Workout Nutrition: What to Eat Before and After

Food can be confusing.

Especially the food surrounding your workouts. Workout nutrition and knowing what to eat before and after a workout can get complicated, fast. Even just a quick search can leave you with more questions than you started with.

What do I eat before and after my workout? When should I eat it? Does timing even matter? Should I even be eating a pre-workout meal? What should I eat to recover? How soon after I work out should I eat? Does it matter what kind of exercise I do?

My head is spinning just thinking about it!

So let’s dive in and get a clear look at the whys and hows of proper workout nutrition.

Does Workout Nutrition Matter?

Before we get into what you should eat before and after your workout, we need to answer one question: Does it even matter?

The answer is yes! Nutrition is a massive part of your fitness results. You might be sick of hearing it, but it’s true. Abs ARE made in the kitchen and results ARE 80% nutrition. Instead of trying to outwork your nutrition, put your nutrition to work for you.

When you plan your meals around your workout you can maximize the benefits. It’s all about eating the right foods at the right time.

What to Eat Before and After Your Workout

Karina Elle

Here’s what you need to eat before and after your workout to reap the most benefits.

Pre-Workout Meal

In your pre-workout meal you should aim to eat 25 – 30g of fast digesting protein, like whey protein isolate, and about 30 – 40g of carbs. Pre-workout is a great time to include starchy carbs like rice, oats, bread, etc or simple carbs such as fruit that is low in fiber (bananas, grapes, melon).

Try to avoid fat and fiber as these will slow digestion. Although slow digestion is typically a good thing because it helps you feel fuller longer, in this case we want this meal to be digested and absorbed quickly.

Make sure you eat your pre-workout meal at least 30 minutes to an hour before you work out. If you eat your meal 10 minutes before you hit the gym, your meal won’t be fully digested and you won’t be getting the full effect. Plus you’ll probably feel sick to your stomach.

Post-Workout Meal

After your workout you should aim to get about 25 – 30g of fast digesting protein and about 30 – 40g of carbs. Did you notice it’s about the same as pre-workout? It’s not a mistake. Although the amounts might be the same, the sources are different.

For your post-workout carbs you want them to be fast-absorbing simple sugars. This is a great place to incorporate a low-fat treat like a Pop-Tart® or a low-fat ice cream sandwich.

Just like your pre-workout meal you want to avoid fat and fiber because they’ll slow down digestion. One mistake that I see people make is picking a treat that has the right amount of simple sugars but too much fat.

You’re trying to “jumpstart” your recovery process and slow digestion won’t help. You want to get those vital nutrients to your muscles as quickly as possible. Try to eat your post-workout meal within about an hour of ending your workout.

Another important component to recovery is supplementing the amount of amino acids your body is getting. Protein naturally has amino acids, they’re what make up protein. But branched chain amino acids are formulated to give your body more of the amino acids it needs.

You can drink them any time during the day to continue supporting the recovery process but I suggest drinking them during your workout so your body can use them immediately.

The Fuel

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I know there are a lot of people out there that believe in “fasted” exercise or maybe you just hate exercising on a full stomach because you feel sick. Either way hear me out on this.

The reason you want to plan your pre- and post-workout meals is because you want to deliver the right nutrients to your body at the right time.

Your body is literally a machine. Just like a car we need the right fuel in order to run at peak capacity. You wouldn’t head out on a road trip with an empty tank right? You know you’re going to run out of gas way before you reach your destination.

Well when you exercise in a fasted state it’s kind of like your body is on E. There’s no fuel to keep you going and you’re going.

And just like your car, without enough gas, you’re going to stop short of your final destination. Which means you might not make it through your whole workout or the quality of your workout will suffer. And in the end this is going to affect your results and your goals.

Your body has two main sources of fuel that it uses during exercise: glucose (blood sugar) and glycogen (energy stored in your muscles and liver). A popular myth is that if/when you get past these primary sources of energy that your body will immediately dip into your fat stores to get more fuel.

But your body is actually really stubborn and lazy. First of all your body will do everything it can to avoid dipping into your fat stores. Second it’s a pretty difficult and long process to turn fat back into usable energy.

So instead of getting more energy from fat, your body will likely start to break down MUSCLE! That’s the last thing that you want. Losing lean muscle mass will not only set back your goals of getting toned, it will also slow your metabolism (anything but that!).

By properly fueling your workout you will be able to prevent these negative side effects. You’ll also be more energized giving yourself more stamina to push yourself further in your workout. And better workouts mean better results.

As long as you’re supporting proper recovery that is…

The Recovery

If properly fueling your body will help prevent muscle loss and maximize how much you can do in your workout, what does a good recovery do for you? Everything!

You don’t build muscle during your workout! In fact, during your workout, you’re actually breaking down your muscle. Exercises, like lifting weights, put stress on your body causing little tears in the muscle.

When you’re sore the day after an awesome workout, it’s because you’ve broken down your muscles. During your recovery process your body isn’t just restoring your muscles back to normal it’s repairing them so that they’re even stronger than before.

Results happen during your recovery process.

In order for your body to recover properly you need two main things: the building blocks of muscle, a.k.a. amino acids and protein, and energy to power the process, a.k.a. glucose and glycogen. Without these things you won’t be taking full advantage of the work you’re doing at the gym. You’ll also stay sore longer because it will take your body more time to repair.

But with proper post-workout nutrition you can give your body both of these things and you’ll be able to recover and progress faster.

The Wrap Up

In order for your body to do its thang, you need to give it the tools to do so. That’s where your workout nutrition comes in. By giving your body what it needs before and after you exercise you can have better workouts and get more out of them too.

Fueling with the right supplements will help you avoid waking up tired and sore. Revive your results with this dynamic duo!

Together IdealLean Nighttime Probiotic and BCAAs combine to maximize each stage of your daily recovery routine.

  • IdealLean Nighttime Probiotic improves digestive health and well-being. By restoring your body’s natural balance, you’ll improve your digestion and metabolism, all while enjoying a restful night’s sleep with IdealFit’s all-natural Sleep blend.
  • IdealLean BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) give your muscles the raw material they need to recover and rebuild fast. You’ll dramatically reduce soreness, while boosting your hydration and fat loss.


Lindsey Mathews

Lindsey Mathews

Head Trainer & Nutritionist

Lindsey Mathews is the Head Trainer and Nutritionist at IdealFit. She is a NSCA-CSCS certified personal trainer, C-ISSN certified sports nutritionist, Pn. 1 certified nutrition coach, and a nationally qualified NPC bikini competitor. Before joining IdealFit, she ran the largest boot camp program in Utah County.

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