What to Eat Before and After Exercising

Get tips on exactly what to eat before, during, and after exercising for better workouts.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #3

What Should You Eat After a Workout?

There is a window of time about 20-60 minutes after you exercise in which your muscles will readily accept the carbohydrates and protein that you consume and suck them up to be stored away as precious energy and building blocks for recovery. But if you wait too long after exercising to eat, your body become less likely to use what you eat as fuel and recovery, and more likely to run out of energy during your next exercise session, whether later in the day or even the next day.

The ideal post-workout meal is comprised of a blend of carbohydrates and protein. There are all sorts of fancy ratios used by elite athletes, but the basic rule is to eat just a little more carbohydrates than protein, and to consume about 2 calories of carbohydrate for every pound of target bodyweight. For example, if your target bodyweight is 150lbs, you should eat about 300 calories of carbohydrate, and about half that many calories of protein. A sample post-workout meal would be chicken with brown rice, yogurt with almonds, or a protein shake with a banana.

Here’s your quick and dirty tip for post-workout fueling: Don’t wait until you get home or to your office to eat. Typically, by the time you’ve prepared breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’ve missed your magic window of 20-60 minutes. Instead, prepare and carry your post-workout fuel in your gym bag or car. This is when Ziplocs, Tupperware containers, and shaker cups will be quite handy.


As you can see, when it comes to getting fit, nutrition is just as big a part of the equation as exercise. That doesn’t mean you need to arrive at the gym with a grocery shopping bag full of fruit, or a 24-pack of energy drinks, but it does mean that you should plan ahead to give your body the fuel it needs for fitness. Don’t worry--you aren’t going to sabotage your fat-loss efforts as long as you fuel in moderation. The way I like to think about it is this: Take good care of your body’s fueling needs for exercise, and engage in any type of caloric restriction apart from exercise.

Related tip:

Should You Eat Carbs After a Workout?

Food and Exercise Equipment image from Shutterstock


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.