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June 14, 2020

Here’s exactly what to eat before and after every type of workout

It may seem counterintuitive, but eating the right foods before and after exercise is one of the most important parts of having a worthwhile workout. Forget to nosh on something first and you could end up dizzy, drained and not up to any amount of physical activity. But what you eat on the other end of your workout matters too: your muscles get depleted of glycogen when exercising; proteins in your muscles get broken down as well.

Tailoring your pre- and post-workout meals to the type of exercise you’ll be doing is key, says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a nutrition and wellness expert and author of Eating in Color. Here are the foods she recommends for every type of sweat session (hint: the ideal pre-yoga snack is different from what you should be eating before a run) to give you energy, help you build lean muscle and speed up your recovery process.

High-Intensity Interval Training or Boxing

“It can be tough to strike a good balance between enough fuel to burn, and too much, which can make you nauseous when you’re doing explosive movements like burpees,” explains Largeman-Roth. “I like fueling with a combo of high-protein cottage cheese, hydrating grapes and melon, and 2 tablespoons of granola for some crunch.” This will keep you feeling full and energized until you can refuel afterward.

An hour of HIIT or boxing can blast up to 800 calories, so make sure to recharge with something substantial, like a quinoa grain bowl. Largeman-Roth recommends combining half of an avocado with 3 ounces of tuna, roasted Brussels sprouts, beets and a wedge of manchego cheese. This combination provides whole-grain carbohydrates, 34 ounces of protein (from the tuna, 3/4 cup of cooked quinoa and an ounce of cheese), heart-healthy fat from the avocado, fiber from the quinoa and veggies, and plenty of satisfying flavor. “A savory bowl like this has plenty of sodium to replace what you lost during your sweat session,” she adds. If you feel like you need more, sprinkle a little sea salt over your bowl.


Running creates quite a bit of jostling in your stomach, so many runners (understandably) eat very lightly beforehand. “I find that a small bowl of oatmeal with a tablespoon of nut butter and half of a banana is enough to keep me energized before a morning run,” Largeman-Roth says.

And don’t forget: what’s really important is to start hydrating well before your run. Start sipping at least an hour ahead, because a belly full of water isn’t going to feel great. You can also opt to run with a water bottle and take small sips throughout.

Largeman-Roth recommends snacking on a yogurt bowl after a run. It’s easy to put together—just make a base of Greek or other low-sugar yogurt and then layer on fresh berries, mango and kiwi, almonds and a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut flakes. The yogurt provides protein to help repair micro-tears in muscles, plus you get magnesium in the almonds and potassium in the fruit to stave off muscle cramps. The antioxidants in the colorful fruit also help fight the free radical damage from intense exercise.


Depending on the style and intensity of yoga you practice, you might be doing inversions, twists and binds, which don’t work well if your stomach is too full. At the same time, you don’t want a growling belly to interrupt your practice. “Eating something small, like a small granola bar with chia seeds and nuts is the perfect option,” says Largeman-Roth.

Overnight oats are a good option for post-workout. Just combine equal parts old-fashioned oats and milk the night before a workout, and garnish with fruit, nuts or spices when you’re ready to eat it. According to Largeman-Roth, the combo of whole grains and fruit adds up to the perfect post-yoga fuel. The best part is that it’s already waiting for you in your fridge, so you won’t be putting in overtime after your sweat session.

Resistance Training

Lifting weights or doing body-weight training like planks and pushups requires a fully fueled and focused body. Since you’re not jumping around, it’s fine to take on some extra liquid in the form of a smoothie. Try whirling up Greek yogurt and frozen fruit garnished with a scoop of peanut butter to fuel up before your workout.

Make sure to take in protein within an hour of working out to help repair micro-tears in muscles. “I like to scramble up two eggs and have them on a toasted whole-wheat English muffin with a base of fresh baby spinach. Sprinkle on some grated Parmesan cheese for a flavor boost,” says Largeman-Roth.

Used with permission. © Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.