What To Eat Before & After A Workout
Time to ‘work it out,’ love! We’re going to answer one of the nutrition and fitness worlds’ most controversial questions:
“What should I eat before and after a workout?”
Lucky for you, I’m going to break it downright here.
Before I give you sample snack/meal ideas, I wanted to respond to the question of whether or not it’s “okay” to exercise on an empty stomach.
If your metabolism is working properly and your body is functioning optimally, you should be relatively hungry first thing in the morning. I know that if I don’t eat within the first hour or so of waking up, I’m STARVING. Like, “give me my avo toast NOW!” kind of starving. The longer I go without eating, the more hangry (hungry + angry) I become, and the more likely I am to grab something that I know isn’t good for me just so I can eat something.
For most people, it’s important to eat breakfast (get it? ‘break-the-fast’) within 45 minutes to an hour of waking up. My thoughts on this topic feed into the question of whether or not it’s acceptable to exercise prior to having breakfast first thing in the morning.
The short answer: yes, it’s fine IF you are doing light to moderate exercise and it does not exceed 45 minutes. I consider light to moderate exercise to be walking, jogging, light weight training, or yoga. If you’re planning on doing heavier weight training, HIIT (high intensity interval training), cycling, barre, or running/sprinting, I would recommend having a light breakfast beforehand to make sure your muscles have enough energy to sustain you through your entire workout.
From what I’ve read, there is some legitimacy to the point of exercising on an empty stomach first thing in the morning (again, light to moderate exercise) to help burn excess fat at a higher rate. Even though I’m pointing this out, I want you to know that you should always choose your workouts based on what you enjoy and what’s going to make you happy, rather than choosing to exercise just to lose weight or as a form of punishment. The latter two reasons are detrimental to your happiness and will hinder your long-term success. Exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle!
Remember, the time of day and the exercise you choose to do ultimately depends on what feels best for your body. Following someone else’s lead is a great way to experiment, but isn’t necessarily sustainable for you.
So, what the heck should you eat before/after a workout?! Here’s how I break it down:
Regardless of the exercise you plan on doing, hydration is key! Drink plenty of water the night before (but not too late so you avoid late night bathroom trips!) and hydrate before you head out in the morning, or make sure hydrate during the day if you exercise later.
If you’re doing light to moderate exercise (walking, jogging, light weight training, or yoga for 45 minutes or under), try these ideas.
After, refuel your body with:
- Vegan protein smoothie
- A slice of Ezekiel bread with mashed avocado and two poached eggs
- If you’re short on time, grab ¼ cup organic almonds with an organic green apple
- Another simple favorite is “Ants on a log”: fill two celery stalks with organic almond or peanut butter, slice each stalk into thirds, and top with raisins for a fun post-workout treat!
If you’re doing heavier weight training (resistance training), barre, HIIT, cycling, running or sprinting for 30-60 minutes), try these ideas.
- Ezekiel bread with organic peanut or almond butter and sliced banana, my personal fave!
- Gluten-free rolled oats made with unsweetened almond milk and topped with organic walnuts and raisins
- Homemade protein bar for a quick fix (make these Matcha Protein Bars for the week ahead and you’ll be set!)
After, refuel your body with:
- Ezekiel toast, mashed avocado, and 1-2 pasture-raised eggs fried in ghee (or poached eggs)
- Whole grain crackers (my favorite brand is Mary’s Gone Crackers) with homemade egg or tuna salad
- Protein of choice (grass-fed steak, pasture-raised chicken, wild shrimp, tempeh, etc.) in a simple stir-fry
- And of course, you can never go wrong with a smoothie bowl or protein smoothie
As you can see, I want you to choose whole foods to fuel your body. None of that fake protein bar sh*t (yes, I’m calling out ThinkThin and Clif Bars here). Nutrition is a much larger piece of the puzzle when it comes to your level of fitness and overall health. You can work out all you want, but if you don’t have the food piece down, it will take you much longer to get where you want to be or to sustain your current level of health!
I'd love to hear your take on this in the comments below! How are you fueling your workouts? What are your favorite pre- and post-workout recipes? Do you typically eat before a workout or after? Can't wait to hear from you!