The Top 10 Pre and Post Workout Meals You Need

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Have you ever felt extreme fatigue or weakness hit you as you complete a workout?

Do your muscles ache more and feel strain if you don’t eat right before or after you exercise? 

Do you find it difficult to workout consistently, or to see results when you do? 

How you consume your calories both pre and post workout can have a huge impact on your energy levels and your results. Quick meals can fill you up, but those meals are often full of empty calories, and a lack of energy-giving nutrients may leave you depleted. You might even discover that your workouts don’t raise your fitness levels or overall health in the ways you desire.

Frustration grows when you know you’re putting in hard work, but you can’t see measured results after you exercise. You long to transform your overall health. You remain committed to your fitness goals, but you just don’t have the energy to meet them.

I have great news! Your workout issues may be easily rectifiable. I’m excited to share some pre and post workout meal ideas that may help to cure your exercise woes.  


A woman hydrating herself with water before working out


Why hydration & nourishment are important before a workout

The National Institute of Health (NIH) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend that you drink water and eat a nutritionally-balanced diet to help maximize your workout results. Your fitness goals, body composition, and metabolism may undergo a positive transformation by following these suggestions. 

Fluids before, during, and after exercise are highly recommended. Aim to drink two to three cups of water in your pre workout hours, a half cup every 20 minutes during your workout, and two to three cups in your first several post workout hours.

In terms of food, a pre workout combination of protein and carbohydrates can give your body the fuel it needs for sustained energy and strength. Protein rich pre workout snacks and meals can also increase the amount of daily calories you burn. Snack-wise, certain energy bars, hard boiled eggs, and nut butters are great choices.

Complex carbohydrates combined with high fiber can be consumed up to an hour and a half before you exercise, but should be avoided immediately before a workout. For example, meals that contain beans or oatmeal may provide a great basis for your daily diet, but could cause gastrointestinal issues if eaten within an hour of a workout.

However, natural, simple carbohydrates will keep you energized and allow you to workout without feeling bloated or sluggish. For example, a meal that contains blueberries, bananas, or apples may give you the boost you need.

Remember, everyone’s body reacts differently, so it’s important to determine what works best for you and leaves you feeling your best!


A served meal of chicken, salad, vegetables and egg


Why you need nourishment after a workout

The right post workout meal can support muscle repair and help with weight loss. Proper post workout nourishment is needed to replenish your energy supply, too.

Although complex carbohydrates are often seen as bad, they contain vital macronutrients that your body uses to burn calories. Carbs should be consumed in the first 30 to 45 minutes after you exercise, and should come from whole foods. For example, foods like nuts, whole grains, and fresh vegetables are great to snack on or incorporate into a meal.

After an intense workout, carbohydrates and protein are equally important to ensuring your recovery. Try to incorporate protein into your daily diet, and eat protein-rich foods three to four hours after a challenging exercise session.


Recommended groceries to transform your workout meals

A wonderful way to create effective workout meal combinations is to include the following ingredients on your grocery list. You can mix and match to discover what works best for you.

The grocery list:

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Chicken (grilled to eat)
  • Eggs (although recently, eggs can prove quite costly)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Hemp seeds
  • Leafy or superfood greens
  • Nut or seed butter
  • Protein powder
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Smoked salmon
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Whole grain bagels and bread (gluten free options work too)

If this list feels overwhelming, start small by choosing only a few items to include on your weekly grocery list. However, if you choose to purchase the majority of these items, you’ll have a wide array of pre and post workout meal options.


Egg and avocado toast


5 great pre workout meals

Here are my top five pre workout meal ideas to help improve your energy levels and overall health:


  • Banana with nut butter and hemp seeds: Chop a banana into slices, serve in a bowl, and cover with a spoonful of nut butter and a tablespoon of hemp seeds. Voilà! A simple, light, nutritious, and delicious meal.

  • Grilled chicken and fruit: I’d recommend using skinless chicken breast for this packed-with-protein, pre workout meal. The recommended portion-size for chicken varies based on your weight and daily caloric intake.  


  •  Quinoa may taste and act like a grain, but it also supplies complete proteins, containing all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is also high in fiber, antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals such as thiamin, vitamin B6, iron, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.


  • Sweet potato, avocado toast with a hard boiled egg: Sweet potatoes are a great source of antioxidants. The “good fat” of avocado, the nutrients of whole grain toast, and the protein of an egg, all combined with the sweet potatoes, create a satisfying pre-workout meal.

  • Whole grain toast with nut or seed butter: Quick and easy, this meal will leave you feeling ready to take on a high level cardio workout! Aside from being an excellent source of plant-based protein, nuts also deliver fiber, antioxidants, fatty acids, and disease-fighting properties.


Smoked Salmon and avocado on Bagel 


5 great post workout meals 


  • Avocado toast and hemp seeds: This meal takes under five minutes to prepare. The nutrients and monounsaturated fats of avocado paired with the heart-healthy magnesium found in hemp seeds can speed up your post workout recovery.

  • Recovery smoothie – Just Add Water®: If you own a blender, this liquid meal can assist in your recovery. Combine your favorite energy-filled fresh fruits and vegetables, a packet of Just Add Water (or another plant-based protein), and a cup of water or nut milk, and blend away!

  • Simple burrito bowl with rice, beans, and your favorite veggies: This meal is delicious and filling. Warm up your favorite beans and fresh vegetables in a pan, top over rice, and enjoy! Make sure you pay attention to portion sizes, too. 

  • Sweet potato egg hash: A variation on breakfast hash, add over easy eggs (or cook to your preference) to a skillet of sweet potatoes and brown to perfection.

  • Smoked salmon on a gluten-free bagel: Salmon is an excellent source of protein and Vitamin B12. This light post workout meal can assist in muscle and energy recovery.


If you’re intentional about what you consume pre and post workout, you will likely start to see a positive transformation in your overall health! I hope these meals will give you a good springboard to eating well and reaching your fitness goals. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section below! 

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This content is strictly the opinion of Chef Serena Poon and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Serena nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

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