What to Eat Before and After Workout

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Knowing what to eat before a workout is an important part of having the energy and endurance to make your exercise worthwhile.

Importance of Eating Pre-Workout

It is extremely important to eat before a workout, particularly if you are an endurance athlete or expect the workout to last for more than 30 minutes. Even a short run on the treadmill or a half-hour spin on the elliptical will expend energy, so having a store of calories in your body beforehand will help to increase your endurance and energy expenditure. When you physically exert yourself, you begin to burn the stores of glycogen in the body – of which you typically can store about 2,000 calories worth. However, if you don’t have that readily available energy store in your body, you will begin to feel worn out and fatigued. [1]

Having a small snack an hour before a workout, or a moderate-sized meal 2 hours before a workout is the ideal target for energy intake. If you over-eat before a workout, you could get stomach cramps or diarrhea, but if you eat less, then your body probably won’t be able to perform for very long. Drinking fluids and electrolytes are also very important before a workout, as replenishing fluids and electrolytes can ensure that your muscles work properly and that your nervous system relays messages correctly. [2]

eat before a workout

Plan your pre- and post-workout meals. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Pre-Workout Foods

The best pre-workout foods include porridge, oatmeal, fruit smoothies, caffeine, egg whites, and maca root, among others.

As mentioned above, if you want to maximize muscle building and weight loss, eating a moderate-sized meal 2-3 hours before a workout is a good idea, as is having a snack 1-2 hours before you hit the gym. In those last 20-30 minutes before you start your workout, a protein bar or a banana is often your best bet for a final surge of energetic resources. [3]

Foods to Avoid Before a Workout

There are other foods that you want to avoid before a workout, as they can slow you down or cause gastrointestinal distress while you are being physically active. Some of those foods include:

What to Eat After a Workout?

When you’re done with your workout, you want to replenish the calories you burned off, but also supply the body with the protein it needs to repair and rejuvenate the muscles. Some of the best nutrient-dense foods to consume following an intense workout include the following: [4]

Foods to Avoid After a Workout

Similarly, there are some foods that would be a poor choice after a workout, so avoid the foods on this final list if you want to maximize your post-workout recovery and muscle-building.

  • Bacon
  • Pizza
  • Raw vegetables
  • Donuts
  • Milk chocolate (not to be confused with chocolate milk, which is good post-workout food)
  • Salty snacks
  • Fast food
  • Soda and carbonated beverages
  • 100% pure fruit juice
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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