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Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition Simplified

Posted by Wendy Lucas on August 26, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition Simplified

Fine tune your meals to fuel up your workouts and get the most out of every training session.


Key Concepts


• Designing meals with protein first (necessary building blocks), followed by healthy fats and carbohydrates (for energy) is a prudent way to achieve your ideal body composition while considering the wide range in energy demands from person to person. 

• During exercise, the primary fuels used by your muscles are carbohydrate and fat. In general, your muscles tend to burn more fat and less glucose when doing mild exercise.

• The terms glucose and carbohydrates are used interchangeably to remind you that all carbohydrates eventually become a form of glucose. 

• When single glucose molecules are floating in your bloodstream we commonly call this blood sugar.

• When stored in muscle, several glucose molecules are strung together in branches we call glycogen. 

• As exercise becomes more intense, a higher percentage of the working muscles energy demands are supplied by glucose, until at the highest intensities almost only carbohydrates are used.


If you want to get the most out of your workouts, despite your chosen mode of exercise—whether it’s a grueling CrossFit workout, an intense spin class, or a brisk run in the mountains—you must take your pre-exercise and post-exercise nutrition seriously to provide the muscle with the raw materials it needs.


Since all intense forms of exercise use carbohydrates for energy, maintaining adequate carbohydrate stores in muscle makes good sense. Having 1-2 meals under your belt before training will give you more energy and a more effective workout. These meals should contain 30-45 grams of complex carbs for men and 20-30 grams for women. These carbs could consist of vegetables, sweet potatoes, beans, or whole grains, or dark berries.


Protein is vital to health, in particular, your intake around exercise. Taken before training, Whey protein has unique properties that make it the near perfect protein to aid an effective workout. If you don’t have a whey protein handy, a Quest Bar is a great way to get in the right combination of carbs and whey protein. Other strong protein choices are chicken, turkey, lean beef and eggs. Suggested range of protein is 25-45 grams for men and 15-25 grams for women.

After exercise your muscles are primed to re-fuel and rebuild making post-workout meal planning well worth the effort. Your post-workout meal is your first defense for maintaining and building lean muscle–the tissue that increases our metabolism and helps us burn more calories throughout the day.


Your post-workout meal should consist of protein, to rebuild and repair, and carbohydrate to replace energy stores. Suggested intake for protein is: 30-45 grams for men and 20-25 grams for women. For carbohydrates, consume both simple and complex; to minimize protein breakdown and re-fill carbohydrate stored in muscle. While your post-workout feeding should be rich in protein and carbohydrate, this meal should be fat-free.


The consumption of essential fats is one of the most overlooked areas of daily nutritional intake, but during the post-workout period, eating fat can actually decrease the effectiveness of your post-workout beverage. Since fat slows down transit through the stomach, eating fat during the post-workout period may slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and proteins.




• Pre-workout meal should be consumed 30 minutes to an hour beforehand

• Post-workout meal should be consumed immediately after exercise. The best pre-workout and post-workout nutrients are something I call my workout “sandwich.” I “sandwich” my workout with a complete carbohydrate and protein-rich shake or protein bar before and after training. Oftentimes, I will eat a Quest Bar for a pre-workout snack that gives just enough energy and stamina to have a killer workout, and follow it up with a protein shake complete with the proper nutrients. Try my smoothie recipe below.


Fuel-Up Workout Smoothie


• 1cup almond milk or water

• 3 ice cubes

• 1 scoop whey protein isolate powder (25 grams for women, 35 grams for men)

• ½-1 cup fruit (your choice – stick with dark berries for your pre-workout, any fruit


• 1 tsp glutamine powder for women, 2 tsp for men

• 1 tsp BCAA powder for women, 2 tsp for men

• Blend together in a blender, or shake ingredients in a shaker cup and eat the fruit on the side.

Pre-Workout Meal Ideas for Men 


  • Medium Banana + 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1 cup Oatmeal + 1 scoop Whey Protein
  • 1 or 2 slices Whole Grain Bread + 1 whole egg and 3-4 egg whites, or a couple Turkey slices
  • Fruit Smoothie (recipe above)


Post-Workout Meal Ideas for Men


  • 35g Whey Protein Powder + 1 Banana or 1/2 cup Pineapple
  • 1 cup Greek Yogurt + 1 cup Berries + 1 Cup Cereal
  • Turkey or Chicken Wrap or Sandwich + Soup


Pre-Workout Meal Ideas for Women


  • Quest Protein Bar
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal + 1/2 cup fruit + 1 tbsp all natural PB or Almond butter
  • 4oz chicken breast (or tofu/tempeh) + 1 cup broccoli + 1/4 cup brown rice or quinoa
  • 1 whole egg + 1 egg white + 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 scoop protein powder blended with handful of raspberries
  • 1 Handful Trail Mix + 1 small Apple


Post-Workout Meal Ideas for Women


  • 25g Whey Protein Powder + 1 Banana or 1/2 cup Raspberries
  • Turkey or Chicken Wrap or Sandwich + Soup
  • 1/2 cup Sweet Potato + 3oz Chicken or White Fish (or tofu/tempeh)


What you eat before (and if needed, during) your workout is crucial for fueling the workout itself and maximizing your performance throughout.

What you eat after your workout is crucial for optimizing the recovery process (which basically begins as soon as your workout ends) and ensuring that your body has all of the supplies it needs in order to recover, adapt and improve the way you want it to.

Credit / Source:

- Kristen Bell, Registered Dietitian, Sports Nutritionist




Categories: Healthy Foods, Workouts , Protein Smoothie Recipes

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