| September 14, 2021

Best pre and post workout foods for weight loss

When approaching fitness, it may be overwhelming at first to commit. To make a change in any way regardless of experience, there needs to be adaptation.

By Michelle Moen

Read time: 4 min.

What are the best pre and post workout foods to stay fit? I get asked this question often, but the response isn’t so obvious. It depends.

How is your digestion?

Some people can eat a large meal 20-30 minutes before their workout, and feel energized. Others will feel nauseous, and might not even be able to complete their workout. This is where you’ll need to check in with yourself, and figure out what type of foods agree with yourself the most. If you struggle with digestion, stick to light, carbohydrate rich foods around your workouts. Bananas, rice cakes, or dried fruit tend to work best for those with a sensitive stomach. If you can tolerate a full meal, by all means, go for it! There are no magical foods that will enhance performance. Find which foods leave you feeling energized the most, and stick to those. 

What type of exercise are you doing?

Cardio based exercise will yield different recommendations over weight training. If you’re doing cardio based workouts, I would opt for something light and higher carb, like rice pudding or a banana. If you’re doing weight training, you could get away with a protein and a carb, like a protein shake with some rice crackers. Both are fairly light, and easy to digest, making it less likely to negatively impact your workout. 

Meal Timing

Ideally, I’d like to see clients get a pre workout meal 1-2 hours before training. If you’re an early morning gym goer, I’d even settle for a tablespoon of raw honey 15 minutes before your workout. Training fasted does not yield better fat loss results, so please don’t opt for fasted workouts, it will only negatively impact your training. You might feel OK while working out, but I ensure you, you’re leaving performance on the table. 

Best pre and post workout foods: Post workout is a little different. If you trained first thing in the morning, I’d like to see you get your post workout meal in ASAP, and I’d like it to be a complete meal of protein, fats and carbs. If that’s unrealistic for you, a protein shake with a piece of fruit would be OK. Training first thing in the morning is technically a more catabolic state, which is why I’d like to see someone get a meal in quickly after training. If you train later in the day, however, it matters a lot less. We used to think you had a 1 hour window in which you needed to replenish with protein and carbs, but that has since been discredited. Hitting your macros over the course of the day is far more important than when you hit your macros. Don’t stress if you can’t eat straight away. In fact, if you struggle with digestion, and train later in the day, it might be advantageous to hold off on your post workout meal. When we workout it puts our body in a sympathetic nervous system state, or in other words, it puts your body into a state of stress. This is OK. It’s healthy for our bodies to experience some degree of stress, but it’s not great for digestion. When our sympathetic nervous system is engaged, it decreases our ability to digest. It could be better to wait until your body is in a more relaxed state, even if that takes 2 hours post training. 

A basic list of pre workout food options could be:

  • 1 banana & protein shake
  • Rice pudding & boiled eggs
  • A protein bar & apple
  • Cereal & protein shake
  • Rice cakes & protein shake
  • Dried fruit & protein shake

You’ll notice that generally, I keep pre workout meals pretty light, with a protein and a carbohydrate source. You can include fats as well, if you like, but this will slow down digestion. Typically we want our pre workout meal to digest quickly, so it can help fuel our workout.

A basic list of post workout food options could be:

  • Chicken, rice, green beans & avocado
  • Ground beef, potatoes & asparagus
  • Egg white & 2 whole egg omelette, with toast and vegetables
  • Salmon, quinoa & brussel sprouts
  • Shrimp, pasta, broccoli, and olive oil sauce

Post training I’d rather see a complete meal, but you can definitely stick to a basic protein and carb snack instead, if you’d prefer. Keep in mind that individual variability will determine what is the best food choices for you. Your meal timing and food sources should leave you feeling energized, satiated, and performing well. Play around with what works best for you, relying on measures like: how is your digestion, how is your mood, how is your energy, how is your athletic performance, how is your hunger etc. Again, there is no single food or meal timing protocol that will work for everyone, so keep an open mind. 

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