The Ultimate Guide of What to Eat Before and After Workout

Posted by Katie Spaller on

Should you have a protein shake before or after a workout? What should you eat before a morning workout or after heading to the gym? 


At times, pre and post workout meal prep can seem extremely complicated. That’s why we’ve created this guide to answer the most common questions about when and what to eat to optimize your workout. So read on to learn what to eat before and after a workout to achieve better muscle gain, improve athletic performance, and expedite recovery.


Should You Eat Before or After a Workout?


Doctors and dietitians agree you should eat before and after your workout to avoid straining your body and mind. Workout plans should include consuming the right food and drink at the right times. The actual benefit of your workout session may depend on how you fuel your exercise.


A pre-workout snack or drink gives you the energy to push through your reps, laps, or sets. Afterward, a meal supports your body’s natural recovery. 


Eating after a workout, especially while strength training, is important for both refueling and recovery. The body needs food to rebuild its glycogen stores as well as repair and replenish valuable muscle proteins. Plus, not eating after a workout can lead to fatigue, injuries, increased soreness, and reduced performance during your next workout.


Of course, not all foods, supplements, or beverages help optimize athletic performance. This is why it’s important to think about when and what to eat carefully. Below, we’ll explain how you can strategically decide when and how to fuel up before or after working out. 


When to Eat Before and After a Workout


Many athletes plan their workout routines to achieve the best results possible. It’s just as important to strategically plan your pre and post workout meals to fuel your body as efficiently as possible. 


To harness optimal energy using pre-workout food, eat a balanced meal two to three hours before your workout. A balanced meal will satisfy all of your nutritional needs – which will fluctuate depending on your diet or workout regimen – but should typically provide energy from protein, whole grains, and plant-based ingredients. Below, you can find several examples of balanced pre and post-workout meals. 


Be wary of eating a large meal too soon before working out because it may make you feel too sluggish or uncomfortable while exercising. Optimally, we recommend eating a balanced meal 2-3 hours before working out. Doing so will ensure you harness the peak benefits from your chosen fuel.


You can eat small meals or snacks up to one hour before working out. This will give your body time to properly digest your food and produce the energy you’ll need for your workout. So if you workout first thing in the morning – when blood sugar levels hit their lowest – try to make time for a light fruit bowl or granola bar. Alternatively, reach for a bottle of Kenetik before you hit the gym! Kenetik’s exogenous ketones will provide your body with the energy you need to push yourself first thing in the morning, and won’t throw you out of ketosis. 


For post-workout recovery fuel, aim to consume a protein-rich snack within an hour after working out. This energy can help soothe or buffer soreness, cramping, and pain. 


Please note that these are recommendations. It’s important to know your body and time your own meals to give you comfort as well as optimized performance. 


What to Eat Before a Workout


The right pre-workout meal will help fuel your exercise while preparing you for recovery. So look to lean protein and clean carbohydrates to help set your body up for proper protein synthesis, and increase strength, stamina + performance. 


However, eating foods high in fats and fiber can slow your stomach’s digestion and hurt your ability to comfortably exert yourself. So, if you’re following a keto diet make sure to leave plenty of time for any fat-rich food to digest. 


As you plan your meals, consider the workout’s intensity. Working out for thirty minutes may not require a pre-workout snack, but most athletes will definitely want to prepare their body with the amino acids, proteins, and building blocks you need to get results after training. Moreover, the right pre-workout meal will also allow you the energy you need to hit a new personal record or reach that last-minute runner’s high!  


Without the proper preparation, you could waste time on routines that don’t add to your fitness due to a lack of nutrition.


Pre-Workout Meal Examples


Here are a few great examples of energy-rich foods you can consume before your workout. 


  • Two to three hours before working out: 
    • A sandwich on whole-grain bread with a protein like chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, or peanut butter. 
    • Eggs and whole-wheat toast. 
    • Lean protein like chicken, turkey, or fish served with complex carbs like quinoa, potatoes, or brown rice and steamed vegetables

 

  • One to two hours before working out: 
    • Oatmeal
    • Fruit or Vegetable smoothie
    • Protein Shake
    • Cottage cheese with fruit
    • A light sandwich 
    • Whole-grain cereal

 

  • One hour or less: 
    • Trail mix 
    • Greek yogurt 
    • Protein bar
    • Raw fruit

What to Eat After a Workout 


Within an hour after your workout, your body needs proteins, amino acids, and more energy to refuel. If you’re specifically looking to gain muscle mass you’ll want to consume protein. Conversely, if you’re looking to access increased energy after your workout, turn to carbs to help replenish your glycogen stores.


Of course, if you’re following a keto diet you can also rely on food rich in healthy fats to help boost post-workout energy levels. 


Then, in addition to rehydrating and replacing electrolytes, make sure to eat protein-rich foods to keep cramps, tightness, and unnecessary soreness at bay. Even a liquid meal is worth it if you can’t stomach a sandwich after your run.


Later on in the day, be sure to follow your protein-rich snack or drink with smart, clean carbs – or healthy fats. Unlike pre-workout recommendations, fibrous foods like nuts, seeds, and legumes can be incorporated if they are part of your diet. However, no workout, person, or diet is identical, so observe your experience post-exercise and refuel accordingly.


Post-Workout Meal Examples


Here are some great examples of energy-rich foods you can consume after your workout. 

  • Whole grain turkey wrap
  • Protein smoothie
  • Greek yogurt and fruit
  • Lean protein like chicken, turkey, or fish with complex carbs like quinoa, potatoes, or brown rice and steamed vegetables
  • Oatmeal, cottage cheese, and fruit
  • Whole grain bagel or toast with peanut butter and banana
  • Cauliflower Rice with Salmon 
  • Keto Portobello Lasagna 
  • Vegetable & Cheese Frittata 

Eating After a Fasted Workout


Today, many athletes prefer to workout fasted. Whether this occurs because of the timing of their workout, a commitment to intermittent fasting, or any other personal preference – working out fasted should not affect overall performance. 


That said, fasting before a long, strenuous, or high-endurance workout may leave users feeling weak. If you feel light-headed before or after a workout it is always crucial to pause and make time to fuel up and eat. 


One asset to fasting is that both fasting and intense exercise can increase levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH can help build or maintain healthy tissue in your brain, and will be elevated for up to 30 - 60 minutes after exercise. Eating carbs can interfere with HGH levels, so if you want to take full advantage of the elevated levels of HGH, you can wait up to one hour after exercising to eat.


Fasting can also help you push your body into ketosis. Once in ketosis, your body will begin to burn fat to produce ketones. These ketones will then be used to power your brain and body, which can lead to greater cognitive and athletic performance. If you’re worried about kicking your body out of ketosis before you work out, you can fuel up with Kenetik. The drink’s exogenous ketones will help fuel your body for the workout ahead, while keeping your body in ketosis. 


No matter what, it’s important to eat after your workout. You can eat protein to support muscle growth and recovery or carbs or fat to restore glycogen stores, whichever suits your lifestyle.


So if you fast before workouts, just make sure to eat clean carbs and lean protein at least an hour after your workout to promote muscle growth and recovery. Your body’s resources may be tapped, and a carb-dense, protein-heavy meal may make the difference between burning out or hitting the gym again tomorrow. 


Pre- and Post-Workout Drinks


While refueling is a key step in your post-workout recovery routine, many want to avoid the heaviness that comes with eating a full, solid meal. They also want to continue burning fat by remaining in ketosis – which is often hard-won through hours or days of fasting, exertion, and restriction. 


In addition to drinking water before, during, and after your workout, many athletes lean on sports drinks to reclaim electrolytes. However, both sports drinks and muscle-building protein shakes can be high in sugar or lead to digestive discomfort. 


So if you’re looking for a pre or post-workout drink equipped to offer steady energy, stamina, and faster recovery, look to Kenetik


An optimal drink before, during, and after workouts, Kenetik allows users to harness powerful exogenous ketones, and won’t kick you out of ketosis.  


Its unique formula provides a steady source of energy, focus, and stamina without interfering with your diet or sacrificing convenience and taste. In fact research has shown that when BHB ketones are harnessed in conjunction with carbs before a workout, some athletes were able to access improved athletic endurance. Similarly, new studies have also shown that ketone bodies are actually the preferred fuel source for cells with high metabolic demand. This means neurons and muscle cells can benefit from exogenous ketones before and after your workout. 


So because these ketone bodies are preferred by your most important cells, potent BHB can sharpen your body while providing high-demand cells with the energy they prefer. BHB may even speed your recovery better than post-workout snacks alone since they improve your muscle protein resynthesis after exercise. 


So harness the power of Kenetik today and cut the guesswork out of pre and post workout meal prep. As a powerful tool for refueling at every step of your routine, Kenetik may become your new go-to for every gym day.

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