Top Pre & Post Workout Meals & Snacks

Christopher D. Jensen, PhD, MPH, RD
What you eat makes a big difference in the quality of your workouts and your performance benefits. Learn what to eat, when and why, to improve your fitness.

Before Exercise

Try to consume a meal about 2‐4 hours before your workout. This meal should consist of carbs to top off your muscle reserves and some lean protein. Stay away from slow‐to‐digest foods such as those high in fat and fiber.

If all you have time for is a snack, try to consume a carb‐based snack about an hour before you start your workout.

Try incorporating some of these meal and snack options in your nutrition plan depending on what time of day you are exercising:

Breakfast
  • Cold or hot cereal with fruit or fruit juice and low-fat or nonfat milk
  • French toast or pancakes with maple or fruit syrup plus 2 eggs
  • Breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs, salsa, low-fat cheese in a flour tortilla) and fruit juice
  • Toast with jam or honey and low-fat yogurt
  • Bagel or English muffin with jelly and/or peanut butter, a banana, and fruit juice
Lunch or dinner
  • Deli sandwich on whole wheat bread with turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, extra veggies, and mustard, and baked chips
  • Bean burrito (light on the cheese and skip the sour cream); 2 soft tacos with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, and extra salsa; and Mexican rice
  • 2 small hamburgers with fruit or fruit juice and a side salad
  • Grilled chicken sandwich, frozen low-fat yogurt, and baked potato with low-fat sour cream or salsa
  • Pasta or cheese ravioli with red sauce, French bread, steamed vegetables, pudding, and fresh or canned fruit
  • A slice of thick-crust veggie pizza, low-fat gelato, and fresh or canned fruit
  • Baked or grilled lean beef, chicken, turkey, or fish; steamed rice; dinner roll; cooked green beans; low-fat frozen yogurt; fruit juice
On-the-go snacks

After Exercise

Consume carbs and proteins after exercise to help repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Make sure you are fueling your recovery effectively by consuming food within 30 minutes of when you finished and by gradually replacing the fluids and sodium you lost while sweating.

Try these recovery foods after your workouts for something fast and practical to consume:
Recovery foods
About The Author

Dr. Jensen manages health-related research studies at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Northern California. He is also a sports nutrition writer and has years of experience in the design and testing of sports nutrition products. Dr. Jensen is a recreational runner and former basketball player.

Fun Fact: Chris loves running on the beach and playing the drums.

Information presented by PowerBar is intended to impart general sports nutrition and training information. PowerBar is not engaged in rendering medical advice or services. Be sure to consult your doctor as needed, including when undertaking a new diet or training program. Advance consultation with your doctor is particularly important if you are under eighteen (18), pregnant, breastfeeding, or have health problems. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on PowerBar’s site.