What to Eat Before and After a Workout

Give your body the right fuel to make the most of every workout!

If you know you want to work out later, it can be hard to know what to eat. My husband gets frustrated with me when I don’t eat anything because I worry I’ll feel weird and full and not want to do something like running. Let me tell you from experience - not eating anything is not the solution!

Rather, the solution is to learn what your body needs and when so that you not only feel energized during the workout, but also maximize the benefits of the exercise. On the flip side, it’s also important to learn what to eat after your workout to help your body recover. After all, food is the fuel for all activity, and what kind of fuel you use really does matter!

What to Eat Before a Workout

Before a workout, you want to aim for a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates and a bit of protein. The simple sugars provide the zip to get you going, but the whole grains are what actually get you through to the finish line; the protein provides energy for your muscles. Peanut butter toast, fresh fruit and yogurt, or oatmeal with honey and nuts are good examples. Keep an eye on fats – because they take longer to digest, they can result in the heavy, sluggish feeling I was worried about.

When it comes to the simple sugars, rather than steering toward candy bars or sugared drinks, aim for a lot of water and fruit-based simple sugars. They will still give you quick energy, plus the nutrients and vitamins your hardworking body needs. Ideally, even fruit will be paired with more complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain oats, because those simple sugars can cause a crash if you have a challenging workout planned.

What to Eat After a Workout

After you work out, the aim is to repair those muscles that just took a beating without overdoing it so that you lose the benefits of exercise. It’s important to refuel after working hard at the gym, but it’s also important not to think of your workout as a free pass to eat all the fats and sugars you want. Instead, load up on lean proteins and awesome salads: getting all the nutrients from dark greens or fish will help your body maximize muscle growth so that you’re even stronger next time. You can eat fats after a workout, but it’s always a good idea to aim for unsaturated ones, like olive oil.

All of this being said, these are just suggestions – once you try your own regimen of eating before and after working out, you will find your personal recipe for success. The biggest key is to not try to go hours and hours before a workout without eating (terrible!), drink plenty of water, and listen to your body.

Make it WayBetter

Try subbing out one of your typical pre- or post-workout foods for something healthier, be it a complex carb like those in whole grain toast or a great salad after a workout. See how it makes you feel!