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  • Writer's pictureLaura Flynn Endres

What to Eat Before & After Your Workouts

Unless you’re an athlete, the only special workout nutrition strategy you need is this one: what makes you feel best and not like you’ll faint, burp, hurl, or poop your pants?

Some people must eat before exercising to get through it. Others feel best exercising on an empty stomach. :::raises hand:::


What to Eat Before Your Workout

One of the most important things - choose foods that will not bother your stomach.

Find what works, then stick to it.

Best Choices:

  • Small portion of quality, easy-to-digest carbs *

  • Very small portion of lean protein like eggs, protein shake, milk

  • 10-20 oz. water

* Rice, breads, cereals & fruits provide energy for workouts, but a little goes a long way.


  • Fatty foods - fats are slow to digest

  • Large portions - *burp*

  • Trying something new. Test new foods on days when you’re home and have nothing planned after your workout.

(Runners know what I’m talking about. #DisasterPants)

When to Eat:

  • Try to eat 1 - 2 hours before your workout so you don’t have a full stomach.

  • If you have to eat closer to your workout, eat very little. Just enough to feel fueled.

  • If you exercise in the mornings, it’s completely okay to exercise fasted, meaning you don’t eat anything prior to your workout. This works great for many people, and not so well for others. If it makes you feel weak or light-headed, it’s better to eat something beforehand.


What to Eat After Your Workout

Best Choices:

  • Small portion of complex carbohydrates like whole oats, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes

  • Medium or large portion of lean protein like eggs, chicken, tuna, protein shake

  • Very small portion of healthy fats as needed to make foods palatable

  • 20 oz. Water


  • Greasy or fatty foods - they'll be hard to digest while your body is recovering

  • Reward foods. You know the ones I mean... the things you think you earned by working out. That's not how it works.

  • Soda - you need to rehydrate with water instead

  • Alcohol - this should seem obvious, but rehydrating with alcohol is a bad idea. It'll hit you faster, and the hangover will be worse. And, you'll sabotage some of your gains, dummy.

  • Sugar - this is way too easy to over-eat after a workout. Give your body protein to grow muscle instead.

  • Trying something new. Test new foods on days when you’re home and have nothing planned after your workout.

When to Eat:

The science that says there’s a specific window of time post-workout when you must eat to get the most out of the food is shaky.

I fall in the “big picture” camp. It’s not so much when you eat or even how often, it’s the overall picture of how many calories you consume, the quality of those foods, and what makes you feel great and perform best!

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