if your workouts are focused on cardio – running or spinning, explosive drills like HIIT or heavy conditioning workouts, you’ll more than likely  require more carbs in your pre-workout meal.       

The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Workouts

What Should You Eat Before Your Workout?
Looking to gain and maintain lean muscle - protein and carbs is your best bet when it comes to a pre-workout meal. Looking to drop fat weight or maintain your lean condition, consider dropping or lowering the carbs and focusing on protein for your pre-workout meal. Here are a few pre-workout meal ideas…  

→ Protein smoothie with one scoop of whey or plant-based protein, strawberries (1/4 cup), coconut milk or water, blended with ice.
→ Apple with two tablespoons of almond butter.
→ Greek yoghurt (one cup) with blueberries or strawberries (1/4 cup), one tablespoon of no-added sugar granola.
→ Hummus or labneh dip with veggie sticks – carrots, celery and bell peppers.
→ Protein oats with oatmeal (1/3 cup), blueberries or strawberries (1/4 cup), scoop of whey protein, skim milk or coconut milk.
→ Protein shake with scoop of whey or plant-based protein, with a handful of nuts – almonds or walnuts or blended with one tablespoon of nut butter.
→ Banana with two tablespoons peanut butter
→ Grilled chicken breast or tilapia (100 g) with sautéed or steamed vegetables (one cup).
→ Green salad (two cups) with tuna (100 g) and olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.         

The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Workouts      

Benefits of Eating Post-Workout 
While it’s true that during a workout the muscles do use and access protein and stored muscle glycogen also known as carbs, most of us actually use less than we think. Research has shown the positive effects of post-workout nutrition using a carb load. 

However, many of these studies were completed on high-level athletes who were fasted or were using exercise protocols beyond normal athletic abilities. So unless you are blasting through serious calories like an endurance athlete or training on a calorie deficit, depleting your stores completely, you should be more concerned about getting your protein needs met over carbs.

During a workout, the nitrogen balance in the muscles can be disrupted, and when that happens, the muscle-building processes can shut down. As you lift weights and use your muscles, protein turnover occurs.

This is the rate at which protein degradation or muscle breakdown increases, and the rate at which skeletal muscle protein synthesis or muscle building decreases. If protein is not replenished, muscle breakdown can result. After a workout, this breakdown will continue until the right nutrition is received.    

The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Workouts

What Should You Eat Post-Workout?
Consider your workout – is it cardio or weight focused? If you’re performing intense cardio and conditioning workouts, you’ll definitely need to top up the carbs. Looking to drop weight and drive fat burning? Lower the carbs and focus on getting a high quality source of protein.

The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Workouts

No matter the workout, protein should always be the main component. Here are a few ideas to get you started…     
→ Protein smoothie made with half a frozen banana, one scoop of whey or plant-based protein powder, ½ cup of almond milk, one tablespoon of nut butter.
→ Salad with kale, capsicum, tomato, roast pumpkin chunks and chicken breast (120 g), olive oil and vinegar.
→ Protein oats with oats (1/3 cup), chia seeds (one teaspoon), almond milk, scoop of whey or plant-based protein and berries (1/4 cup).
→ Omelette (two eggs) with sautéed vegetables and half a small avocado.
→ Grilled salmon (120 g) with half baked white potato and broccoli (one cup).
→ Grilled chicken breast (120 g) or white fish (100 g) with half a baked sweet potato or sautéed or steamed green veggies.   

The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Workouts

Who is Lauren?

With more than 20 years’ experience designing nutrition products, supplements and meal plans, Lauren is an expert in her field. She has worked with professional rugby and football players, as well as physique and fitness competitors, and holds a degree in nutritional biochemistry, specialising in sports nutrition and supplementation, from Trent University in Canada.
Follow Lauren on Instagram and Facebook: @sexyfitlauren, or read her blog at