There are many things we have to do to take care of our health. Getting a good night’s sleep, staying hydrated and getting our heart rates up a few times a week are essential to keeping our bodies and minds in shape for the long haul that is life. Longevity is fueled by self-care in sometimes the most basic of ways and yet, even these basic things are hard to keep up with sometimes with the business of life.
When it comes to working out, there’s so much information available on how to do it, what equipment to use, how to warm up and cool down and even how to do it from the comfort of your own home. However, many people might be wondering — what should you eat before a workout? What should you eat after a workout? How long before a workout should you consume food?
The answers to these questions are equally as crucial to your workout routine as the actual movements you’re doing, and I want to help you figure out your perfect fuel routine to meet your goals.
Here’s what to eat before a workout and after a workout, depending on the type of workout you’re doing. I’m going to break down a timeline of before your workout and after and within those milestones, the type of food you should consume based on the movement you’re doing. Even though there are many different types of workouts out there, I’m going to focus on three main ones for the sake of brevity — endurance training, strength training and stretching.
In This Article We’ll Be Covering:
- What to eat 2-3 hours before a workout
- What to eat 30 minutes – 1 hour before a workout
- What to eat after a workout
- The different types of workouts and corresponding food that may help your performance
Keep in mind that you do not have to eat two to three hours before and 30 minutes to one hour before, try both and pick and choose whichever one works best for you. Our editors are not healthcare professionals, any use of the following advice is at your own risk. Please consult a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your diet. And if you’re really looking to drill down on the data, be sure to grab yourself a smart scale so you can watch as your weight drops with your routine.
What to Eat Before a Workout
2-3 Hours Before
Ideally, two to three hours before your workout you’d be consuming a balanced meal containing all three central components to a well-balanced diet — carbs, protein and fat.
Carbs provide quick glycogen stores for your muscles to metabolize during high-intensity workouts. Protein helps with muscle growth as well as recovery, improving performance overall. Fat is a great source of fuel for less intense but longer lasting exercises.
Which one to lead with in terms of your fueling routine is based on the workout routine you’re doing, but having a good foundation of all of them is a safe bet no matter what.
If you’re aiming for an endurance workout of cardio training, running, cycling, HIIT or some other high-intensity exercise, having a base of healthy, starchy carbs for your workout is going to serve you best. If your workout is going to be a little longer and more moderate, like a hike, eating some healthy fats alongside your carbs is going to serve you. Ever heard of the peanut butter and jelly trick in the NBA? Something like that…
If strength training is the name of the game, a whole bunch of protein a few hours before lifting heavy is one of the best ways to give your muscles the fuel they need to lift, lower and get the results you’re looking for.
If today is your stretching day, protein combined with fat is a great way to fuel your muscle’s protein synthesis process, an essential task for rebuilding and getting stronger.
Here are a few products for each food type so you can pick and choose your go-to’s for a few hours before crunch time.
Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder
Protein powder is one of the easiest and quickest ways to ingest the protein you need in a convenient way. You can mix it in with your favorite smoothie or shake, and this kind comes in a delicious chocolate fudge flavor. This powder is completely vegan and plant-based so it’s great for those who prefer to avoid red meat, eggs or other sources of food protein.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Whey Protein, 5 Pound
This protein powder consists of whey protein concentrate, isolate and why peptides that all support building muscle mass. This powder also contains five grams of branched chain amino acids, a supplement we’ll discuss more in the post-workout section. This formula is instantized to prevent inconvenient lumps and clumps, and it’s been banned substance tested you can feel free to use safely and comfortably.
They’ve got numerous container size options available as well as seven different flavors including Double Rich Chocolate, Chocolate Mint and French Vanilla Crème.
Quaker Quick 1-Minute Oatmeal
These quick oatmeal packets are an excellent source of pre-workout carbs for quick energy during high-intensity workouts. These are made with whole grains and are low in saturated fats and cholesterol for keeping a healthy heart. They’re also a great source of fiber and support a healthy digestive system. Make these in three minutes or less and top with almond butter or a few berries for added flavor and nutritional value.
BARNEY Smooth Almond Butter
Nuts, like almonds, are a great source of natural fat, and this almond butter is one of the best available to order online. They use skin-free almonds from California to make this rich, creamy, smooth blend that’s grit-free and delicious. There’s no added sugar or salt and the whole product has been certified Paleo, KETO, vegan as well as kosher. It’s also non-GMO and made in a peanut-free facility so allergens need not worry about cross contamination.
RXBAR Blueberry Protein Bar, Pack of 12
PROTEIN, FAT, CARBS
These RXBAR protein bars are packed with nutrients and an excellent way to fuel your body before a workout. They contain straightforward ingredients including nuts, fruits and other healthy foods and contain at least 12 grams of protein in each one. They’ve also got fiber and are gluten free, paleo, Whole30 and contain carbs that are great for short-term energy. Keep one in your backpack or briefcase to prepare for your post-work-day gym grind session, or consume one first thing in the morning before your sunrise run. They come in a wide range of flavors from blueberry to chocolate cherry and gingerbread.
Avocados are a great source of healthy fat. Whether you’re eating one straight out of the skin or spreading it on a piece of whole wheat toast, they’re excellent for fueling your body in a healthy way before a longer walk, bike ride or low-intensity workout. They’re available at most major supermarkets and here online as well.
30 Minutes – 1 Hour Before
If you prefer to consume your pre-workout fuel a little closer to the workout itself, 30 minutes is generally the cut off, any closer and you could be in for a stomach upset.
The closer you get to game time the more you want to consume foods that are simpler and easier to digest. You also may want to dabble in supplements, some of which are most effective when taken right before a workout rather than a few hours before.
For an endurance workout, carbs are the food item to prioritize here, for the quick energy source that will burn and fuel your muscles. Caffeine is a possible supplement for intake at this stage, as it’ll boost power and might even stimulate fat burning.
For a strength-training workout, pre-workout supplements are some of the most effective consumption options out there. Many brands and formulas contain a combination of caffeine, creatine, BCAAs and B vitamins, all of which have been shown to increase energy, strength, power and alertness during workouts.
For a stretching workout, not a ton of food is required as it’s more about recovery as opposed to building and exerting energy. Lean proteins and fats won’t hurt, and proper hydration is crucial.
Here are some notable pre-workout supplements to keep an eye out for and incorporate into your workout routine to give yourself the boost you need to meet your goals. If you’ve never experienced pre-workout before, keep in mind that the effects of the energy boost can be intense and are not for everyone. We’ve also included alternatives to it if you fall into that camp.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
This pre-workout formula contains a delicately balanced mix of vitamins and nutrients, all designed to help you power through your workout routine. It’s got vitamin D for immune support as well as 175mg of caffeine to help you get energized and focused on the task at hand. Creatine aids muscle performance and it’s got other high-performance ingredients you can read more about in the product link. It comes in a few different fruity flavors including green apple, watermelon and fruit punch.
Cellucor C4 Ripped Sport Pre-Workout
This supplemental pre workout from Cellucor is one of America’s best pre-workout brands for the energizing formula and the NSF certification for sports. It’s got 135mg of caffeine per serving and contains CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine that fuels endurance. Each serving also contains 1G carbs, five calories and zero grams of sugar so your fueling does not come at the expense of your health. This blend is also specially formulated towards weight loss, alongside other C4 products.
GU Energy Original Sports Nutrition Energy Gel
If pre-workout is a little too intense for you or not your thing (we get it!) these GU energy gels are a great alternative for a pre-workout boost. These packs contain flavored energy gel that’s a dual source of energy with maltodextrin and fructose that don’t compete for efficient and fast energy absorption. There are 100 calories in each packet and electrolytes to keep you hydrated during your activity as well. The combination of fast & simple carbs makes for fast-absorbing energy and plenty of BCAAs also help your muscles recover.
This box contains 24 GU packs in a variety of delicious flavors. Note these are designed to be consumed right before your workout, as little as five minutes prior.
Frooze Plant Protein Energy Balls
These plant-protein balls contain the energy you need to fuel up and rock your workout in a convenient, small package. All of the ingredients are vegan, dairy-free and certified non-GMO so you can feel confident and secure consuming them. They’re made of premium, familiar ingredients you know and love like nut butters, dates, raisins, sunflower seeds and coconut. There are no refined sugars, caffeine or preservatives in these — just natural energy you can feel good about.
After your workout, refueling is critical. Eating a healthy, well-balanced meal will help your brain and body recover as well as anything else, with a focus on protein for those of you who focused on strength training.
Two critical elements of post-workout recovery, besides the actual stretching moves you’re doing and recovery tools you’re using, are muscle repair and hydration.
Creatine is one of the best supplements for your body’s recovery that aids in increasing muscle mass and performance on the gym. No matter what type of workout you did, creatine is a great thing to consume in your recovery that will not only help your muscles repair, but help you when you hit the gym again.
BulkSupplements.com Creatine Monohydrate
This creatine supplement from BulkSupplements.com is clean, pure and may contribute to increased muscle mass. It may also help boost anaerobic strength and support your brain function during your workout. Consult a healthcare provider in terms of how much you should take daily, and then mix that amount with water and drink plenty of water in addition to it after your workout.
Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier
You could just drink water, or you could maximize your hydration with these hydration multiplier tablets. This electrolyte powder mixes into 16 oz of water and amplifies the hydrating effects easily. Using a ratio of sodium, potassium and glucose — this mix delivers water and vitamins to your system quickly and efficiently to avoid chronic dehydration. One packet is equal to 2-3 water bottles so save yourself the time and effort by implementing these into your routine.
These packets are also healthier than your standard electrolyte drink, with 3x the number of electrolytes and less than half the sugar. You can purchase these in lemon lime flavor, in packs of 6, 8, 12, 16, 48 and 192.