NutriSense Blog
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Eating Before and After Your Workout

February 18, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense
Brooke McKelvey
Reviewed by
Amanda D.
CD, RDN

Whether you’re trying to build muscle, lose weight or maintain overall wellness, weaving a workout into your daily routine is pretty important. There’s no shortage of research on the health benefits of physical activity

The World Health Organization recommends adults get at least five hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. So if you’re not already, it’s time to get moving! But as you plan your daily exercise routine, don’t forget to work on planning your pre and post-workout meals too. 

Pre-workout nutrition helps make that training session worth it since it fuels your body during your workout. And post-workout nutrition is essential because it helps you recover and rehydrate afterward! If you don’t give your body the proper nutrients at the right time, then you may see a decrease in performance and an increase in muscle soreness. 

If you find yourself wondering what and when to eat before and after your daily workout, you’re asking the right questions. The answers, of course, will depend on your body type, weight, fitness goals, fitness regime, age, and pre-existing conditions. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all, here are some tips for healthy, efficient eating around your workouts to help you get started.

Timing Your Pre and Post-Workout Meals

Should you eat one or three hours before your workout? Is a heavy meal a good idea immediately after an intense workout? How long is too long to wait for your post-workout snacks? Timing may not be everything, but it’s definitely important when it comes to your workout. 

Timing your meals around your workouts may affect your performance when you exercise. The nutrients you eat provide you with energy to push yourself while you work out and recover after. Still, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to nutrition, so everything from what your body needs to fuel it to what it needs in recovery will depend on your responses to food. 

So, what’s most important is to pay attention to the foods you eat before and after your workout because they may directly affect how you feel and how quickly you recover. If you’re having trouble figuring out what you should eat and when you should be eating it, work with a dietitian or nutritionist to form a meal plan that’s best for you. 

Before Your Workout

How soon before a workout should you be snacking? What sort of pre-exercise nutrient intake is the right choice for you? When and what you eat may depend on when you exercise and the duration and intensity of your workout. Here is a general guide to eating before your workout at various times of the day:

Early morning

  • If you’re a go-getter in the mornings and like to sweat it out before starting your day, you could eat a small snack approximately 30 minutes before you begin your workout. Some fasted workouts are okay, but if you feel like you’re having trouble getting through it, adding some fuel beforehand can be helpful.
  • Make sure to drink water when you wake up too. Hydration is one of the most important ways to care for your body when you exercise. 
  • If you plan to exercise for over an hour in the morning, make sure to include some carbohydrates and protein into your small meal so that your body has enough fuel to burn. 
  • Try to finish your breakfast about an hour before your workout if you plan an intense workout to allow time for digestion.

Mid-day

  • If you plan to get a workout in during lunchtime, hydrate all morning. Try to finish your meal approximately two hours before your workout. 
  • Try eating a nutrient-packed breakfast on these days to have remaining fuel in your system for your workout. 

Evening

  • Try to stop eating approximately two hours before you begin your workout. 
  • Incorporate protein, fiber, and carbohydrates into your lunch to give your body the fuel it needs by the time you hit the gym. 
  • Hydrate throughout the day to aid digestion and provide your body with the water it will be sweating out. 

What to Eat

Exactly what you should eat will depend on how your body responds to different foods. For example, while some pre-workout meals that include sweet potato and whole-grain bread with veggies will work well for some people, others may require a few extra grams of protein. 

Some people may have good responses with low-fat milk, while others may need whole milk. So, it’s best to work with a registered dietitian or nutritionist to figure out what’s best for you. But if you’re looking for a few ideas to help kickstart your pre-workout meal planning, here are a few ideas from our favorites: 

  • Try a smoothie for a pre-workout snack that’s delicious and filling. Try a banana or a mix of fruits your body responds best to. 
  • Whole fruits are always a good option! Pair some energy-boosting fruit like apples, pears, and oranges with nut butter for the best pre-workout snack. We’re partial to almond butter! 
  • If you’re looking for more of a pre-workout meal than a snack, foods like brown rice paired with a protein (chicken is a go-to for us) work well for some people. 
  • Granola, Greek yogurt, and berries packed with amino acids for a higher-carb pre-workout snack. 
  • If cottage cheese suits you, consider swapping Greek yogurt for this for a ​​lower carb protein-rich option with your berries. It may help with metabolism and overall health, even if you consume it just as a late-night snack
  • If you respond well to oats, consider a pre-workout bowl of oatmeal with some berries. They’re a fiber-filled option that can help convert carbohydrates to energy and are a helpful pre-workout snack for some. 

After Your Workout

To aid muscle recovery, try to eat within two hours of your workout. Wondering why? When you work out, the glycogen that your muscles store gets depleted. So, it’s a good idea to have high-quality, nutritional post-workout snacks to help stimulate post-exercise muscle protein synthesis

If you eat several hours after your workout, or you’ve had a particularly intense workout, consider a protein-rich snack like a smoothie, a whey shake, hard-boiled eggs with fruit or fruit, and organic Greek yogurt. 

Make sure that you are hydrating after your workout too. Water intake is just as important as the foods that you eat. Drinking plenty of water will help to prevent dehydration during your post-workout recovery.

What to Eat

Here too, picking a specific type of food will depend on your body. Your post-workout meal may include chocolate milk, while others may stick with Greek yogurt and fruit. Some post-workout nutrition guidelines may suggest a protein powder-filled shake. And while it can help some people to build muscle and recover quicker after a workout, others may not respond that well to such a high protein diet. 

The same goes for things like carbohydrates and fats. If you don’t know what works for you, consider using a continuous glucose monitor to track your responses so you can see what works best for your body. And once you figure that out, you can pick from some of our favorite post-workout snacks!

  • Whole grains often work well as a post-workout meal—our favorite options are tortillas filled with lean protein. 
  • Looking for some electrolyte replacement after your workout? Consider rehydrating with natural sources like kale, coconut water, oranges, and sweet potatoes. 
  • Chia seeds also contain electrolytes, and a chia seed pudding can be a pretty delicious way to get some of that post-workout nutrition you need. Consider adding it into a smoothie or your oatmeal.
  • Don’t shy away from fats. Consider avocados or nut butter on whole-grain pita.
  • Protein post-workout can help build muscle tissue. Make yourself a delicious scramble, or try some grilled salmon on toast. 

Different Workouts Require Different Recovery Food

We’ve told you about some of our favorite pre and post-workout snacks, but the list is far from extensive. There are so many different types of workouts, which means that there are many ways to fuel up after them. The focus of this recovery should be your carbohydrate and protein intake, but make sure that you are also getting your fiber and nutrients in. 

Cardiovascular Exercise

For some people, it’s a good idea to fuel longer endurance cardiovascular activities such as swimming, cycling, long-distance running, and climbing with a carbohydrate-rich diet supplemented with protein. Try to balance your meals by consuming around 4 grams of carbohydrates per 1 gram of protein in your meals. For others, a higher fat diet with moderate protein is a good option after cardiovascular exercises. 

Strength Training

If you’re working to build muscle and gain strength, you should focus on eating more protein in every meal. The Cleveland Clinic recommends balancing 2 grams of carbohydrates per 1 gram of protein.

Mixed Activity

Your carbohydrate to protein ratio will vary depending on how you balance your exercise, but adding 3 grams of carbs per 1 gram of protein in every meal is an excellent place to start. 

Listen to Your Body

Everyone’s body has different nutritional needs and reactions to foods. The intensity and duration of your workouts will determine how much you should eat and drink, but what foods work best for your body may not be the same as others. Pay attention to how you feel when you work out and how you feel as you recover after eating different foods. 

An easy way to monitor the foods that work for you is to use nutrition journals, food tracking apps, and CGMs. These tools will enable you to keep track of the foods that your body reacts to best while you sweat it out on your way to meeting your fitness goals. 

Develop a Healthy Relationship with Food

Many people refer to working out as a way to eliminate the calories they’ve consumed and focus solely on weight loss and gains. It can quickly turn into unhealthy mentalities surrounding food. Try looking at food as fuel for your body to use as it becomes stronger and healthier. 

If you like to cook, this can be a fun time to develop delicious and healthy recipes to provide to your body. If you aren’t kitchen savvy, try using a meal service like Sunbasket, Sakara, or Hungryroot

And if you are someone who is always on the go and doesn’t have time to spend preparing meals, make sure to keep healthy snacks around like nuts, fruits, lean meats, protein shakes, and smoothie mixes. 

It’s also always a good idea to speak with a registered dietitian to learn more about planning your meals with your goals in mind. Working with a professional will help you understand enough about your body to begin intuitively making decisions about what you put into it—workout or no workout!

NutriSense Can Help You Reach Your Diet and Fitness Goals

Planning healthy pre or post-workout meals can be challenging—there are so many factors to consider! To get the best results from your workout, you have to pick the right food in the right amount at the right time. 

Here’s where a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, can help! If you’re trying to find what works best for your body, it’s a good idea to track and monitor how it responds to various lifestyle and dietary habits with a tool like a CGM. People with diabetes have been using CGMs for years, but the CDC recommends checking your glucose levels even if you’re not showing symptoms.

CGMs are a great way to start a preventive health plan, and now anyone can get one thanks to NutriSense, which offers the same technology for the public for the first time. The best part is that you can use their monitors with an innovative app that tracks your blood glucose levels in real-time. There’s also a team of registered dietitians to help you read and understand the data.

Click here to listen to the podcast.
Listen to the full podcast:
Eating Before and After Your Workout
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Are BCAAs Worth It? The Bottom Line on Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Are BCAAs Worth It? The Bottom Line on Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Are BCAAs worth it? This post digs into 30+ years of research to answer this question. The answer may surprise you.

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8
min
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Science Backed Tips for Menopause-Related Weight Gain
Science Backed Tips for Menopause-Related Weight Gain

Menopause can be a difficult journey, so we've compiled some of the most effective, science backed tips to help you with menopause-related weight gain.

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8
min
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Help Dad Stay Healthy this Father's Day
Help Dad Stay Healthy this Father's Day

Father’s Day is around the corner, and whether you’re celebrating your dad, a father figure, or another cherished loved one, helping them take care of their health can be the ultimate gift.

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10
min
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11 Great Low-Carb Snacks to Add to Your Diet [+ 5 Recipes our Dietitians Love]
11 Great Low-Carb Snacks to Add to Your Diet [+ 5 Recipes our Dietitians Love]

Here's a helpful list of some of our favorite low-carb snacks that can help you keep your diet varied and full of healthy nutrients.

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7
min
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Low Glycemic Index Recipe Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy
Low Glycemic Index Recipe Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy

Whether you're looking for low GI summer snacks or healthy sweet treats, this post has got you covered. Here are tasty low glycemic index recipes everyone will enjoy!

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8
min
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Do Grapes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
Do Grapes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?

Wondering if grapes are safe for people with diabetes to include in their diet? Read on to find out.

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7
min
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The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Cholesterol plays a very important role in the human body, contributing to the structure of the cells, helping with vitamin D synthesis, and also promoting the production of steroid and sex hormones, like cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. But how exactly is cholesterol connected to blood glucose levels?

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11
min
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20 Questions to Ask Your CGM Provider (with Kara Collier)
20 Questions to Ask Your CGM Provider (with Kara Collier)

We sat down with Kara Collier, our co-founder and VP of Health here at NutriSense, to take a closer look at how CGMs work and what you need to know about these devices before using one.

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7
min
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Are Carbs and Sugar the Same? 
Are Carbs and Sugar the Same? 

Are carbs and sugar the same? In this post, we break down the key differences between the two and share the benefits of complex carbohydrates.

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9
min
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Best Recovery Breakfasts to Beat Post-Workout DOMS
Best Recovery Breakfasts to Beat Post-Workout DOMS

Read on to learn more about DOMS, how long it can last, and then pick from our list of the best breakfasts to help beat that post-workout soreness, support muscle building, and encourage fat loss.

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13
min
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7 Plant-Derived Supplements to Help Lower Blood Sugar
7 Plant-Derived Supplements to Help Lower Blood Sugar

When it comes to lowering blood sugar levels, not all supplements are created equal. From ginseng to aloe vera, here are some of the best supplements to help avoid high blood sugar and encourage blood sugar control.

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8
min
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Is Bloating After Surgery Normal?
Is Bloating After Surgery Normal?

Bloating that results from a surgery can sometimes be an unexpected part of the recovery process. Is there anything you can do to reduce bloating or prevent it from happening? And what causes this bloating anyway? Read on to find the answer to these questions and much more to help you combat your post-surgery swelling. 

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9
min
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Is Fiber a Carb? 
Is Fiber a Carb? 

Learn why fiber is classified as a carb and how to increase your intake of this health promoting nutrient.

Story
9
min
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Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 
Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 

Did you know Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease? Read on to learn what it's like living with PD plus discover treatment options.

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10
min
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An Expert Breaks Down 11 Viral Health Trends
An Expert Breaks Down 11 Viral Health Trends

From rosemary water to dry scooping, should you be trying every new trend that hits TikTok? How can you tell which ones may help and which ones to steer clear of?

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8
min
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Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?
Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?

As great as sugar tastes, including too much of it in your diet can lead to certain health problems. Read on to learn more about the role sugar plays in keeping your skin healthy.

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9
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14 Health and Nutrition Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians
14 Health and Nutrition Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians

Read on to see which podcasts our dietitians recommend if you’re interested in learning more about nutrition and health.

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7
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Does Nicotine Affect Blood Glucose?
Does Nicotine Affect Blood Glucose?

Nicotine is a chemical in tobacco that can affect your health in various ways. Read our article to learn how it impacts blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

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9
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Why Everyone, Including Healthy People Should Use CGMs
Why Everyone, Including Healthy People Should Use CGMs

CGMs are now an excellent tool for anyone who wants to optimize their metabolic health. Read on to find out more about the benefits CGMs can have for healthy people!

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10
min
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Why Do People Need to Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?
Why Do People Need to Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?

Although bariatric surgery can be an effective way to lose weight and improve health for people who are obese, it’s a major decision. Find out what lifestyle changes you need to make before going under the knife.

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8
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Favorite Grilling Recipes
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Favorite Grilling Recipes

Excited to fire up the grill this summer? Read on to learn if grilling is healthy for you plus check out the NutriSense Nutrition Team's favorite grilling recipes for the season.

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9
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How a Healthy Gut Improves Blood Sugar
How a Healthy Gut Improves Blood Sugar

Did you know that your gut health can impact your blood glucose levels? Explore ways to improve your gut health for optimal glucose levels.

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8
min
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Living With Autoimmune Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Living With Autoimmune Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that can cause swelling and joint pain. Learn more about how it develops and how other health conditions affect its onset.

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10
min
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13 Best Weight Loss Apps to Consider
13 Best Weight Loss Apps to Consider

We’ve hand-picked the best weight loss apps available. Here are the thirteen best weight loss apps.

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8
min
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What is Red Light Therapy?
What is Red Light Therapy?

An emerging treatment, red light therapy promises to prevent and treat the signs of aging and other skin issues. Read on to find out more.

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9
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Diets People are Most Likely to Give Up On [+Tips to Stick with Them]
Diets People are Most Likely to Give Up On [+Tips to Stick with Them]

Struggling to stick with a health-promoting diet? Here’s how to make it enjoyable so you can reap the benefits.

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85
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Kara Collier on Optimal Health Through Blood Sugar Regulation
Kara Collier on Optimal Health Through Blood Sugar Regulation

VP of Health and co-founder of NutriSense Kara Collier discusses reaching optimal health through blood sugar regulation, what a continuous glucose monitor is, and who might benefit from using it.

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16
min
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How to Turn Your Idea into a 120 Person Team with Dan Zavorotny
How to Turn Your Idea into a 120 Person Team with Dan Zavorotny

In this episode of Zero to CEO, Jason Sherman talks to Dan Zavorotny about how to turn your idea into a 120 person team in 2.5 years.

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7
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A Breakdown of Body Mass Index (BMI)
A Breakdown of Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index is a term you may have seen tossed around quite a bit in the health world. You may know that it’s a way to measure body fat, but with so many new tests for measuring overall fitness and health, is BMI still reliable?

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8
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Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day
Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day

If you're watching your glucose levels, traditional BBQ staples may not be the best choice. Here are some recipes that will help you enjoy a Memorial Day meal without a blood sugar spike.

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8
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Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care
Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care

Mental health has a significant impact on your overall health; here are tips, tools, and apps to improve your mental wellbeing.

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8
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Can You Check Your Blood Sugar at Home Without a Meter
Can You Check Your Blood Sugar at Home Without a Meter

Living with diabetes can be a challenge, especially when it comes to keeping your blood sugar levels regulated. Learn if you can check your blood sugar at home without a meter.

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10
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Sunscreen for all Skin Types
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Sunscreen for all Skin Types

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to make sure you have the tools you need to protect yourself from sunburn and sun damage. But how do you choose the right one for adequate sun protection?

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8
min
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Japanese Water Therapy & Weight Loss: What’s the Deal? 
Japanese Water Therapy & Weight Loss: What’s the Deal? 

Learn how Japanese water therapy can help with weight loss, energy levels, and detoxification.