What To Eat Before And After A Workout! The Best Post & Pre Workout Foods To Fuel For CrossFit And Health!

Have you ever wondered what to eat before and after a workout? Nutrition is the key component for maximizing athletic performance and overall health. In this article, we’ll cover the best pre workout foods to eat for peak performance and recovery, and also what to eat after your workout too. Whether you’re doing CrossFit, lifting weights, running, or doing a HIIT session, discover the optimal foods to make the most of your exercise.

The Basic Principals

At Healthy Steps Nutrition, we focus on whole foods first, and “eating the rainbow” with local seasonal produce. This eating principle is applied to what you are eating for post and pre workout foods, just like it is regular meals. The exception being protein shakes for the purpose of quickly digesting protein around workouts.

  • Eat a high quality and nutrient dense diet

  • Meal prep, meal prep and meal prep some more!

  • Don’t overdo the bars, shakes and gels – especially on long training days.

Eat The Rainbow

a rainbow of foods that serve as pre workout foods
  • Phytonutrients are bioactive substances found in colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as green tea.

  • The more local seasonal produce (phytonutrients) that we consume, the greater the health benefits.

  • So eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables!

Let’s explore how to craft the perfect plate that fuels your specific fitness endeavors.

a list of pre workout foods, post workout foods and anytime foods

Importance of Pre Workout And Post Workout Nutrition

The fuel you ingest ignites the fire of your performance and lays the foundation for recovery. The art and science of pre workout foods and post workout fuel are grounded in sports nutrition principles that consider whole foods the foundation ensuring that you’re not just well-fed, but well-fueled.

Fueling your workouts properly is important for these reasons:

  • Ensures you fully benefit from the workout

  • Aids with strength, endurance, agility, and flexibility

  • Repairs and build muscle

  • Replaces glycogen stores to help muscles recover

Pro Tips

  • Pre-workout fuel should be low in fat and fiber

  • Prioritize liquids before the workout

  • Shoot for protein and carbs before and after the workout

  • Drink adequate water before and after your workout

a variety of pre workout foods

Carbohydrates For The Win!

Carbohydrates are your muscles’ best friend when it comes to energy. They break down into glucose, replenishing glycogen stores and keeping you powered throughout your workout.

Consuming carbs with most meals will support your activity level.

Quick Snack Options

One to two hours ahead of your workout eat a quick snack of protein and carbs that delivers fast energy without weighing you down. Options could include:

  • A banana or dried fruits and small protein shake
  • Applesauce mixed with a protein shake
  • A rice cake with some turkey slices
  • Greek yogurt

After CrossFit, a post workout snack within 30-60 minutes is essential to replenish your energy and support muscle recovery. Use the quick snack options choosing a quick digestible protein and carbohydrate as your choices.

Full Meal Ideas

A well balanced meal 4-5 hours before your CrossFit workout , and post workout meal 3-4 hours after your CrossFit workout is your ticket to a superior exercise session. Combine lean meats, whole grains, and vegetables to create a synergy of sustained energy and muscle support. A grilled chicken breast, a side of quinoa, and a medley of roasted veggies not only satisfy your taste buds but also provide the complex carbs and proteins your body craves for enduring strength and stamina.

High Fiber Carbs

high fiber carbs

For those longer workouts where steady energy is key, high fiber carbs come to the rescue, but not immediately before your workout. These slow-digesting carbs ensure a sustained release of energy, making them ideal for fueling prolonged exercise sessions, and should be eaten at least 4-5 hours before a workout session. Foods like oats and quinoa are champions at maintaining stable blood sugar levels, giving you the endurance to power through without the crash.

Protein Choices for Pre Workout Fuel

protein sitting on a chalk board drawn arm muscle

Protein is not just a post-workout superstar; it’s also an essential pre-workout player. It serves as the building block for muscle repair and growth, and consuming fast digesting protein before your workout can enhance your muscle protein synthesis.

Whether you prefer lean meats, dairy, or plant-based proteins, incorporating a protein source before exercise can provide the proper fuel for your muscles to thrive during and after your workout.

Lean Proteins

Lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, and egg whites are like a secret weapon for your muscles. They supply the amino acids necessary for muscle building without excess fat that can make you feel sluggish.

Half a turkey sandwich provides a portable and delicious snack that’s both protein-rich and convenient. Or a salmon fillet pairs perfectly with a serving of brown rice or sweet potatoes four to five hours before a workout, gives you a pre-workout meal that’s as nutritious as it is delicious.

Dairy-Based Proteins

Dairy-based proteins offer a creamy and satisfying option for your pre and post workout nutrition. Greek yogurt is not only rich in protein but when combined with fruits provides the necessary carbs for energy.

And for a tasty treat that doubles as a performance booster, a glass of low fat milk with low-fat chocolate milk strikes the perfect balance between protein and carbs.

Plant-Based Proteins

For those who follow a plant-based diet, there’s no shortage of protein options to fuel your workouts. There are many complete plant based proteins, so don’t let the haters bring you down.

Instead of regular protein powder choose a plant based option like Ascent. There are many great options that deliver a solid dose of protein. Add some carbs for sustained energy, and you will be all set.

Hydration Strategies

man drinking water

Hydration is the cornerstone of workout nutrition; it’s essential for peak physical performance and overall health. A well-hydrated body is a well-oiled machine, ready to take on any workout challenge.

But how much is enough, and what’s the best source of hydration?

Let’s dive into the strategies for staying hydrated before, during, and after your workouts.

Importance of Hydration

The importance of hydration cannot be overstated. It keeps your body temperature in check, your joints lubricated, and can stave off the unpleasant symptoms of dehydration, such as muscle cramps and dizziness.

Before a high-intensity sweat session, aim to drink plenty of water and consider electrolyte-infused sports drinks to maintain fluid balance and prevent fatigue.

Water vs. Sports Drinks

When deciding between water and sports drinks, consider the intensity and duration of your workout. Water is sufficient for most activities, but if you’re pushing past the hour mark or drenched in a high intensity workout, a sports drink could be your ally in maintaining electrolyte levels.

Keep in mind that sports drinks often come with added sugars, so weigh the pros and cons before making your choice.

Timing Your Pre Workout Meal

a clock with a fork and knife demonstrating when to eat pre workout foods

Four To Five Hours Before = Full Meals

If you’re aiming for a full meal, the sweet spot for consumption is four to five hours before your workout. This window provides ample time for digestion and energy conversion, allowing you to enter your workout with a comfortable stomach and a full tank of energy.

A balanced mix of carbs, fat and protein during this time will set you up for success. Don’t skimp on this meal, even if you are trying to lose weight. A thumb of fat is a great way to measure the amount of fat you are consuming.

One to Two Hours Before And After = Snacks

As your workout approaches, a smaller snack that’s rich in carbs and protein can keep your energy levels steady. Eating one to two hours prior allows your body to utilize the nutrients effectively without the risk of digestive discomfort. This is your chance to fuel up for the effort ahead without overburdening your digestive system.

Some examples of pre-workout snacks include:

  • A banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter

  • Greek yogurt with berries

  • Oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder

Choose a snack that works best for you and enjoy the benefits of sustained energy during your workout.

woman drinking a shake as pre workout foods

Just Before Exercise

Sometimes you need a last-minute energy boost, and that’s where quick, easily digestible snacks come into play. Banana slices or a small serving of trail mix can provide that immediate energy surge without causing an upset stomach.

For those who prefer liquid nutrition, a protein shake can be a convenient pre-workout option that’s gentle on an empty stomach.

Special Considerations for Different Workouts

Every workout is unique, and so are your nutritional needs. Depending on whether you’re lifting weights, running a marathon, doing CrossFit, or training for a marathon, your nutrition should be tailored to support your specific activities.

Strength Training

Strength training demands carbs and protein to support muscle growth and recovery. Follow the general principals listed above for pre workout foods. Remember whole foods first, and don’t forget the post workout snack.

The goal is to provide your muscle tissue with the building blocks they need to thrive during your lifting session and beyond.

Endurance Activities

Endurance athletes should focus heavily on carbs starting a month ahead of their event to keep their energy stores full. Slowly increasing carbs is better than carb loading the night before an event.

It’s about fueling for the long haul, ensuring your body has the resources, including body fat, to sustain prolonged effort.

High Intensity CrossFit Workouts

High intensity CrossFit workouts require quick energy that’s easy on the stomach. A small serving of easy to digest carbs paired with a bit of protein can provide the short-term fuel needed for intense bursts of activity without causing digestive upset.

It’s about getting in, hitting it hard, and knowing you’ve got the nutritional support to maintain that high level of effort. This is where liquid carbs and protein come in really handy.

Wrap Up

From the post and pre workout foods to the tailored hydration strategies, we’ve covered the full spectrum of what to eat bfore and after a workout. Remember, the key to maximizing your performance and recovery lies in understanding what your body needs and when it needs it. With these insights, you’re now equipped to step into your workouts with confidence, knowing you’ve laid the nutritional groundwork for success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pre workout foods provide the energy necessary for peak performance and aid in muscle recovery after exercise. The right balance of carbohydrates and protein can enhance your stamina and strength during the workout.


Yes, you can just drink water for most workouts, but for exercises lasting over an hour or in high-intensity conditions, a sports drink can help maintain electrolyte balance and enhance performance. Watch out for added sugar and food dye.

Before exercise, you can quickly fuel up with a carb and protein. Greek yogurt is a great option, so is a banana, dried fruits, and a small protein shake, all of which offer fast-digesting carbs for immediate energy.

The best timing for a pre-workout meal is to consume a full meal 4-5 hours before exercising, a lighter snack 1-2 hours before, or a quick snack just before the workout for an immediate energy boost.

Tailor your pre-workout nutrition for strength training by focusing on a balance of carbs and protein to support muscle growth and recovery. For endurance activities, increase your intake of carbs over time to maintain energy stores and concentration throughout the workout.

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