Nutrition and exercise are not two separate facets of your health, they should be used to complement one another. If you understand how to complement your training with quality nutrition, knowing what to eat before and after a workout, it means you’ll be able to perform at your best, burn more fat and recover quicker. 

The best foods to eat before a workout

What you choose to eat depends on the type of training you are doing. It also needs to be something you are familiar with so you can be confident it won’t cause you a stomach upset, reducing the effectiveness of your training session.

This is something that needs to be individual for each person. Some people thrive from eating a light snack like Greek yoghurt, others work best on a protein-heavy meal before a workout, but yet others prefer to have an empty stomach while training.

The right foods will help you perform at your best, burn more fat and recover quicker.

Best snacks before a high-intensity workout

Look for snacks that are high in carbohydrates as this is the predominant fuel when training at a high intensity for a short period of time.

Examples of good pre-workout snacks for a high-intensity session.

  • ½ banana
  • 1/3rd cup porridge or muesli
  • 1 piece of toast with peanut butter
  • ½ cup of smoothie
  • Small sweet potato with almond butter

Best snacks before a low-intensity training session

Your body can rely more on its fat stores for energy when you train at a lower intensity and for a longer period of time. What you choose to eat needs to be something you’ve eaten before, that you know won’t cause a stomach upset but is high in fats such.

  • A small chia pudding
  • A handful of nuts
  • A small tub of Greek yoghurt

Should I train while fasted?

There is research to suggest that exercising in a fasted state will help you burn more fat. If you feel okay with the idea of not eating before your workout, it is probably easiest to train fasted in the morning, so you can focus on your post-workout meal to get all your nutrients.

However, for those who might feel nauseous or lethargic without eating before you workout, you’ll want to have a snack at least 30 minutes before you exercise. Or, if you choose to eat a full meal, ensure you’re finished at least 2 hours before your training session begins.

eating protein after a workout is essential

The best foods to eat after a workout

After exercise, there is a window of up to two hours (ideally one hour) where our body will most efficiently utilise the nutrients it takes in. That is why you should have a full meal post-workout as soon as you can, but definitely within that 1-2 hour post-workout period. If you are unable to eat a full meal, then a snack will suffice until you can get your next meal in. 

Here are my suggestions for the best kinds of foods to include in your post-workout meal or snack.

Protein is essential in any post-workout meal

All exercise, particularly strength and endurance exercise, will cause muscle cell breakdown. We want to repair this damage and build more muscle mass, which means we need the amino acids that are best provided by protein.

Always include a protein source with your post-workout meal, such as:

  • red meat
  • fish
  • chicken
  • tempeh
  • tofu
  • eggs
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • Greek yoghurt

Healthy fats are important in every post-workout meal

We also want to ensure some healthy fats and slow-releasing carbohydrates are present in this meal to restore energy supplies so opting for things like nuts, oils, avocado, sweet potato and brown rice are good options.

  • nuts
  • oils
  • avocado
  • sweet potato
  • brown rice

Include colourful, non-starchy vegetables

Micro-nutrients are also super important to facilitate post-exercise recovery. So ensure you include 2 cups of a variety of colourful, non-starchy veggies too.

Steph Wearne, Head of Nutrition, 28 By Sam Wood.