Munching on an apple and peanut butter? Energy bar? Coconut water? Nothing? Whatever your workout preference, be it a Spinning class, yoga, or Zumba, it’s essential that your body be primed for each specific pursuit. But what, exactly, should you eat before, after, and during a workout?
What to Eat for the Way You Work Out
“What you eat while training is dictated by the condition you’re in and the type of training you are performing,” explains certified nutritionist and fitness expert Robert Ferguson. He suggests eating 20 to 40 minutes prior to working out in order to best optimize your performance. “You want to consume an adequate amount of protein to help with lean muscle repair and building. Scientific evidence demonstrates that people who consume 10 grams of protein before an intense workout are less likely to lose lean muscle tissue than those who don’t.”
And let’s not forget about carbs. “Carbohydrates are the number one fuel for the body,” says Kosta Kokolis, licensed physical therapist and co-founder of Bodhizone. “Not only are they essential for brain and spinal cord function, but they also supply the body with the energy needed to perform.”
“It's vital to have a combination of simple as well as complex carbs so that energy is released in a smooth and steady manner throughout the workout,” agrees Dr. Robert Glatter, attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Eating fresh fruit with whole wheat toast and peanut butter, for example, will supply you with both types of carbohydrates. The complex carbs in the wheat bread help you to sustain the workout, while the fruit gives you an added boost of energy. The protein and glucose in the peanut butter add additional fuel for the workout.”
It goes with saying that hydration is key when exercising. “Hydrating during physical activity is crucial, because water leaves your body quickly when exercising,” explains Kokolis. “Your body loses water not only by sweating but also by breathing. Both of these increase dramatically with exercise. Hence, your body will need more water than usual. The American College of Sports Medicine states that 250 milliliters of water are needed for every 20 minutes, which is about two or three big sips from your water bottle.”
After a workout, it's important to focus on recovery; you’ll need food that is rich in nutrients. Ferguson recommends eating a meal within 60 minutes of concluding the workout. “Research shows the faster you get your meal, the better this will replenish low blood sugar after a workout,” says Kokolis. “Eating lean proteins and carbohydrates that are slow to digest will help you to optimize recovery while providing necessary fuel and stabilizing your blood sugar.”
Dr. Glatter suggests lean proteins (chicken, fresh fish, or tofu) and mixed steamed vegetables drizzled with olive oil or an omelette with vegetables and avocado. “The eggs are an excellent source of protein, and they help in muscle recovery as well as growth,” he says. “Avocado contains monounsaturated healthy fats along with fiber. Just like olive oil, the avocados allow your body to better absorb fat soluble compounds and nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are contained in the vegetables. The vitamins also function as antioxidants, further improving your health.”
To help you make the most of your workout, we asked fitness experts to share their healthy eating recommendations.
“An hour and a half before you work out, eat a light meal or snack with a combination of carbs and proteins — a small bowl of oatmeal with raisins and walnuts, for example. Then, drink coffee 15 to 30 minutes before your workout to rev up your heart rate. In the 45 minutes after your work out, try a healthy protein shake with berries, hemp or whey protein, almond milk, and ice, or a healthy salad with chicken, veggies, extra-virgin olive oil, and lemon juice.”
- Anna Kaiser, celebrity trainer and founder of AKT InMotion
“Bootcamp is a very intense cardio and weight workout. I have to be careful what I eat before, or I end up feeling nauseous. Pre-workout, I grab half a banana and a cup of coffee. The combination of the natural sugar and caffeine give me the kick I need for an intense workout. Then I come home and have a green smoothie: coconut water, ice, the other half of banana, two scoops of my favorite protein powder, one tablespoon flax or chia seeds, cinnamon, turmeric, and two handfuls of greens (I rotate between collards, chard, kale, and spinach). This smoothie offers a balance of protein, healthy carbs, fiber, and essential fatty acids.”
- Tracee Gluhaich, personal trainer
Morning, Noon or Night: The Proper Way to Eat and Workout
Do you hop out of bed first thing in the morning and hit the gym? Maybe you prefer a late-night workout before bed. Either way, the food you consume pre- and post-workout are just as important as the workout itself. Many of us have had the experience of scarfing down a huge dinner post workout because we did not eat anything beforehand. Or, even worse, eating a large breakfast in a hurry before hitting the gym and, in turn, being faced with the dreaded side cramp. Following these simple rules will not only help you stay on track throughout the day, but will enable you to get the most out of your workout.
The Morning Mover: Are you a morning person? The kind that can roll out of bed, throw on your sneakers and heads for the gym? Then eating a full breakfast may actually not be ideal. You body needs time to digest the food you consume and this process usually takes about one to two hours. If you do not have that kind of time in the morning then saving breakfast until after your workout may be best. A great way to get in vitamins and nutrients quickly before a workout is with a green juice. No juicer? No problem. If you are running short on time a great substitution is a juice in powder form called ROOTS by deeply rooted. Just mix into water and you can get yours days' worth of vitamins and nutrients, as well as increasing energy, detoxifying your body, and assisting in weight management.
The Lunch-Timer: If you fall into the lucky group that can fit your workouts in during the day, my first recommendation is to make sure you drink plenty of water the first half of the day. I always say a liter by lunch is a great way to stay on track. Water will keep your body well hydrated, as well as keeping you fuller so you do not have a large lunch beforehand. If you plan on eating your lunch before you begin your workout, like I said before, make sure you give yourself at least an hour so you can digest.
A light option like a veggie burger over greens with a reduced-fat dressing and a hand fruit (ie: orange, apples etc.) is a great option. Dr. Praegers has great veggie burger options. Keep a few on hand in your freezer when you are looking for a fast, light lunch. If you are eating lunch after your workout you can opt for something a bit more substantial. Try a veggie burger or lean turkey burger in a high fiber wrap with some low fat cheese and a side of fruit.
The Late-Nighter: Busy days can force us to push our workouts toward the end of the day. If you fall into the dinner-time crowd, making sure you do not overeat is your biggest challenge. After a long day followed by a rigorous gym session it is easy to raid the refrigerator as soon as you get home. A good tip is to have a small, low-calorie snack waiting for you when you get home. This will hold you over while you prepare a healthy dinner. If you are in a rush to eat your dinner, Amy's Kitchen makes delicious and healthy frozen meals with options to fit any dietary need. A great way to stay on track is to monitor what you eat. Keeping a food journal can help you to see exactly what you have eaten throughout the day. There are also tons of great apps out there that are easier than keeping a food journal. Bon'app allows you to not only keep track of what you have eaten so far in the day, but also monitors the nutritional content of your favorite recipes. Another bonus for the late-night group -- studies have shown that working out at night can actually lead to a better night sleep.
Lemon Lime Recovery Drink
(from Thrive Fitness, reprinted with permission)
- 4 large Medjool dates (remove pits)
- 2 cups water
- 1 tbsp hemp protein
- 1 tbsp ground salba
- 2 tbsp sprouted buckwheat (or substitute cooked)
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- Juice from 1/4 lime
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp ground dulse flakes
- 1 tsp maca
- 1 tsp greens powder (chlorella or spirulina)
Now get out there, so you can come back and recover! Before you do, take a look at the first post in this series, on what to eat before a workout. And look for the third and final post, on what to eat during the workout, soon.
For more posts (and recipes) on natural sports nutrition, check out the Running Fuel page.
How to Eat to Fuel Your Workout
Get the most out of your workout by knowing what to eat when.
Green apple bounded with measuring tape with two dumbbells and bottle of water behind
Nutrition has a big impact on exercise performance—not having enough of the right foods and fluids can compromise your performance. First, the basics. When we’re talking about food for working out, there are a few components that need to be considered:
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for your body. They are stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver and used during exercise. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes and carbs can help to keep your energy up — but this is if you’re doing seriously intense or prolonged exercise, like running a marathon.
Now for your game plan. Here’s a breakdown of what to eat before, during and after exercise:
Before: Start off your workout hydrated by drinking 2 to 3 cups of water in the three to four hours before you exercise and keep sipping as you sweat (if you work out first thing in the morning, just stay as hydrated as you can the day before and drink some water when you wake up). If you’re working out for less than an hour, water may be all you need throughout and after your workout to replenish what you’ve lost. If you’re dehydrated, you won’t perform as well. For a longer workout (or if you just don’t do well exercising on a totally empty stomach), eat something easy to digest — a meal (three to four hours beforehand) or a snack (one to two hours beforehand) that’s low in fat, low in fiber, moderate in protein and high in carbs.
Pre-workout ideas: Consider low-fat cottage cheese and blueberries, nonfat Greek yogurt with sliced banana, or a turkey sandwich in a pita pocket with cucumber, lettuce, tomato and mustard).
During exercise: For a regular (less than one hour) workout, you’ll just need water during exercise to replenish the fluids you’re losing. If your workout is longer than an hour, get some carbs (30 to 60 grams per hour) to keep your blood sugar levels up. This is especially important for endurance athletes and extreme weather conditions (heat, cold, altitude). Sports drinks, which contain electrolytes and carbs, can be helpful for these longer workouts.
After exercise: Once you’re done, you need to replace fluid and electrolytes, energy (that means calories), and carbs to replace glycogen—the reserves of energy that are stored in your muscles. The College of Sports Medicine recommends you need 0.5 to 0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight (that’s 75 to 105 grams for a 150-pound person) during the first 30 minutes following intense, long-lasting exercise and every two hours for the next four to six hours. You also need some protein for muscle building and repair. If you’re just going for a regular, shorter workout, your next meal can give you the replenishment you need. Choose a healthy mix of carbs, protein and liquid.
Water should be enough to sustain you during an hourlong workout. The American Council on Exercise recommends 7 ounces to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise. If you intend on completing a cardiovascular session lasting longer than an hour, a sports drink with electrolytes and carbohydrates is recommended. Nutritionists also suggest about 30 grams of carbohydrates be consumed every 30 minutes on long sessions. Gels and chews provide these carbohydrates and give you the extra boost you need to perform lengthy workouts without overwhelming your digestive system.
What to Eat Before and After a Workout: 50 Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks
For some, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But for others who manage to squeeze some gym time into their everyday routine, pre- and post-workout foods can be just as important.
We tapped sports dietitian and exercise physiologist Bob Seebohar, MS, RDN, CSSD, CSCS, for intel on the right balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein to satisfy hunger, fuel workouts, and aid with recovery.
While everyone’s nutritional requirements and preferences are different depending on their goals and activities, you actually don’t need to eat much to work out for 60 minutes or less, says Seebohar, so keep these in mind for your longer sweat sessions.
The body builds muscle and recovers 24/7, not just at the gym. Smartly timed snacks can give the body the fuel it needs to build muscle, burn fat, and recover as best it can.
If you prefer to eat before exercising, or if your workout will last longer than an hour, Seebohar suggests grabbing a snack about 45 to 60 minutes in advance and keeping it small (think a palmful of carbs, a half palmful of protein, and a quarter palmful of fat).
We’ve rounded up 24 ideas for pre-workout eats, from breakfast-y options, to vegan and high-protein muscle-building snacks, to keep you going strong.
1. Berry fruit and yogurt granola parfait
A parfait sounds fancy, but it’ll only take you three minutes to throw together this combo of Greek yogurt, granola, and berries.
2. Hard-boiled egg and avo toast
Avocado toast never fails. When you have a heartier appetite, try this pre-workout version and add a hard-boiled (or fried) egg on top for added protein. There are a lot of ways to get fancy here, but we’re big fans of this classic combo before a morning run.
3. Fresh strawberry parfait with cottage cheese
Cottage cheese gives this parfait a light and creamy texture and adds a little extra fat, which will keep you feeling satisfied longer.
4. Peanut butter and banana chia seed toast
PB and banana is the perfect on-the-go snack. For a longer workout, spread both on one slice of whole-wheat toast and add a sprinkle of chia seeds for a pop of extra nutrition and crunch.
5. Strawberry banana oatmeal Greek yogurt waffles
Waking up early on the weekend for a long run? These protein-packed waffles will seem like a treat, but they’re the right balance of nutrients to fuel your body for the long haul. Have one half of a waffle before and save the other for after your workout.
These are also freezer friendly, so you can stash the extras and pop them in the toaster later.
6. Banana nut breakfast parfait
This banana bread-inspired parfait is not nearly as complicated as baking up a sweet treat. You can pre-make a few and then pop them in the fridge for a grab-and-go snack on busy days.
7. Whole orange smoothie
Swap out sugar-packed juice for the real deal in this whole-orange smoothie. Confused about what kind of protein powder to use? Seebohar likes Thorne Research or NOW Foods protein powders.
8. Baked broccoli cheese and pepper omelet
Omelets are one of our favorite any-time-of-day meals. You can load them up with tons of your favorite veggies and — since you’re working out — splurge with full-fat cheese. This baked style makes it easy to portion out snack sizes, or you can make them in a muffin pan.
9. Almond butter banana and coconut energy bowl
By mashing up eggs and a banana, then topping them with apples, almond butter, and coconut, you’ll get a grain-free oatmeal of sorts. This is a great one to make the night before and eat in a travel cup on your way to your favorite morning cardio class.
10. Apple peanut butter energy bites
The classic apple-and-peanut-butter combo gets an upgrade with raisins and chia seeds. If you’re in a rush, skip the extras and just grab an apple with PB. Try stashing some to-go packs of peanut or almond butter in your gym bag so you can chow down on your way to indoor cycling class.
11. Almond coconut mocha smoothie
We love smoothies, but first — coffee. This recipe combines both. It’s perfect for an early-morning workout since the hit of caffeine will perk you up before you hit the gym.
12. 5-Minute protein peanut butter energy balls
Make these no-bake peanut butter balls ahead of time, and you’ll have some healthy treats ready to fuel a week’s worth of sweat sessions. Seem like too much effort? Grab your favorite bars (we love CLIF Bar’s nut butter-filled ones), cut in thirds, and then roll into balls for smaller bites.
13. Mocha protein shake
Protein shakes can be boring, but when there’s coffee and chocolate involved, we’re big fans. This recipe suggests adding an extra tablespoon of sugar, but we’d suggest skipping it for an even healthier (and easier!) recipe.
14. No-bake buckwheat peanut butter energy bars
These crunchy buckwheat bars are essentially a healthier, protein-filled version of Rice Krispies treats. If made ahead, they’ll last up to 2 weeks in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer.
15. Homemade apricot and almond energy bars
If you have time on your hands, mix up these DIY energy bars and stash the extras for later. All you’ll need for this no-bake recipe are a food processor and a few ingredients.
Short on time? Stock up on some store-bought bars with high-quality ingredients and a 1:1 or 2:1 carb-to-protein ratio (as in, look for 10-20 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein), Seebohar says. One of our favorites is RXBAR, which lists ingredients right on the front of the wrapper.
16. Rice cakes with almond butter
If you’re gluten-free or just not big on toast, this is a great way to get your nut-butter snack in while adding healthy carbs to power you through. Plus, rice cakes don’t go stale as quickly as bread, so you can always keep a pack on hand in your pantry.
17. High-protein oatmeal
Oats are a classic morning staple, but if you don’t want to clean up a pot before heading to the gym in the morning, try this one as an afternoon snack. The recipe serves two, but we suggest dividing it into three portions and refrigerating the extras for smaller snack-size servings.
18. Blueberry banana protein smoothie
It doesn’t get much easier than blueberries, bananas, yogurt, almond milk, and ice. Just be sure to swap out the suggested nonfat yogurt for a partial- or full-fat version — it’ll give you more fuel to crush your workout.
19. Leftover meal prep chicken, sweet potato, and green beans
Getting in some fuel for your workout can be as easy as heating up a small portion of leftovers from the night before. Try making an easy meal-prep combo like this chipotle chicken, sweet potato, and green bean dish. Set aside a snack-size amount for an afternoon snack.
20. Turkey avocado wrap
A wrap may sound like a meal, but this mini version is the perfect size for a pre-workout bite. The gluten-free “wrap” is actually just turkey wrapped around some avocado with shredded carrot for added crunch. It’s the perfect use-what-you-already-have-in-your-fridge kind of snack.
21. Protein-packed cauliflower hummus and carrots
Hummus and carrots is a classic snack that works perfectly fine before a workout. This blogger makes a homemade version of the Mediterranean dip with a cauliflower base, but feel free to grab prepackaged hummus and baby carrots at the store.
22. Caprese avocado toast with cottage cheese
This Italian-inspired avo toast trades mozzarella for low-cal, high-protein cottage cheese. If you’re on the go, swap out the bread for a few whole-grain crackers.
23. Tzatziki Greek yogurt chicken salad
Whip up this chicken salad for a snack, stuff it in half a pita pocket, and then use the remainder for lunch or dinner.
24. BLT-stuffed avocados
Avocados are good. Avocados stuffed with the makings of a BLT are even better. Use full-fat Greek yogurt in place of mayo for this quick and hearty snack.
5. Mini Waffle Maker: $9.62
This little guy is not just for your typical breakfast waffles. Our nutritionist Kristin has seen many of her patients use it to make low-carb and low-sugar foods! And they're getting real results in their health.
A recipe Kristin likes is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Chaffle Sandwich. Just make a quick batter mix of these ingredients:
- Egg Whites
- Cream Cheese
- Cocoa Powder
- Coconut Flour
- Low-carb Sweetener (like Swerve)
- Gluten-free Baking Powder
- Peanut Butter
Spray the waffle maker with non-stick spray and pour the batter in the mold. Heat up in the microwave and you have a quick, easy and delicious meal! Top with your favorite fruit for an added boost of flavor and nutrition.
Are you using (and loving!) any of these items at home? Have you found other cheap Amazon products that you now can't live without? Share photos of your hacks on Instagram and tag @dr_oz !
How To Do Weekly Meal Prep On Sunday For The Entire Week
I started preparing my meals and snacks ahead of time about 10 years ago. My strategy has evolved somewhat over the years as I learned what works and what doesn’t for my situation, but this is what my Sunday meal prep day looks like now. Of course, you can prep any day of the week but Sunday has always worked best for me.
Plan Out Your Meals Ahead Of Time
No matter what the project or goal is, I always start with a plan. If not, you will find me walking in circles, not having a clue where to start or what to do. Having a plan gives me a roadmap to follow and this keeps me moving forward.
The first thing I do is put together a weekly meal plan and grocery list. My meal plan includes all three meals and snacks. This way, there is no confusion about the food I should be eating throughout the day.
I eat 5 times a day, so I find planning for snacks or smaller meals much more important than just worrying about what I will eat for dinner.
Keep It Simple
Now, unless you want to spend all day on your weekly meal prep, then I recommend keeping your meal plan simple. Don’t go overboard with new recipes!
I usually like to keep breakfast, snacks, and lunches the same all week. This might be boring to some but I don’t mind, and it makes my prep day much easier.
If I do get bored, I switch it up with something from the freezer or fridge. Dinners are typically different each night but I do find that we usually have leftovers. If that is the case, I might move one of my prepped dinners to the next week or freeze leftovers. It just depends on the meal.
Here’s a helpful post I put together, simple meal-prep ideas, and you can also find my favorite make-ahead lunches in this post!
Put Together A Grocery List With All Of The Essentials
Once my meal plan is done, then I need to put together a grocery list. It is so important to have a complete and accurate grocery list! The last thing I want to do is get home from shopping to find I am missing key ingredients.
If you can, and I highly recommend it, try to grocery shop the day before your weekly meal prep day.
Write Out Your Meal Prep Plan- Don’t Guess
Next, I write out my entire weekly meal prep plan. Nothing fancy, I just scribble a quick plan on a sheet of paper. Then, I look at each meal and figure what ingredients can be prepped ahead of time. Sometimes, the whole meal can be prepped in advance (like these mason jar salads) and other times, only a part of the recipe can be prepped (like the taco meat for Taco Tuesday).
Don’t Get Overwhelmed. Do What You Can.
The options are endless when it comes to prepping food ahead of time. Don’t feel like you need to do it all. Do what you can and what your time allows. Even the smallest amount of meal prep will be beneficial.
If you get overwhelmed, start to think about what meal or snack is going to have the greatest impact on your week and start with that.
For example, if you are struggling to make breakfast in the morning, then you might want to make sure breakfast is the first thing you prepare for the week. You can make a big batch of baked oatmeal, breakfast burritos, or some overnight oats.
Make Sure You Have Everything You Need for the Weekly Meal Prep
When I plan out my weekly meal prep, I try to make sure I have all the containers I need and my refrigerator is organized. Weekly meal prep requires extra space in the fridge for all the containers, mason jars, and other items you might use.
My refrigerator is on the smaller size and with a little organization, I am able to fit everything in. Plus, it forces me to clean out my fridge once a week.
I use glass meal prep containers and plastic storage containers for food storage. You can read all about my favorite glass meal prep containers in this post!
Why You Need to Calculate the THC Content of Edibles
It’s vital to work out how much THC is in the edibles you’re eating. It’s best to do it before you begin making cannabutter since you otherwise risk using way too much. If you bake with too much marijuana, you can end up in an unpleasant situation.
This logic also doesn’t only apply to yourself. If you plan on sharing edibles with your friends, as many people do, then you need to know how strong they are. It’s no use introducing your friend who has never used weed before to marijuana by giving them a super potent edible! They would have an awful time, turn against cannabis forever, and probably think of you as a bad friend.
Luckily, the calculation process is not too time-consuming.
Know this before taking a bite…
Preheat the oven to 220˚C. Place a large piece of foil on a baking tray, shiny side up, and place the raw beetroot wedges in the centre of it. Mix the honey, 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar, and drizzle it over the beetroot wedges. Place the bay leaf on the beetroot, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Fold the foil over the beetroot, forming a sealed package, and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Open up the package, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, taking care the beetroot does not burn or scorch.
During the last 15 minutes of cooking, mix the remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a jug. Remove the beetroot from the foil, and arrange the wedges, along with the orange segments and the onion slices on plates or a serving platter. Sprinkle the greens over, drizzle on the dressing, and enjoy.