What To Eat Pre + Post Workout — Easy Recipes, Energy-Boosting Snacks, Fat Loss Tips & More
It was all about helping Orange Theory members fuel their fitness, boost energy and increase their weight-loss challenge results through energy-boosting, nutrient-dense, delicious and REAL food.
I promised I’d share all the recipes with attendees — and then I thought it’d be nice to share with you as well! So today’s post includes tons of meal/snack ideas to incorporate pre/post workout that will empower you to reach your fitness and health goals.
It’s also got some tips to figure out what might be specifically missing from your current routine and how to add it into your lifestyle in realistic and fun ways. Because I know I sound like a broken record over here, but I can’t emphasize enough how different and unique you are. You have a genetic makeup, hormonal balance, gut microbiome, stress-level, mindset and lifestyle different than anyone else’s on the planet — so what might be optimal for someone else might not be the best for you.
My mission is to help each and every one of you tune into the foods, habits, movement and self-care that work best for your individual bodies, minds and lifestyle. No more turning to diets, trends, fads or google to the answer. I want you to become your own health expert and figure out what you need to live your best life! So let’s get started shall we —
Tip #1 — Tune Into What YOU Need
First and foremost, I want you to get check in with your eating habits and exercise routine. Ask yourself the following questions:
How is my energy level before a workout? I.e. tired, pumped, dizzy, light-headed, etc.?
If I’ve eaten before my workout do I feel lethargic and lazy during it?
What time of day do I typically workout? When do I typically eat before and after?
Do I feel like I can push myself and go harder during my workout after I’ve eaten?
Did you learn anything about yourself? Chances are if your energy levels are low before a workout you might need to add in a pre-workout snack, water or more nutrients to the meals you’re already eating. If you feel lethargic or tired after you’ve eaten and during your workouts you might be eating too much, too close to your workout or have not found the proper balance of macronutrients (i.e. protein, fat and carbs). If you feel awesome and crush your workouts — you might not need to change anything up at all! Keep all of this in mind and tailor my suggestions in a way that will benefit you.
Tip #2 — Know Your Fitness Goals
There are two types of exercise. Aerobic exercise emphasizes endurance and stamina. It’s usually less intensive and only taps into oxygen to fuel exertion — think rowing, elliptical, jogging, yoga, etc.
Anaerobic exercise is made up of short, intense bursts of high exertion. There’s a limited amount of oxygen available so the body has to turn to the muscles for stored glycogen to help. This type of exercise helps stoke your metabolism and burn fat and excess sugar floating around in your blood. Think boxing, HIIT training, crossfit, etc.
Anaerobic exercise is especially effective for fat-loss, because once it burns through your tank of glycogen (stored in your muscles) for fuel it turns to your fat stores. But if you have too much glucose (which comes from sugar/carbohydrates) available your body won’t get to those fat stores in time.
Basically, if you’re consuming sugary sports drinks, gels and bars before your workout your body will prioritize burning this glucose because it’s a more easily and readily available fuel (meaning it has limited amount of time to access those fat stores). Sugar also means a spike in glucose and insulin levels, and the presence of the hormone insulin prevents lipolysis, otherwise known as fat breakdown. So if your goal with fitness is to increase fat-loss, avoid sugar when possible.
Pro-tip: Question anything marketed to you as a “weight-loss”, “sports nutrition” or “fitness food.” Anything that sounds too gimmicky or good-to-be-true probably is… and it probably contains a ton of sugar or caffeine to boot!
It’s also important to note that when you’re effectively burning through your glycogen stores to your fat stores you’re getting rid of excess sugar in your blood — which is effective for fat-loss but also means you should be planning to eat within 90-120 minutes to balance out blood sugar levels.
Tip #3 — Build in Ideal Meals/Snacks Based On Your Goals
Depending on your workout routine and what you’ve already determined based on the questions you answered earlier a pre-workout snack may or may not be needed. In general, if your workouts consists of aerobic exercise like walking, elliptical, or biking at a low-moderate pace for under 30 minutes, you most likely don’t need pre-workout snack.
On the other hand, if you’re engaging in intense circuit training or HIIT classes and have determined based on the questions you answered you need a pre-workout snack to provide an energy boost for your workout — reach for one of these snacks balanced with protein (to initiate muscle recovery), fat (for long-lasting stamina and endurance) and fiber-rich carbohydrates (for a quick fuel boost that won’t mess with your insulin and blood sugar levels).
Handful of raw nuts and berries
½ of a small apple or celery sliced with 1 tbsp almond butter + cinnamon/sea salt
1 cup coffee blended with 1 tbsp mct, coconut oil or grass-fed butter (bonus points if you add in a scoop or two of collagen peptides)
½ cup of full fat coconut yogurt with berries
Latte Smoothie — blend ½ cup cold brew coffee or cooled drip coffee, ½ frozen banana, 1 tbsp almond butter, ½ cup almond milk, 1/2 tsp cinnamon + a handful of ice
Avocado Stuffed — ½ of an avocado stuffed with 1 scoop of wild tuna or salmon salad, 2 tbsp of hummus or 1 baked or hard boiled egg
Small Smoothie — ½ size of a “meal-sized” smoothie with 10-15 grams of protein. Try 1 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk), 1 tbsp coconut oil, 1 scoop clean protein powder, 1 handful of greens and 1/2 frozen banana
Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding — Mix 1 scoop chocolate protein powder with 1 cup full-fat unsweetened coconut milk, 1 tbsp MCT oil or coconut oil + 1 tbsp chia seeds. Shake it up (or blend without chia seeds, then stir in) and refrigerate. After a few hours it should have a pudding consistency. So yum and perfect for a snack, treat or breakfast on-the-go!
Wild Tuna or Salmon Salad with Cucumber Slices (try mixing a scoop of avocado oil mayo, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper in with your tuna/salmon)
1-2 Coconutty Power Ballz (recipe below)
Coconutty Power Ballz
These insanely delicious and ridiculously easy coconutty power balls are jam-packed with nutrients, protein, fat and fiber that will power you through your workouts and satisfy your sweet tooth simultaneously.
- 1 cup cashews, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
- 10 pitted dates, soaked in hot water to soften
- 2 heaping tablespoons cashew butter
- 2 tbsp coconut nectar (or maple syrup)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Optional -- If you're looking to minimize the sugar, cut the amount of dates in ½ or omit coconut nectar/maple syrup. Looking to up the protein? Add in 2 scoops of collagen peptides. Boost antioxidants? Try adding 2 tbsp cacao nibs.
- Mix all ingredients (except shredded coconut) in a food processor until it becomes a thick, sticky batter. Chopping or pre-grinding the cashews and soaking the dates in hot water for 5-10 minutes prior will help it to mix well.
- Pour dough into a large bowl and mix in shredded coconut until well combined.
- Scoop about 1-2 tbsp of dough and roll into a ball with your hands. Place on a plate or in Tupperware in the fridge for an hour or freezer for 15 minutes to chill and firm.
- Try doubling the recipe -- balls will last for up to two weeks in the fridge or longer in the freezer. Grab whenever you need a quick pre/post workout boost or healthy, tasty treat.
Just as your pre-workout snack is determined by your energy level and goal (i.e. fat loss, competition, muscle building, maintenance, or general health), the post-workout nutrition will also differ.
However in general, I advise eating a real meal within 90-120 minutes post-workout, especially if you’re doing a strenuous, high-intensity workout . You want a balanced meal of protein, fiber and fat to help your damaged muscle fibers recover faster and refuel your glycogen stores.
In general, here are some ideas for what an optimal post-workout meal might look like:
A scramble or omelet with a few veggies of your choice (I like spinach, tomato and onion) cooked in avocado oil or grass-fed ghee/butter and topped with avocado
Grilled chicken breast (or another protein), baked sweet potato drizzled with grass-fed butter, ghee or coconut oil and topped with sautéed kale or other leafy greens
Shrimp (or other protein) and veggie stir-fry cooked in coconut oil with cauliflower rice or quinoa
Chicken or Prawn and veggie curry with coconut milk and a small scoop of brown rice, quinoa or cauliflower rice
A large leafy green salad with roasted veggies (beets, carrots, parsnips, brussels sprouts, etc), wild salmon or tuna, avocado and tahini or olive oil and lemon dressing
An organic grass-fed lamb or turkey burger in a lettuce wrap with avocado oil aioli and some sweet potato fries (my fave)!
I think it’s important to point out I really encourage my clients to focus on quality, nutrient-dense and delicious meals first and snacks second (and only when truly needed). I think snacks can be a slippery slope as most of us opt for them out of an emotional need — when we’re tired, bored, sad, need comfort, want a treat or to feel good, etc. rather than eating out due to an actual physiologically need. That being said, sometimes you don’t always have the option to eat a full meal, and if you don’t have time within 90-120 post-workout I recommend any one of the snacks listed above!
Tip #4 — Hydrate
Dehydration is often mistaken as hunger. Water also helps regulate your body temperature, lubricate your joints and transports nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you’re not hydrated your body can’t perform at its highest level.
If you feel tired, have muscle cramps, dizziness or other serious symptoms you might just not be properly hydrated! If you’re taking an intense anaerobic class or exercising regularly, aim to get in 90-100 oz per day. Make sure you’re drinking (8-16 oz) 30 minutes before and after your workout and taking small sips (about a cup) every 10-20 minutes throughout.
I also really advise you to skip the sports drinks here, especially if your goal is to lose fat. Like I mentioned earlier, if you’re using sugary drinks, gels and bars your body will prioritize that easily available fuel (glucose) and it will prevent lipolysis (fat break down). If water is super unappealing try unsweetened coconut water or flavoring your water with a fun combo like ginger + lemon, cucumber + mint or berries+basil.
Tip #5 — Keep It Simple
There’s a lot of information in the fitness world surrounding macronutrient counting, nutrient timing, carb-loading, proper meal-combining and other food rules. There’s a time and a place for these “rules” (like if you’re training for an ironman or body building competition) but for the majority of us who are just trying to lead a healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight — it just doesn’t make that much of a difference.
Plus if it’s too hard/complicated/time-consuming/unenjoyable/unrealistic the likelihood of us following through with it is not that high!
When in doubt, just remember to keep it simple and focus on your overall nutrient intake, not just singling out two meals pre and post workout. Aim to eat real, whole, nutrient-dense meals rich in protein, fat and fiber. Read ingredient lists carefully — if it contains a ton of ingredients you don’t recognize chances are your body won’t either. Foreign and toxic substances cause your body to become inflamed, which inhibits weight loss.
Was this helpful? Any tips or fave pre/post workout snacks/meals you want to share? Questions? LMK in the comments below!