What I Eat Before & After A Workout

Happy Wednesday!

I feel so refreshed after taking a rest day from the gym yesterday. After working out twenty-six out of thirty days, I was feeling pretty tired, burned out, and sore. I decided to give my body 36 hours of rest, and I’m surprisingly excited for tonight’s workout. I’ve finally found something that I look forward to, and it’s making me feel so strong mentally and physically. It’s with the tough instructor that I now enjoy. I mentioned in my latest recap post how I was way too intimidated in her class the first time, and now I’m killing it. I’m using heavier weights, taking less breaks, and getting faster.
Nutrition plays a huge role in getting stronger, faster, and keeping energy levels up. I’ve always put in a ton of effort into finding the right foods to eat before and after a workout. I’ve been through a ton of trial and error as well. We all have different bodies, and we all respond differently to food, so I highly recommend talking with a nutritionist, or listening to your body, and experimenting with what works best for you. No one knows your body better than you do! 

I’m always sharing my pre & post workout eats on the blog. I get asked about them a lot, and so I decided to put this post together to give you some ideas on what I eat, and how I learned how to eat for my workouts. I’ve spent years researching and getting ideas from the pros on what to fuel my body with before workouts. Today, I’m sharing what has worked for me!

I feel like I can’t stress this enough, so please keep in mind that these foods work for my body, so don’t be surprised if they don’t work for you, and always consult with a professional before making any major diet/fitness changes.
It doesn’t matter if your goal is to burn fat, lose weight, build muscle, or get in shape. Timing and proper nutrition are important for all of those things. I know when I’m not fueling properly. If I don’t pay attention to my pre/post workout, I have awful workouts. A terrible workout for me is one where I can’t wait until it’s over with. If I’m feeling lethargic, dehydrated, out of breath, or burned out, it’s most likely because I didn’t drink enough water, eat the right food, or give my body enough rest. Not only is eating right necessary for workouts but so is getting at least eight hours of sleep and proper hydration between workouts important.

It’s true. Timing is everything. Some people think that they shouldn’t eat after burning calories because it’ll prevent them from losing weight, but that’s not necessarily true. After a workout, your body will feel low on fuel. You need to get your blood sugar levels back up, restore water lost, and get protein into those muscles to help with recovery. The faster you recover, the faster you can get back to your next workout. And if you skip that post workout fuel, you may find yourself reaching for sugar and high carbohydrate foods later on. I know that if I don’t have time for a post workout meal, I crave desserts before bed. You can still give yourself a healthy calorie deficit for weight loss and eat after a workout. Timing!

Maybe you’re on a low-carb diet. Cool, do what works best for you! BUT, try to allow yourself those carbs before and after your workout. You can get your carbs from bananas, whole grain bread, or sweet potatoes. But your body needs those carbs to help build/repair muscle, get the energy to lift heavier, run faster, and stay focused. I like to eat my carbs 1-2 hours before a workout. If I have an 8 am a workout, I make sure to wake up at 5:30 am to eat. This helps your body prepare itself for an exercise, and you won’t have any issues with digestion while you’re at the gym. You don’t want to be killing it in the gym while your stomach is trying to digest. It won’t feel too good. I think for those who say “I have to workout on an empty stomach” may have tried working out way too soon after eating and adopted the idea that they have to work out before they eat. Before you stick to that plan, just try to eat something three hours in advance and playing around with different foods. Don’t get up and settle on the idea that you should work out before eating, remember, timing is everything. But, also you have to do what works for you!
So why carbs after a workout too? Your muscles glycogen storage gets depleted. Carbs help fill up the glycogen stores to help with recovery. If you don’t fuel the storage, your muscles will have a hard time healing, and you’ll find yourself sorer and for longer periods of time. If your glycogen stores are low, your blood sugar levels will also be low, and that is why post-workout protein + carbs are necessary. Protein will help you build muscle and repair after a workout. Did you know that the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn? That is why strength training is the best way to dig yourself out of the yo-yo diet lifestyle. I make sure to get at least 20g or protein after an hour of exercising and an additional 20g at every meal & 10g per snack (3 meals a day + 2 snacks.)

I eat my post workout fuel in 15-45 minutes after my workout. And then try to eat a protein rich meal two hours after that post-workout fuel. Above is a photo of my ideal meal after a post workout. (1/4 cup quinoa + 4 oz chicken breast +1/2 Cup Veggies) I also consume 20 ounces of water six times a day. I find that keeping room temperature water bottles around helps me drink more. Fueling on time will help me energetic, and keep me from craving sugar and carbs late in the evening.

I wanted to share some examples of foods I eat before my run (45min-60min) and HIIT (60 min) workouts. 
HIIT workouts are tough. HIIT workouts are ideal for pushing your body, building muscle, burning calories, and getting in shape. They are cardio + weight circuits that skyrocket your heart rate. They require fuel, dedication, hydration, and sleep for recovery! I always plan to eat carbs with a bit of protein before an HIIT workout. I make sure to fuel 2-3 hours in advance. I have found that protein with my carbs before my HIIT workouts help me with energy levels.

1. Whole Grain Waffle + 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter + 1 Egg + 2 Egg Whites + 2 Slices Turkey Bacon (3 hours in advance/morning class)

2. 3 Egg Whites + Cottage Cheese + Peaches (1 hour in advance/evening class)

3. 1 Hard Boiled Egg + 1 Slice Whole Grain Braid + 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter + 1 Cup Blueberries (2 hours in advance)

4. Fresh Fruit + 1 Cup Greek Yogurt + 1/4 Cup Granola (2 hours in advance)

5. 4 Egg White + 1 Egg Omelet + English Muffin + Raspberry Jelly

6. 1 Banana + 1 Egg + 1 English Muffin + 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter (2 hours in advance)
High carbohydrate and moderate protein after HIIT workout have been the most effective. If I am still feeling sluggish after one of these post-workout snacks, I will have a 20g protein shake.

1.Slice Whole Grain Bread + Veggies + Hummus

2. 1/2 Bagel + Cream Cheese + Jelly + 1/2 Banan

3. Greek Yogurt + Cereal + Berries

4. Protein Shake (20g Protein + Almond Milk + Banana + Raspberries)

5. 1 Whole Grain Waffle + 1 Tbsp Almond Milk + 1 Serving Muscle Milk

6. Skim Milk + 1 Cup Cereal + 1/2 Banana
Running nutrition is a bit different. I went through SO MANY trial and errors with this one. I learned that protein shakes, bacon, and pineapples did NOT sit well with my stomach before a run. I also learned that I preformed better when I had a little sugar (my favorite sugar source is actually jelly) to run on. High carb, low fiber, moderate protein, potassium, and low-fat meals worked best for me. The only fats that sat well with my stomach before an hour run was eggs and nut butter. All of my running meals were eaten two hours before a run. If you’re out on a run, pack gels or chews with you if you feel like crashing. Planting water in spots on your route is also smart if it’s hot outside. You may have all the right foods in your body, but if you’re not properly hydrated, you’ll crash. It should be your number one priority. If you have a hard time staying hydrated/cramping, try having a tablespoon of yellow mustard with water before you run. My basketball coach in high school had us do this, and it helped.

1. Packet Oatmeal + Banana + Strawberries

2. 1 Pancake + 1/2 Banana + Syrup + 1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt

3. 1 Bagel + Blueberry Cream Cheese

4. 1 Protein Waffle + 1 Egg + 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter

5. 4 Scrambled Egg Whites + English Muffin + 1 Tbsp Butter + Jelly

6. Greek Yogurt + Banana + 1 Slice Toast
After a run, you’ll be feeling sluggish, but it’s usually followed by a runner’s high. After my hour runs, I always grabbed the water first. I think this is the most important! I feel best when I have a carb + protein fuel after my long runs. It took me a while to figure out what worked best after a run. I had to get fuel in me within a half hour after a run, or I’d get a headache and dizzy. Here are some of my favorite post-run fuels for an hour run. My post run is a lot like my pre run but with extra protein.

1. /2 Bagel + Cream Cheese + Eggs + Avocado (1-2 hour run)

2. Spaghetti Squash + Sauce + Turkey Meatballs

3. 4 Egg White Omelet + Whole Grain Waffle + Syrup

4. Fruit + Greek Yogurt + Granola + Chia seeds

5. Peanut Butter + Wrap + Black Berries + Banana

6. 1 Slice Toast + Apples + 4 Egg White Omelet 
Questions For You! 

1. Why is workout fuel important for you?
2. Have you ever had a workout fuel fail?

 

Comments

  • Bailey

    Hey girl! Just recently started training for a 5K and have seen a noticeable difference in my performance by the foods I eat! I’ve been following your for years now so I knew where to go! Thanks for your suggestions! My definite go-to is cornflakes with bananas after a run!

    Reply to Bailey
  • Audrey

    I really love your post. I’m starving now when I see those fruits I liked. An important thing to do after a workout by observing what food you have to eat. Well these are better for us. By the way, did you happen to incorporate Essential Oils on your weight loss program? Check out this blog and you can make a free consultation to Nurse Audrey who happens to have great recommendations on Weight Loss. http://www.justbecauseicare.org/

    Reply to Audrey
  • Dora

    I love PB before and after!

    Reply to Dora
  • Linds

    Great choices!

    Reply to Linds
  • Mindy

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve followed you for years, and you look amazing! I’ve been wondering what you eat before/after working out for quite some time.

    Reply to Mindy
  • Meghan

    I usually eat a larabar before I head to the gym, about a half hour before. I squeeze my workouts in extremely early in the morning (like between 3:30 and 4) so I just grab something quick, but I found larabars to work best since they have carbs and sugar from all the fruit in them.

    My worst pre workout meal was on a Saturday, I went for a spur of the moment run about an hour and a half after eating a Belgian waffle, omg I wanted to die on the trail haha nothing worse than digestion issues while running!

    Reply to Meghan
    • Taralynn McNitt

      Sometimes I’ll break it up and do half of the bar with pb before and half with pb when I’m done! I love the healthy sugar and carbs in the larabars too! Same with rX bars!

      OHHHH NO! Running while the stomach is digesting is no good.

      Reply to Taralynn McNitt
  • May

    I love when you do articles like this! I have been working out on an empty stomach because I kept getting sick. I didn’t know I should have been eating hours in advance. I ate oatmeal thirty minutes before and that did not work out too well. I will try waking up earlier to get fuel in and bring a post workout snack. Thanks again Taralynn. I really love your blog.

    Reply to May
  • Chloe

    That bagel with banana looks incredible!

    Reply to Chloe
  • Brooklyn

    I love posts like these! Not only are they helpful, I am nosey and love to see what others are snacking on!
    Thanks girl!

    http://www.justbeingbrooklyn.com

    Reply to Brooklyn
  • Amy

    Awesome list! Thanks for putting this together Taralynn 🙂

    Reply to Amy
  • Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    Thank you for this, Taralynn. I usually don’t eat much before a workout and wasn’t really sure about what to eat. I know there are a ton of sites telling us this, but to get it from one of my regular bloggers was good!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

    Reply to Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
  • Marissa

    Yes, I’ve had workout fuels fail – especially before runs. It also took me a while to figure out what works best for me. I usually do sweet potato with some nut butter or toast & but butter. If I’m not fueled correctly for my runs I feel sluggish and crash quickly! Thanks for sharing all these ideas.

    Reply to Marissa
    • Taralynn McNitt

      Running is the hardest with workout fuel. It’s all about timing & what works best for your body. It can get frustrating. Sweet potato and nut butter is actually a great idea.

      Reply to Taralynn McNitt
  • Ash

    Is it bad that all of this made me hungry? lol

    Reply to Ash
  • Anonymous

    I love your posts! Just one question, do you lose weight with your style of eating and exercising or do you maintain your weight? 🙂

    Reply to Anonymous
    • Taralynn McNitt

      Hi!

      Losing weight is all about calories in and calories out. I could lose weight only eating pizza or ice cream if I wanted, as long as it fit macros. These foods can definitely allow you to lose weight if you’re giving yourself a deficit. Right now, I’m definitely not losing weight. I have been doing a lot of weight lifting and muscle building, so if anything I am gaining weight/maintaining. Gaining muscle and slowly burning fat. If weight loss is your goal, you should still get in pre and post workout fuel. 🙂

      Reply to Taralynn McNitt
  • liuye

    Hi!Tara! great job,love this one

    I always do yoga at night . like 8pm or 9 pm .so I usually drink milk or eat some fruit after that ,consider about go to bed at 10 pm.I am not allowed myself eat other food anymore

    Reply to liuye
  • Jane

    I love to stuff dates with peanut butter for on the go!

    Reply to Jane
  • Abbie

    No wonder I feel awful after workout out! I thought it was protein before and protein after. I didn’t know carbs were good for you 🙁

    Reply to Abbie
  • Isabella

    I can’t stand the no carb diets! I tried and it sucked. I saw no progress in my workouts until I starting timing my carbs like you mentioned.

    Reply to Isabella
  • Linds

    Great ideas!

    Reply to Linds
  • Zoey

    I love to do banana and bagel before my workouts! Thank you for explaining why it’s important! I never really knew.

    Reply to Zoey
  • Hannah

    These are such great ideas! Workout fuel is so important, especially for my long runs. I just started carrying water with me because I got so dehydrated, and it has made a big improvement in how I felt. The other day I found out protein powder does not sit well with me before a run, not making that mistake again! I would also recommend dates. I love using them because they are so high in sugar, but I can eat them right before my runs or even during and they don’t upset me at all. Such a great source of energy.

    Reply to Hannah
    • Taralynn McNitt

      Thanks, Hannah!

      Water when running is huge. The dehydration is REAL. I can’t carry it because I tighten my fist and my shoulders start to cramp, so I do the water planting on the route lol

      ohhhh I’ve made the protein powder mistake before a run! I stuck to strictly carbs after that one lol Dates are also great for a post workout!!

      Reply to Taralynn McNitt
  • Tanya

    What do u do when your not hungry when u should eat for a workout. Not sure if I still should eat or not. Would love to hear your opinion

    Reply to Tanya
    • Taralynn McNitt

      It really depends on the time of day. If it’s later in the evening and you’ve already had breakfast/lunch/dinner than your body has fuel and you should just restore it with a post workout snack. (that is what I do) If it’s morning, you’ll need something a couple hours in advance. When you wake up, try to get a slice of toast and some nut butter in you, or high calorie/ low dense foods to give you something. Something is better than nothing 🙂

      Reply to Taralynn McNitt
  • Rach

    Thank you for this post!

    Reply to Rach
  • Courtney

    1. Workout fuel is so important in the hour classes that I find myself in. I usually go after work around 5. I don’t always have time to snack at work so I always try to eat an apple and some pb before making a mad dash out the door. Working out is grueling without proper hydration and energy.
    2. I have been going to HIIT classes recently. The instructor has said several times, “remember what you couldn’t do last week and try to add to it this week. So if you did squat jumps and no tuck jumps or burpees make sure to try them!” For weeks I could not add on… I just wasn’t making progress. Then one morning I got up at six and had two scrambled eggs, one piece of turkey bacon, and a piece of ezekiel bread. M I N D B L O W N! There were many squat jumps, burpees, and tuck jumps during that class. CRAZY!!

    Reply to Courtney
    • Taralynn McNitt

      I totally agree! My energy levels are so bad if I don’t fuel!

      That is awesome! I feel like that too. We do this ten-minute glute warm up and I had to stop like five times and I couldn’t hold the pulses, and now I’m holding them and going deeper! Feeling amazing! SOUNDS LIKE THE PERFECT PRE WORKOUT BREAKFAST!! XO

      Reply to Taralynn McNitt
  • Ashton Jury

    I love cottage cheese but I’m not a fan of mixing it with fruit, however with avocado toast or an egg over easy I LOVE IT!!

    Reply to Ashton Jury
  • Vanessa

    1. Why is workout fuel important for you?
    I often run or work out right after work, so after a long day already behind me. So I need something to give me energy for my training, otherwise I will not perform well. Usually bananas are my go-to food before running, but I’ll definitely try your ideas as well!

    2. Have you ever had a workout fuel fail?
    Apples before a run are terrible for me. They give me stomach cramps, I feel dizzy and out of breath. Never again!

    Reply to Vanessa
    • Linda @ the Fitty

      Workout fuel fails for me or two even have a lot of food before workout. If anything, I go in empty, or have something super small. I find that I work out much better when my blood isn’t pumping in my stomach trying to digest everything. Sometimes if I do that, and I burp during the workout I can feel the food go in my throat and it’s disgusting!

      Reply to Linda @ the Fitty
    • Taralynn McNitt

      Bananas are great for a pre-run! Best for cramping for sure. On my long runs, I used to eat two bananas!

      OH APPLES ARE A NO NO for me too!!!

      Reply to Taralynn McNitt
  • Carrie this fit chick

    Love the inspiration!! So many combos I want to try out. I am a huge fan of cottage cheese and fruit together, although some people squirm at the thought!

    Reply to Carrie this fit chick
  • Rosanne

    I really appreciate all the foodie updates, trying to adapt a healthier lifestyle

    Reply to Rosanne

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