Should I Eat Before or After Workout?

How you fuel your body can have a vital impact on the results you see when it comes to weight loss, athletic performance, or bodybuilding. The topic of what to eat before or after workout has continued to flow around the nutrition world for decades. While there are many different ideas out there, the one thing that everyone agrees on is that feeding your body properly is essential for maximum performance.

Should I Eat Before or After Workout?

The answer to this question is simple–eat both before and after your workout. A light protein fueled meal beforehand will help push you through difficult workouts, while your post-workout meal can help your body recover faster.

A good rule of thumb is to enjoy meals that are high in healthy carbohydrates and proteins but low in fat approximately three hours before an intense workout. Carbohydrates help supply your body with energy to get you through any type of workout. Without them, your muscles may struggle to perform. After a workout, your meal should be primarily protein-based, as protein is necessary to help rebuild muscle tissue and minimize recovery time. It's best to consume your post-workout meal within one hour after a workout. Most healthcare professionals recommend protein powder as it is easy to digest after a workout.

What to Eat Before or After Workout

The type of diet you should maintain will depend on the type of fitness goals you have. Individuals who are looking to build muscle mass are going to focus on diets that fuel their muscle gains while those who are looking for weight loss will want to sustain energy through their workouts but also rev up the fat burning aspects.

For Weight Loss

For weight loss, a small fiber and protein rich meal is essential before your workout. Afterwards, a balance of healthy carbohydrates and protein will help decrease recovery time and repair your muscles.

What to Eat

Before your workout, consider whole-grain toast with peanut butter and banana or oatmeal with berries and skim milk. Whole-grain cereal is another vital option as well as chicken with vegetables. After your workout, you want to focus on those high-quality carbohydrates such as brown rice, vegetables and quinoa. Pair it with protein from lean meats such as salmon, tuna, chicken, or even eggs.

What to Avoid

What you put into your body is just as important as what you don't. Avoid refined carbohydrates such as those found in sugary sweets and baked goods at all costs. These provide a quick burst of energy followed by a crash that fluctuates your inner hormone levels and can actually hinder your ability to lose weight.

For Bodybuilding

Anyone who is looking to pack on the muscles knows that nutrition is the most important aspect. It doesn't take hours at the gym–it takes dedication in the kitchen.

What to Eat

Before and after your workout, a sufficient amount of protein is vital. Protein is the food of your muscles. Individuals who are trying to build muscle are likely must and take a substantial amount of protein each day. The best sources of protein include red meat such as venison, bison, and beef; fish including salmon and tuna; and vegetables such as broccoli. Healthy fats such as those that come from avocado and fish are also important as well as a healthy balance of nutritious carbohydrates.

What to Avoid

Most importantly, you need to stay away from those foods which do not help your body. This includes bad fats that come from sweetened foods, fried foods, and processed oils. A good rule of thumb to follow is to eliminate anything from your diet that is processed or manufactured in a way that it includes additives, preservatives, artificial ingredients, or high amounts of sugar or sodium.

Food Recommendation Before and After Workout

Knowing what to eat to get the most nutrition can be the hardest part of maintaining a proper diet for either weight-loss or bodybuilding. These are recommendations of what to eat before or after workout.

1. Peanut Butter & Jelly

An old-fashioned butter and jelly sandwich is a meal you cannot go wrong with before a workout. Peanut butter is packed with protein and healthy fat which boosts testosterone levels and provides maximum performance during weightlifting sessions. Add potassium with a banana to help prevent muscle cramps.

2. Salmon & Roasted Vegetables

After your workout, protein is vital. Salmon is one of the best sources of lean protein. Mixed with roasted vegetables it helps balance your glycogen system.

3. Protein Shake

Pre-workout, a protein shake will fill you up and give you the necessary energy to power through your workout. While most individuals simply mix protein powder with water or milk, you can choose to blend in fresh fruits such as bananas or strawberries or even toss in cayenne pepper to help activate the thermogenic properties of your body. There are many different types of protein powder available today. Some individuals prefer plant-based options to traditional choices such as rice or soy because it produces less gassiness.

4. Tuna Salad Sandwich

Tuna is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are necessary for reducing inflammation in the body after a workout. It lubricates your joints to make movements smoother and minimizes injury.

5. Chocolate Milk

Milk can quickly replace electrolytes lost during your workout and also provide your body with protein, sugar, and water necessary to recover after work.

6. Fruit Salad with Quinoa & Avocado

The simple sugars in fruit will give you a boost of energy when consumed before your workout. Meanwhile, quinoa has the ability to sustain your energy and avocado provides healthy fats to reduce inflammation and boost muscle performance.

7. Fruit Smoothies

Whipping up a fruit smoothing before or after a workout can replenish electrolytes, provide simple sugars for energy, and satisfy your body until the next meal. 

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