What Should I Eat Before/After Exercise?

What Should I Eat Before Exercise?

Danielle Van Schaick BASc, RD, CPT
Registered Dietitian
Professional Speaker

Meals and snacks before exercise should consist mainly of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are easy to digest and provide fast fuel to burn at the beginning of your exercise session. Some examples of carbohydrates are breads, cereals, pasta, potatoes, rice, fruits and vegetables.

Limit protein as exercise time nears because protein slows digestion, and most people prefer not to exercise on a full stomach. Some examples of protein include meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, cheese and yogurt.

Limit fat as exercise time nears because fat slows digestion similar to the effect of protein. Some examples of high fat foods to limit are full fat cheese, nuts, fried foods, ice cream, chips and chocolate bars.

Some foods have both fat and protein, such as cheese and yogurt. In these cases, as time gets closer to your event, you should choose lower fat versions such as light cheese and low fat yogurt.

If you eat 4 hours before your competition, you can have a balanced meal, with mostly carbs, some protein and some fat. If you eat only 1-1.5 hours before, then
you want foods that digest quickly; snacks high in carbohydrates with little or no protein or fat such as low fat yogurt, fruit, and crackers.

Pre-Exercise Meal Ideas

Here are just a few examples of small meals (<500 kcal) that you can enjoy 2-4 hours before exercise.

1-2 cups low sugar cereal
1 cup skim milk
1 banana

1/2-1 cup vegetable soup
Tuna sandwhich
Fruit for dessert

1 English muffin
1 boiled or poached egg
1/2 cup fruit juice

1-2 cups pasta
0.5-1 cup tomato sauce
1-2 tbp. Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup tossed salad with low fat
salad dressing

1 cup cooked cereal
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup canned fruit

Low fat muffin
Low fat yogurt
Fresh fruit

What Should I Eat After Exercise?

Pack a Recovery Snack

If you exercise every day or even several times per day you need to maximize your recovery time. The best way to speed recovery is to eat within 15-30 minutes after
exercise. Generally shoot for 50 grams of carbohydrate in the recovery snack. A small amount of protein (10-15 grams) will also help muscle recovery. To ensure food is available quickly, pack a snack in your bag as if it’s part of your workout equipment. If you are a casual exerciser and recovery is not an issue, a snack of this size after exercise is not essential.

2 cups chocolate milk (made with 1% milk or soymilk): 340 calories; 56 g carbs; 17 g protein
2 cups chocolate milk (made with skim milk powder) 278 calories; 50 g carbs; 18 g protein
Banana with low fat yogurt (175ml) 250 calories; 48 g carbs; 13 g protein
Peanut butter and jam sandwich 350 calories; 50 g carbs; 12 g protein
1 cup trail mix (made with dried fruit and cereal) 280 calories; 40 g carbs; 15 g protein

Dani Health Services

Danielle is a private practice dietitian with a strong background in health, nutrition and fitness. She holds an Applied Human Nutrition Degree from the University of Guelph and successfully completed a Dietetic Internship with Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA).

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    One Response to “What Should I Eat Before/After Exercise?”

    Refugio Heydel

    Nice post, I found this very helpful. I’ve bookmarked your site so I can come back again soon.


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