Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for some, but for those who manage to squeeze some gym time into their routine, pre- and post-workout foods can be just as huge. While everyone’s nutritional requirements are different depending on their goals and activities, these snacks can offer the right balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein to satisfy hunger, fuel workouts, and aid in recovery. Read on for what to eat before a workout plus the snacks to grub on after, including some go-to recipes from our trusted health and fitness pros.
The body works to build muscle and recover 24 hours a day, not just during that one-hour session at the gym. Luckily, smartly timed snacks can give the body the fuel it needs to gain muscle, burn fat, and recover as best it can. Pre-workout, that usually means grabbing a snack about 30-60 minutes in advance, depending on its size and contents, and how much that stomach’s actually grumbling. All ready to go? Check out these 25 options to eat before workouts:
1. Perfect yogurt parfait
Feeling fancy, huh? Top ¼ cup nonfat yogurt with ½ cup whole grain cereal and ½ cup fresh strawberries.
2. Protein Creamcicle
Put a twist on the classic kids’ treat by blending 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder, 1 cup orange juice, and 1 cup ice. Trainer and fitness expert @JCDFitness does it!
3. Cha-Cha coconut shake
Infuse 1 scoop chocolate whey protein with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin coconut oil. Girls Gone Strong co-founder @JenComasKeck loves this!
4. Star-buffs shake
Need a pre-workout pick-me-up? Greatist’s fitness editor suggests blending 1 cup iced coffee (keep the ice) with 1 scoop chocolate whey protein.
5. Dressed up oats
Load up on carbohydrates for a longer workout with ½ cup cooked steel-cut oats topped with 1 tablespoon dried fruit and 1 tablespoon shaved almonds.
6. Fruitsation shake
Blend 1 scoop of your favorite whey protein flavor with ½ cup ice, and 1 cup frozen berries for a sweet energy boost, suggests strength coach @Roglaw.
7. Yoberries a-go-go
8. PB Apple
For a quick carb fuel-up, slice 1 medium apple and serve with 2 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter.
9. Classic fruit cup
Prefer to keep it sweet but simple? Combine 1 cup berries, melon, banana, and oranges — oh my!
10. Dried fruit
For a quick pre-workout fix, try ¼ cup serving of dried berries, apricots, and pineapple, says Greatist Expert Jessica Redmond.
11. Eggs n’ toast
Have a heartier appetite? Try 1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs with 1 slice of whole-wheat toast.
12. Fruit leather
Need something light that makes you feel like a kid again? Try 1 single serving of fruit leather. Have a little extra time? Roll some out in the kitchen.
13. Energy in a bar
With so many options in the aisle, try opting for a bar with the most natural ingredients. While protein count is key, also check the sugar content (it shouldn’t rival what’s found in the candy aisle!).
14. Chicken n’ sweets
For a fast bite, grab 2-4 ounces (or a palm-sized amount) of sliced chicken with an equal portion size of sweet potatoes, suggests Greatist Expert Dan Trink.
15. Oats n’ eggs
Not just for breakfast, try ½ cup cooked oatmeal and 2 whole eggs seasoned with salt and pepper.
16. PB & B toast
Fuel up with 1-2 tablespoons of all-natural peanut butter and half a sliced banana on whole-wheat toast, says Greatist Expert Lisa Moskovitz.
17. Turk-cado pasta
Add 2-4 ounces (or a palm-sized amount) of roasted turkey and 3-4 avocado slices to ½ cup cooked whole-wheat pasta for some enviable eats.
Spruce up this classic by combining 1 frozen Kashi waffle with 2 teaspoons of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of jam.
19. Better than a PB Cup
20. Veggie omelet
Add a little more color to your diet by combining 2 whole eggs shaken with 1 teaspoon of water cooked with 1 cup sautéed seasonal veggies.
21. Fruit & Cottage
Top ½ cup cottage cheese — a low calorie and higher protein option — with ½ cup fresh pineapple, berries, or melon. And voila!
22. Rice con leche
Got a long way to run? Fuel up with ½ cup cooked rice, covered with ½ cup milk, a scatter of raisins, and a dash of cinnamon on top.
23. Sports drink
An 8-ounce low sugar sports drink (keep it under 10 grams of sugar) will do the trick if you’re in a crunch. For a little more fuel, add a scoop of BCAA powder— branch chain amino acids that help maintain muscle and tissue health Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system. Negro, M., Giardina, S., Marzani, B., et al. Pharmacobiochemistry Laboratory, Section of Pharmacology and Pharmacological Biotechnology, Department of Cellular and Molecular, Physiological and Pharmacological Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 2008 Sep;48(3):347-51. .
24. Hearty salad
Need some greens? Try 1 cup of salad greens with assorted veggies, 1 hardboiled egg, and a drizzle of EVOO and vinegar, or your favorite low-fat dressing.
25. Energy gel
Got a long way to go? Slurp down a energy gel (like Gu) prior to an endurance workout.
After a tough gym session, post-workout snacks are an imporant way to restore energy and rebuild muscle, too. Downed within two hours after exercise, protein-packed shakes and snacks are a great way to rebuild tissue that breaks down during exercise. Here are 25 ways to end that workout on a high note:
26. Choco-tropical trail mix
Go bananas for a blend of ½ a handful of each: macadamia nuts, dried coconut, dark chocolate chips, and banana chips.
27. Protein pancakes
From the kitchen of Greatist contributor Laura Skladzinski, mix 4 egg whites, ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup low fat cottage cheese, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Cook on preheated griddle (medium low heat) until it bubbles, then flip and cook another 30-60 seconds. Top with fresh berries or sliced banana.
28. Sweet potato pie shake
This isn’t your grandma’s recipe. Combine 1 scoop of cinnamon bun whey protein, ¼ cup diced cooked sweet potato, 1 cup of ice, and 1 cup vanilla almond milk in the blender — a Kellie Davis original.
29. Chunky Monkey shake
Monkey around with 1 medium banana, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, and 1 cup low-fat chocolate milk blended with ice.
30. Double G shake
31. Double Trouble shake
To lengthen the delivery time of nutrients to your muscles, combine ½ scoop of whey protein blended with ½ scoop slower-digesting casein protein, plus a handful of your favorite fresh or frozen fruit.
One medium sliced banana with 1 cup low fat milk — it doesn’t get any easier than this!
33. Green Monster smoothie
34. Protein bar
For a quick, store-bought fix, feed those muscles with a protein bar. Just watch the sugar content. Look for bars with 10-30 grams of protein, less than 10 grams of sugar, and the fewest number of ingredients you can’t pronounce!
35. Beef and squash
Need something hearty? Try a handful of lean roast beef with an equal portion of butternut squash.
36. Tuna crackers
Mix up a batch of light tuna salad for a quick bite. Add two heaping spoonfuls to a handful of whole grain crackers, and chomp away.
37. Bagel with egg whites
Half a medium-sized whole grain bagel with 2 eggs whites makes a great post-workout sandwich.
38. Ants on a raft
The ants go marching… Spread a heap of natural peanut butter over a brown rice cake and top with raisins.
39. Milk and cereal
Any time is a good time for cereal. Add 1 cup of low-fat milk to 1 cup of whole-grain cereal. Nosh loudly.
40. Apples and cheese
Tease your taste buds with 1 medium sliced apple and 1 stick of low-fat string cheese.
41. Chocolate milk
One to two cups of low-fat chocolate milk seals the deal with extra carbs and protein.
42. Black bean omelet
Four eggs whites, 1 ounce low-fat cheese, and ¼ cup canned black beans — then spice it up with a savory salsa, if you dare.
43. Cottage cheese crunch
One cup fat-free cottage cheese, 1 teaspoon honey, ½ cup whole-grain cereal, and a dash of cinnamon does a body good.
44. Eggy muffinwich
Ditch the fast-food and opt for 1 whole egg, fresh spinach, 1 slice low fat cheese, and 1 slice Canadian bacon served on an English muffin, suggests Greatist contributor Lisa LaValle Overmyer.
45. BCAA n’ cakes
When in doubt, just add cakes! Pair up two scoops of BCAA powder mixed in ice water with two rice cakes.
46. AB & J Rice Cakes
Almond butter takes the cake. For this healthier twist on the classic PB & J, sandwich 1 tablespoon of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of strawberry jam between two rice cakes.
47. Recovery in a bottle
When time is of the essence, grab a store-bought recovery drink to sip on after training. Just check the label — sports recovery drinks will provide plenty of carbs refuel, or opt for aminos to really rebuild.
48. Pita and hummus
One 7-inch pita with two spoonfuls of hummus adds a little pep back to your step with quick digesting carbs.
49. Egg scramble
Veg out after a hard training session with 2-3 whole eggs scrambled with a handful of chopped onion, spinach, and bell peppers.
50. Chicken hash
After your workout grab 1 cup cooked diced chicken, ½ cup butternut squash and apples, roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Make a big batch and store it in the fridge!
Have a favorite pre- or post-workout snack we missed? Share in the comments below!