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Workout Nutrition : Food to Eat Before and After a Workout

Is Workout Nutrition worth it at all? Should you have a look into the subject? Well, the short answer is YES!

Workout can be greatly affected by what you eat before going for it and after having done.

Proper nutrient before and after a workout will help optimize results and minimize muscle damage. (1) (2)

People around the world, athletes, fitness lovers are everyday striving for ways to improve their physical performance.

Eating well can help your body perform well during exercise and recover quicker after.

Carbs and fat for example are useful to the body before exercise. In fact, carbs help to maximize glycogen store during intense physical exercise. Fats play a role of fuel for longer, less intense activities.


Recommendation is to have a full meal 2 to 3 hour before a workout, and carbs carbs and proteins closer to your workout.

Before every physical activity you need to supply nutrients to your body. Each nutrient has a specific role.

Here below listed some nutrients and role they play:


Protein consumption before exercise has an impact on muscles.

In fact, together with carbs or alone, protein before exercise can increase protein synthesis in the muscle (2) (3)

Proteins work also in increasing muscle performance, strength and body mass. (4) (5)

They also help to improve muscle recovery (after workout).


Carbs contain glucose and your muscles need it as fuel.

During short intense exercise your muscles work to store glycogen which is a source of energy.

Glycogen in the muscles is limited and the more it is depleted, the less energy you have to sustain exercise. (6)

Eating carbs has been shown to increase glycogen stores and how it is utilise. It also boosts carb oxidation at the time of exercise. (7) (8)


As said earlier, fat help to fuel the body for longer and less intense workout. However, fat diet need to be considered over a long period of time.

A good pre-workout meal should be made of carbs and proteins. In case you add fats, this should be consumed hours before or days before a workout programme.

Once again it is advisable to have a full meals 2-3 hour prior to a workout.

In some cases where you have to exercise and do not have 2-3 hour, then consider a small and simple portion easy to digest but still containing carbs and proteins.

Having said that, here are some examples of pre-workout meals, supplements and the timing for each meal (choose one):


Pre-Workout Nutrition

You are set to start within 2 to 3 hours

  • A whole-grain bread sandwich, lean protein and a salad
  • Boiled egg with sliced apple
  • Brown rice, roasted vegetables and lean protein
  • Omelette and toasted whole grain bread and fruit

You are set to start within 2 hours

  • Whole grain cereals and milk
  • Oatmeal with fruit such (as banana) and sliced almonds
  • Protein smoothie with milk, protein powder, and fruit

You are set to start in 60 minutes or less

  • Nutrition bar with protein and healthy ingredients
  • Fruit (banana or apple)
  • Greek yoghurt and fruit

Pre-Workout Supplements

Supplements are commonly used in sport. They are used as aids to enhance performance by affecting energy metabolism or working on the central nervous system.

In addition, they also increase lean body mass or muscle mass by stimulating protein synthesis and reducing body fat content. (9)

Creatine and caffeine are the most used supplements.

Supplements need to be consumed with caution. Overdosing may lead to consequences (10). It always good practice to consult a dietitian in case of doubt.


Caffeine can help improve performance by stimulating fatty acid mobilization and sparing of the body’s carbohydrate stores, also by having a direct effect on muscle. (11) (12) (13)

It might also work on the way the central nervous system perceives effort and fatigue. Although in sport, the urine concentration of caffeine should not above 12 mg/l. (11)

Caffeine can be found in tea, coffee, pre-workout pills, supplements and some energy drinks.

you have to consume it at least 60 min prior to exercise in order to be effective. (14)


According to researches, creatine work by enhancing muscle mass gain, strength, and functional performance and power. In addition, it might also delay fatigue. (15)

Creatine is beneficial before a workout, and it seems to have even more effectiveness after a workout. (16)

A dosage of 2 to 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day can be effective. (17)

Other supplements include branched-chain Amino Acids, beta- Alanine and supplements combining all above.

Branched-Chain Amino acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs are essential amino acids that oxidized in skeletal muscle. They are useful in sport according to studies.

BCAAs’s consumption before and after exercise help in reducing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis. (18) (19)


Use of Beta-Alanine has been increasing more and more. Long-term use of beta-alanine supplements can increase intramuscular carnosine (also known as beta-alanyl-L-histidine). (20)

Carnosine is a molecule containing two amino acids, alanine and histidine. It production is done in animal tissues, particularly muscle and brain.

Studies has shown that Beta-Alanine can be effective for short- and high-intensity exercises. (21)

Multi ingredient supplements

These are combination of more than one supplement. Among them we have combination of Caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, branched-chain amino acids, arginine and B vitamins.

These multi-ingredient supplements, when consumed before workout, they delay fatigue and at the same time improve reaction time and muscular endurance. (22)

The dosage for these supplements depends on the product. In most case, the recommendation is to take it between 30 to 45 min before starting time of exercise.

Water and sodium

Taking water and sodium before a workout is a crucial step. In fact, good hydration might help in sustaining and enhancing performance. (23)

As suggested by The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), drinking both water and beverage containing electrolytes such as sodium before exercise. This will impact positively on the fluid balance. (24)

Hydration is an essential step before, during and after exercise.


Having quality meals after workout is an essential step that will help in preventing muscle damage.

In fact, during exercise, your muscles use glycogen stores to fuel the body and proteins are broken down. (25)

You need therefore to restore glycogen, rebuild those proteins and enhance recovery.

Post-workout meals can help reconstruct your muscle proteins and glycogen stores.

Carbs, proteins and fats are of great benefit in the post-workout meal and choosing simple easy to digest meals is advisable.

Here are some simple and easy to digest post workout nutrition foods


  • Protein bar / Shakes
  • Greek yogurt
  • Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Salmon


  • Chocolate milk
  • Fruits (pineapple, apple, banana)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice cakes
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Pasta
  • Green vegetables


  • Dried fruit and Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Nut butter

With these foods you can make some meals:

  • Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables.
  • Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds
  • Salmon with sweet potato
  • Egg omelet with avocado spread on toast.
  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Greek yogurt, berries and granola

Recommendation is to eat proper and nutritious meals after workout to ensure recovery and avoid muscle damage.

Never forget that hydration is very crucial in a workout nutrition plan

Timing can be different but the average is within 45 min after workout and not longer than 2 hours.

These workout nutrition advices are based on researches and some experiences. In any doubt do not hesitate to consult your dietitian.

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