Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

July 31, 2017

Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

July 31, 2017

“What should I eat before and after a workout?”, the question burning on every fitness fanatic’s lips. They know that when it comes to performance, good nutrition is key.

Good pre- and post-workout nutrition is essential for stamina, performance, replenishing energy stores and rebuilding and repairing muscle. Without sufficient fuel pre-workout we can feel dizzy and fatigued. Without the right fuel post-workout we risk losing muscle mass, delaying recovery and storing fat mass. And although recommendations vary depending on the intensity and duration of your session, there are some common truths that are worth getting your head around.


Would you set out on a road trip with the fuel light flashing ’empty’? No. Would you expect your phone to last long with 1% battery life? No way. The same concept applies to kicking off an intense training session without sufficient fuel. It doesn’t end well. If quick burning fuel is in short supply the result is a lack of strength, stamina and speed accompanied by dizziness and feeling sluggish. Not a fun combination.

Pre-workout the main priority is carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are your bodies favourite fuel for high-intensity exercise. When digested, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in the blood stream and stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue. Without sufficient blood sugar levels, studies show that you will feel like you are performing at a high-intensity when in fact your actual energy level output is low.

Pre-workout nutrition is most important for sessions including weight training, high-intensity training and endurance exercise lasting for 45 minutes or longer. Despite having enough glycogen stored in the body to fuel 60-90 minutes of exercise, it’s best to top up these stores with a high carbohydrate meal or snack approximately 2 hours before training.

What about other macronutrients? Adding protein to your pre-workout snack or meal is useful to slow down the release of glucose into the blood stream giving you longer lasting energy. While high-fat foods should be avoided before high-intensity training.

The amount of carbohydrates you will need to consume varies depending on the intensity and duration of your session however here are some examples that would be great before a 45-minute high-intensity interval training session:

  • A handful of dates
  • A banana
  • Wholegrain toast with cottage cheese and honey
  • Wholegrain crackers with hummus.


Refuelling after your workout has three main purposes: to replenish energy stores, increase protein synthesis and reduce protein breakdown. Essentially, repairing any damage caused by the workout and rebuilding muscle size and/or quality. Good post workout nutrition has been found to reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), improve recovery, increase bone mass, improve immune function and increase body’s ability to utilise fat stores.

There is a 45-60 minute time period after training known as the ‘window of opportunity’. Eating within this time will mean the most efficient uptake of nutrients into the cells resulting in increased muscle mass, improvement of performance and reduced recovery time.

So what should I eat post-workout? A meal or snack that includes both carbohydrates and proteins in a ratio of 4:1. Carbohydrates act to replenish glycogen stores and stop the breakdown of muscle while protein plays a vital role in the rebuilding of muscle tissue and muscle recovery.

Try these snacks after your next intense fitness session:

  • Greek yoghurt with protein powder and banana
  • Protein shake – banana, a handful of berries, milk, protein powder
  • Chicken with quinoa and vegetables
  • Eggs with wholegrain toast

Good pre- and post-workout nutrition means high-performing, hard-hitting training sessions with an efficient and speedy recovery. It means less severe DOMS (Woohoo!) It means feeling energised and revitalised after every session. And last but not least, your hard work pays off as you become fitter and stronger.

Good nutrition is king. Take the time to plan your pre- and post-workout snacks so you get the most out of each and every training session.


Image by Rimma_Bondarenko/iStock

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