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What To Eat Before and After a Workout

Written by: Progressive Education Team

Have you ever had one of those workouts where you just feel sluggish? Your head's not in it, every step feels painful, and your energy is nowhere to be found? It could be that you haven't eaten enough or haven't eaten the right things. Giving your body what it needs before and after a workout will give you the fuel you need to get out there and crush it.

What to eat before a workout?

Each macronutrient – protein, carbs & fat – will fuel your body in different ways. You need to give your body a mix of protein, fat, and carbs.1

Protein: Research shows that consuming protein before a workout helps increase muscle protein synthesis.2

Carbs: Our body digests carbs into glucose, which is fuel for your muscles! That’s why having carbs before a workout is so important. For short, high intensity exercise, our body will tap into our energy stores – glycogen. It’s important to eat carbs to ensure you have enough glycogen stores or else you may not have the energy to exercise as intensely.1

Fats: If you plan to have a long, low-intensity workout, make sure you include this macro-nutrient.1

How much to eat

Here's a handy guide to how much protein, carbs, and fats you should be eating and what kinds so you can build your perfect pre-workout plate. Keep in mind that your specific nutritional needs will vary depending on size, sport, goals, and type of activity, but this is a great general guide to point you in the right direction.




1 palm-sized serving


Chicken, beef tofu

1 closed fist-size


Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach

1 thumb-size


Avocado, natural nut butters

When to eat

Ideally, you'll eat a mixed meal 3 hours before your workout.

Short on time?

If you don't have 2-3 hours before your workout to eat a full meal, a smaller snack is the best way to get the protein and carbs your body will need. You're still going for that mixture of protein and carbs, so think whole-grain toast with nut butter or a Greek Yogurt parfait (Greek yogurt has both carbs AND protein.)

You'll have less time to digest, so monitor how you feel during your workout to make sure you didn't jump the gun and end up feeling unwell.

If you only have an hour before the gym, a liquid is your best bet; dig into this high-protein smoothie that's simple and delicious, like this:

Pre-workout protein smoothie 

 Blend and enjoy 30 to 60 minutes before your workout.

What to eat after a workout?

The ''what' is similar to the before workout meal: create a mixed meal of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and fat. A perfect plate would be chicken, brown rice, broccoli, and avocado. If you're not able to make a meal or just don't feel up to eating right after, mix up a smoothie to get your carbs, protein, and fats in a simpler, portable package.

When to eat

Try to eat your post-workout meal as soon as you can. If you managed to have a good, well-balanced meal before, you can go 1-2 hours after training before eating. If you trained without eating, just had a smoothie, or ate more than 3 hours before training, get your post-workout nutrition into your system as soon as you can.

Short on time?

Try this recipe:

Post-workout protein smoothie

 Blend and enjoy 30 to 60 minutes AFTER your workout.


  1. Semeco, A. (2018, May 31). Pre-workout nutrition: What to eat before a workout. Healthline. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from
  2. Willoughby DS, Stout JR, Wilborn CD. Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass, and strength. Amino Acids. 2007;32(4):467-77. doi: 10.1007/s00726-006-0398-7. Epub 2006 Sep 20. PMID: 16988909.

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