Fueling Up Before and After a Workout

Working out on an empty stomach might be unpleasant for some exercisers, while jostling around at the gym after eating might be just as uncomfortable for others. Here are some recommendations and macronutrient breakdowns for fueling up—before and after your sweat session.


The way that you schedule your fueling will likely look different depending on when you schedule your workout.1

  • If you’re eating 2 to 3 hours or more before your workout, you should be eating a full meal, such as brown rice, veggies, and a lean protein. This can be a sandwich on whole grain bread with a side salad and a piece of fruit or an omelette with whole grain toast and avocado.
  • If you’re eating within two hours before your workout, try a smaller meal, such as a protein shake with fruit and yogurt, a cup of oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts, or some low-fat cheese on whole grain crackers with a piece of fruit.
  • If you only have an hour or less before hitting the gym (those early-morning exercisers know what we’re talking about), stick to something small; a piece of fruit, a cup of yogurt, or a small snack bar.


Some dietitians recommend only an appetizer-sized portion of food in the
hour following a workout in order to prevent any blood sugar crashes.2 In terms of macronutrient ratios, try a 3 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein in your post-workout meals and snacks; the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends eating 0.15 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight after your workout, so that would fill a post- workout meal with about 22 grams of protein for a person weighing 150 pounds.3,4

Following the 3:1 ratio, that would yield a meal containing 66 grams of carbs and 22 grams of protein. This meal might take the form of a cup of brown rice with 2.5 ounces of salmon, a cup of steamed broccoli, and a half a cup of blueberries; or three large egg whites with a serving of oatmeal on the side, topped with a tablespoon of hemp seeds, 15 almonds, and a medium banana. The possibilities are endless, but should fall within the 450- to 500-calorie range.

In addition, it’s important that you’re drinking an adequate amount of water before your workout and making sure to replenish fluids afterward, so you don’t confuse thirst for hunger.


  1. Semeco A. Pre-workout nutrition: what to eat before a workout. Healthline (site). 31 May 2018. https:// www.healthline.com/nutrition/eat-before-workout. Accessed 6 Sep 2018.
  2. Consumer Reports. The best way to eat before and after exercise. Washington Post website. 26 Mar 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-best-way-to-eat-before-and-after-ex- ercise/2018/03/26/134e0342-1b09-11e8-ae5a-16e60e4605f3_story.html?utm_term=.af6e489196f9. Accessed September 6, 2018.
  3. Semeco A. Post-workout nutrition: what to eat after a workout. Healthline (site). 20 Sep 2016. https:// www.healthline.com/nutrition/eat-after-workout#section1. Accessed 6 Sep 2018.
  4. Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Oct 3;5:17. NHR

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