Food Ideas: Before, During, Post Workout

workoutfoodMany people know that in order to have great workouts they must fuel their bodies the correct way. They also know that refueling properly after a workout can lead to increased benefits of their exercise as well as quicker recovery times. What they do not usually know is what kinds of foods to eat before and after workouts. They always hear about drinking a protein shake, but what about actual food and not just a drink? They find themselves unsure of what they should have to refuel their bodies after that brutal workout. Many times, they also feel hungry during a strenuous workout and may wonder what a good light snack is during a long workout (generally workout lasting longer than 60 minutes). Below are some simple guidelines and food ideas of what to eat before, during and after your workout!

Pre-Workout Foods: 30-60 Minutes before Exercise

Reach for faster digestible carbohydrates and fluids to kick start your workout. Choose foods that are not too heavy and can be broken down in the stomach but provide some level of fullness.  Fruits and proteins are good sources. These foods include:

  • Fruits such as bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries and grapes
  • String Cheese
  • Whole Grain Bread
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Jelly Sandwich
  • Sports Gels
  • Gummies
  • Sports Bar

Intra Workout Foods: For Workouts lasting longer than 60 minutes

During a long and strenuous workout session, it may be beneficial to consume intra-workout carbohydrates and proteins in order to sustain a higher level of performance and energy during higher volume training sessions. Choose fast-acting and easily absorbed carbohydrates that will help serve as a rapid source of energy.  Aim for 30-60 grams of carbs per hour of intense activity.

  • Bananas, Apples, Oranges
  • Fruit sticks, Fruit Gummies
  • Raisins
  • Energy Bar, Sports Bar, Granola Bar

Refuel and Recover Food/Drinks: 15-60 Minutes after Exercise

After a hard training session, your body is depleted of nutrients, which need to be replaced in order to decrease muscle breakdown and begin the recovery process. Replace fluids and eat a mixture of carbs and proteins after exercise.

  • Peanut Butter
  • Jerky
  • Trail Mix
  • Cheese
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Pretzels
  • Hummus

If you just do not have an appetite after a workout, then choosing liquid foods is fine as well. Protein drinks, skim milk, and chocolate milk are all great choices.

Refuel and Recover Foods: 1-2 Hours Post Exercise

Eating a full and actual meal after your workout is necessary to fully ensure recovery. Getting enough protein and carbs is essential during this time. Eat carbs that are slow digesting and consume foods high in protein.

  • Pastas
  • Whole Grain Breads
  • Brown Rice
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Vegetables
  • Lean Meats (low in fat)
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Fish (Tilapia, Salmon)
  • Nuts
  • Eggs

Adapted from SCAN registered dietitians (RDs). For more information from SCAN sports dietitians visit

Created by: Ricardo Blanco, Texas Tech Graduate Student
Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD 


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