Knowing what foods to eat before and after you exercise can be tricky. But it is important to know if you want to maximise your results. This blog post will give you some of the best pre and post workout meals, as well as helpful guidelines.

Pre Workout Meal Guidelines

About 30-60 minutes before your workout, it is best to consume a mix of carbohydrates and protein. The amount depends on your body weight. Recommended intakes include:

  • 1-2 grams / kg body weight of carbohydrates
  • 0.15 – 0.25 grams / kg body weight of protein

For a 60kg individual, this amounts to 60-120g of carbohydrates and 9-15g of protein.

Having protein before your workout, can result in peak levels of protein synthesis after your workout. This is great if you are looking to build lean muscle.

Having enough carbohydrates prior to exercise is important for performance. If you already have enough carbohydrate stored in your body in the form of muscle glycogen, the carbohydrate you eat in the hour or so before exercise might not make much difference to performance, unless it is first thing in the morning. In the morning, your liver is in a glycogen depleted state.

If you exercise first thing in the morning, it is best to consume carbohydrates (and protein) 30 minutes prior to your workout. If you exercise in the afternoon/evening and have eaten sufficient carbs within the few hours prior to exercise, you may not need to eat more carbs.

Pre Workout Meal Ideas

  • 1 cup of low fat yoghurt with oats and berries
  • 1 wholemeal muffin with banana and peanut butter
  • 2 slices of wholegrain bread with two poached eggs
  • Protein or healthy sports bar

best pre and post workout meal ideas

Post Workout Meal Guidelines

After your workout, you are best to eat a mixture of carbs and protein. Aim to eat a carb:protein ratio of 3:1. So if you’re having 15g of protein, aim for 60g of carbs (similar to pre-workout guidelines).

In general, you should be consuming around 10-20g of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your workout (with the carb:protein ratio of 3:1).

This is also the absolute best time to consume carbohydrates. Post-exercise, your body is in an anabolic state, so it needs carbohydrates to refuel the body, not store fat. The BEST time to consume carbs is after (and before) a workout. If you’re aiming for fat loss, eat the majority of your carbs in the morning and post-workout.

Post Workout Meal Ideas

  • Smoothie with low fat milk, yoghurt, fruit and protein powder
  • 2 slices of wholegrain bread with lean meat, salad and low-fat or cottage cheese
  • Beef and vegetable stir fry with brown rice or noodles
  • Roast meat (chicken, beef, etc) with roast sweet potato and vegetables

best pre and post workout meal ideas

As you can see, the requirements for pre and post workout meals are pretty similar! These pre and post workout meal ideas can be interchangeable.

I hope you have found this post helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions xx

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

26 Responses

  1. Hi ladies, I was browsing through the blogs and was confused because in some of the post, Racheal recommends eating within two hours post workout to get benefits and one of the blog stated 90 minutes, and now this website says 30 minutes. I generally like to work out prior to eating dinner so what time limit is actually recommended to eat within? Please help, thank you :)

  2. hi Rachael and Team!
    Does eating carbs after an evening workout (2nd workout of the Lean Legs program) slows down rate of fat loss? Or is it recommended to replenish glycogen even though it’s already past 6pm?
    Goal is to have lean legs and lose 5kg of weight.
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi lovely,
      As long as you stay within the range of recommended calorie and macros intake, it shouldn’t hinder your fat loss progress ?

    1. Hi lovely,
      Rachael suggests that this is actually the best time to eat carbs, preferably in the first 90 minutes after you finish your routine. :)

  3. Thankyou u r such a inspiration!!! in regards to ur hiit on the treadmill could I do different types of intervals/times so I don’t platue?

  4. Hi Rachel thanks so much for ur advice It’s so helpful!x one question will running at higher speed cause legs to bulk?also I’ve been following ur hiit sprints on the treadmill .everyone’s commented on how lean /slim I’ve been looking ☺️ I think hiit is definitely the way to go for me .do u have any other hiit workouts that won’t cause bulk?

    1. Hi Ann, wow that is awesome! I’m so happy for you :) No running at a higher speed won’t cause your legs to bulk, unless you starting doing shorter distance sprints. So the faster the better! I don’t have any HIIT exercises specifically, but I’ll do a workout video for you and write this as a blog post next week. With HIIT, you just need to be careful not to do too many jump squats, lunges and burpees. I know these are AWESOME in HIIT workouts, but they do build muscle in your legs quickly. Any other HIIT exercises should be fine though :) xx

  5. Hi I’ve read if I eat carbs after cardio it will stop the fat burning is this true (Ido fasted cardio)also I’ve read ur blog post about running for slimmer thighs what speed should I run at for an hour?

    1. Hi Ann, no this is not true. Once you stop cardio and your heart rate comes back down you will stop fat burning, it doesn’t matter whether you eat or not. Speed really depends on your fitness level, but I would recommend somewhere between 10 – 12km/hr xx

      1. Thanks ? I’ve tried running for about 3months it did make me very lean but did not do much for my legs I ran at a speed of 8for 60mins.can u recommend me something to help with my flabby iner I do hiit *3 aweek and *3running sessions a week

        1. Hi Ann, I would do more power walking. In my experience, this is the best exercise for getting rid of the inner thigh fat. Also I would try to run faster and for less time (30 minutes maximum) xx

  6. Hi!! The picture at the top of this post definitely looks like something I could eat forever. Do you have a link to the recipie???

  7. Hi Rachael! Thank you SO MUCH for your blog. You changed my life and put me on the right track. I feel great and happy. The question that I have is if i work out in the evening all week from around 8 to 10 then i know that it is not good to eat before bed time, so should i just leave my stomach empty until breakfast?
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Diana,
      Happy to help! :) No you should definitely eat something after your workout, even if it’s something small. People think eating before bed will make you gain weight. But this is not necessarily true. It really depends on how much food you’ve eaten that entire day, not just before bed. Hope that clears it up!

  8. Hi Rachel, just wondering whether it’s best to eat something before weight training first thing in the morning? Or can it be done on an empty stomach?

    1. It depends on your body. Ideally you should eat something small before weight training. However, I can’t stomach food straight before a workout and I workout as soon as I wake up in the morning. So I don’t eat beforehand, which is a bad example! But that’s my body and everyone’s different x

  9. Hey! I just want to make sure i understand :) when you talk about ‘meal post and pre workout’ are you saying an extra meal like whatever the time of the day like a small snack we eat really close to the workout, or is it like what lunch and dinner should include if i workout in the afternoon

    1. Hi Caterine, if you exercise in the morning, then after your workout then this should be your breakfast. Or if you work out late afternoon, have a snack before your workout and what you eat after will be your dinner. I hope that makes sense! :) x

  10. Hi Rachael! I usually do resistance training or HIIT and it goes for 30 minutes. And this is in the morning. I was wondering if it is okay to have a piece of fruit right before a workout (I am very short with the time)? Also, is it necessary to have protein post-workout? It would be great if you could answer these two questions. Thank you xx

    1. Hi Papisa. It is definitely OK to have a piece of fruit right before a workout. It is also very beneficial for you to have protein after your workout. This does not have to be in the form of a protein powder though. You can get your protein from other sources such as lean meat, vegetables, whole grains, yoghurt, etc x

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