What to Eat Before, During and After a Workout

Pre-Workout Fuel

For light to moderate workouts, it’s not necessary to “carb load” or “fuel-up”– especially if your goal is weight loss.

A piece of fruit, like a banana, with a cup of coffee or tea is the perfect, pre-exercise fuel. Bananas are a portable, easy-to-digest source of the energy that’s needed for quick bursts of speed and strength. They also provide potassium, an electrolyte that gets depleted as you sweat.

Coffee (or tea) delivers a hit of caffeine, which can help you push yourself harder and longer. It also decreases your perception of muscle pain so you can press on. Have your snack 30 minutes pre-workout to allow it to work its magic.

For more intense workouts or long runs, increase the carbs and add a source of protein and/or fat for slow-burning (and long-lasting!) energy, like a container of yogurt with a piece of fruit, a nutrition bar, or half of a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread.

Fueling During a Workout

It goes without saying, but hydration is essential. Sip water during your workout to keep all systems running smoothly. Sports drinks are only appropriate for intense training (we’re talking marathon status) when your body needs a steady stream of simple sugars for energy.

Post-Workout Fuel

After your sweat-session, relish in that blood-pumping euphoria and focus on recovery. Chug plenty of H20 to replenish lost fluids, and find some protein STAT.

Protein supplies the amino acids your body needs to repair muscle tissue, which endures stretching and microtears during a workout. Muscle tissue is in constant flux, which thankfully allows us to mold and shape it into chiseled abs and long, lean gams. (Oh hello, bikini season.) If a meal is around the corner, you’re covered, but if not, aim to take in at least 8 grams of protein within an hour of finishing your exercise session. Need a few ideas? Try a yogurt, cup of low-fat milk (cow or soy—not almond), or a handful of nuts or seeds.

And, score bonus points by getting your hands on some tart cherries. Exciting research on these little suckers suggests that their all-star antioxidants called anthocyanins help calm inflammation and protect against soft tissue damage, easing that post-workout soreness (that you secretly kinda love). Your body will thank you.