What To Eat Pre/Post Workout?!


What’s the dead-on diet to get it done with ‘em dumbbells? Food is FUEL.  Learn what to put in your body to perform at your best!  And learn how not to be sitting on the couch with the rest of your brothers or sisters waiting an hour to digest!


According to what I learned in nutrition lecture,

  • 4 hours out, balanced meal of familiar tried and true foods
  • Less than 4 hours out, less protein, fat, and fiber
  • Less than 1 hour out, mainly carbs, liquid or semi-solid for nervous stomach

So: 4 hours before you workout, there is enough time to digest a balanced meal.  Within 4 hours of working out, it is recommended to not eat protein, fat or fiber because those take a long time to digest and may cause gas and discomfort during a workout.  Within an hour of working out, eating something high carb like fruit is best.  Easily digestible, sweet sugary goodness with antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and deliciously hydrating, fruit is the best!


It depends on the workout!  But no matter what, replenishing those glycogen stores is key.  American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends dried fruit post workout.  For intense muscle conditioning, one recommendation is the 4 : 1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.

Chocolate Milk??  According to Purdue’s Campus Registered Dietitian, Michelle Singleton, a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4 : 1 is a good goal to eat post workout, and chocolate milk has close to this ratio, (3.25 : 1) so it is a quick and easy go-to, but there are lots of other better options out there!  According to the USDA’s “SuperTracker”, chocolate milk contains 64 empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.  Recommendations are to decrease your intake of empty calories and to take in your nutrients from nutrient dense food like fruits and vegetables, not supplements.

Like carbs yet? 

According to my Health and Kinesiology 368 class’s lecture notes, a high carbohydrate diet consisting of 70% carbs increases muscle glycogen stores and increases aerobic exercise time to exhaustion.  You know why?  Glucose, the sugar that carbohydrates get broken down into, is what every cell uses for energy.  Carbohydrate is stored as glycogen in muscles to fuel muscular work.  Yes sir.  It is glycogen and glucose from carbohydrates that is making those muscles contract, NOT protein.  My notes also state:

  • “Aerobic athletes are in a constant need of carbohydrates, so they should always be consuming a diet high in carbohydrates.
  • Strength athletes also require adequate levels of carbohydrate to fuel the expensive process of muscular work and muscle building.
  • Thus, eating a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat is good for athletes in all sports as well as to promote better health.”

Don’t I Need More Protein?

I quote directly from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ www.eatright.org:

“Protein is an important part of a balanced diet, but eating more protein will not magically make you stronger. The only way to grow muscles is to put them to work. “Carbohydrates are the best fuel for working muscles,” says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Heather Mangieri, MS, RDN, CSSD.

Carbohydrates are partially converted to glycogen, which is stored in your muscles to power your workout.”

People think they need hundreds of grams of protein every day.  It is actually very easy to meet this ratio and all protein needs when eating fruits and vegetables! According to the USDA’s “SuperTracker”, turns out, raw broccoli has a 3 : 1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein, 1 cup of it has only 30 calories, with 41 mg calcium, 278 mg potassium, 29 mg sodium, and 78mg of vitamin C (105% of vitamin C target!).  That’s just one of the many amazing vegetables out there, and it has a higher protein to carb ratio than chocolate milk! Who knew!  And for every 4 grams of carbohydrates, there are 3 grams of protein in raw spinach! Oh yeah, get it Popeye! Ow, ow, and that gorilla’s got big muscles, turns out 10 bananas has 13 grams of protein! When fruits and vegetables are eaten in abundance as fresh, whole, raw, ripe, and organic as you can get them, they will have more than enough protein to go around!

As a dietetics student, fitness instructor, and foods demonstrator, this is one of the most common questions I get.  Purdue’s RD Michelle Singleton says, “In reality, protein contributes to less than 10% of fuel used during exercise.”  So, if I eat a big smoothie for breakfast, a giant plate of fruit for lunch, and an immensely delicious salad for dinner, I can easily, deliciously, vibrantly, without even thinking about it, meet my needs, AND stuff my face :D! Spreading the love from my classroom to your kitchen. Dream big, and CARB UP!

“How to Fuel Your Workout.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eat Right, Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442471759&gt;.


2 thoughts on “What To Eat Pre/Post Workout?!

  1. When I think of carbohydrates I think of pasta, bread, potatoes. What are some unstarchy foods that contain carbohydrates, please?

    1. FRUIT FRUIT FRUIT FRUIT MORE FRUIT!!! sugar = carbs! Yes! starches are great carb sourcesa as well, rice, quinoa, sweet potato, squash, pumpkin, carrot, but those complex carbs take more time to digest than simple carbs like dried fruit where the sugars are readily available. Brown rice and oatmeal must be broken down, containing more fiber and bran, etc, to get those sugars to your muscles. those are good post-workout or dinner before workout in the morning to prevent gas, bloating, and discomfot during your workout!

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