By : Apeksha Thakkar Clinical Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and Nutrigenomic Counselor

Pre and Post Workout meals

Exercising on an empty stomach is not going to help you lose weight. Keep in mind to feed yourself well before and after a workout, to lose those kilos and build muscles.



People often associate losing weight to starving yourself and building muscles to loading up on protein. But human body and the nutrition associated with it is not so simple. You need the right food in the right amount along with proper exercise to retain the desired body. There are certain nutrients that play a very important role both before and after a workout session.


Pre Workout Meal

Optimal nutrient intake prior to exercise enhances your performance and reduces muscle damage. Macronutrients like carbohydrates and protein have key roles to play in preparing your body prior to workout.



Carbohydrates are Important

Carbohydrates from food are broken down into glucose which is utilized by your body as a source of fuel.
Glycogen, the stored form of carbohydrates, are the main source of energy for the muscles during an intense workout.
When the glycogen store is depleted, the output and intensity of your workout diminishes. Hence the need to fuel yourself before exercise.
Carbohydrates rich foods pre workout should be easy to digest such as sports drinks, fruits (bananas, apples), fruit smoothies, yoghurt, dried fruits, oats, granola bars or a light sandwich.


So are Proteins

During exercise, your muscle fibres undergo wear and tear. To repair and build the damaged muscles, proteins are required. Other benefits of eating protein before exercise include:

Increased muscle protein synthesis and performance
Improved muscle recovery
Increased strength and lean body mass 

Sources include eggs, nuts, milk (preferably soy milk), whey.

Hydration is non-negotiable

It is very important to hydrate yourself before an intense workout session to promote fluid balance and prevent excessive fluid loss and dehydration. Drink at least 0.5–0.6 litres of water, four hours before exercise and 0.2 -- 0.3 litres of water 10–15 minutes before exercise. Other than water opt for a beverage that contains sodium to help retain fluids.


Supplements to Maximize Benefits



Supplements taken before an intense and prolonged workout are often used to improve energy, strength, alertness, body composition, reduce fatigue and increase training capacity.e.g. Creatine, branched chain amino acids (BCAA) improve muscle mass, reduce muscle damage and boost strength.


What to avoid

Fat rich foods like cheese, buttery toasts, and parathas make you feel bloated and sluggish hence should be avoided before a workout.
Also avoid high-fibre and gas-forming foods such as cauliflower, onions, Brussels sprouts, and garlic and high-fibre breakfast cereals.


Timing of the meals 

It is advised to eat a full meal 2–3 hours before your workout and for meals consumed within an hour to your workout, select simple carbohydrates and protein like a fruit (banana ,apple) or a protein bar.


Examples of Pre Workout Meals 

Sandwich on whole-grain bread with proteins like paneer or egg whites and a fruit like banana or
Protein smoothie or shakes made with fruits like banana, berries and a scoop of protein powder or
poha, upma
Roti with paneer or egg curry
A cup of oatmeal topped with banana and nuts or
Yoghurt with dry fruits 


Post Workout Meals 

After your workout, your body goes into a recovery phase, trying to replenish its glycogen stores and repair the muscle tissues damaged during an intense workout.



Combining Carbs and Proteins

Consuming the right nutrients soon after the workout helps to speed up the recovery process. And a combination of carbohydrates and proteins work wonders. Together they help your body 

decrease muscle protein breakdown
increase muscle protein synthesis (growth)
restore glycogen stores
enhance recovery
stimulate insulin secretion which promotes glycogen synthesis.


Therefore, consuming a combination of both carbs and protein post workout can improve protein and glycogen synthesis.

Rehydration is Essential 

After sweating it out, it is very important to replenish the lost fluids to avoid dehydration. Consume plain water or coconut water which is a rich source of potassium and aids in avoiding cramps after an intense workout schedule or a protein rich drink but avoid having it immediately after a workout.


Timing of your post-workout meal

Post workout, the body’s ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced, hence it is recommended that you consume a combination of carbs and protein as soon as possible after exercising.


Examples of Post Workout Meal

The main aim of a post workout meal is to provide nutrients for adequate recovery and increase the benefits of a workout. Select easily digested foods for faster absorption of nutrients. low fat yoghurt, milk, oats, muesli , eggs, sandwiches, whole grain wraps, dried fruits ,natural fruit juices, smoothies and natural protein shakes ,add a scoop of protein powder to enhance the protein requirement .

The Takeaway 

Before and after a workout session, your body needs carbohydrates to fuel the muscles.
Proteins are vital to build, repair and restore muscles.
A combination of carbs and proteins consumed within 2-3 hours before exercising and within 60 minutes’ post exercise is important.
Never ignore the importance of consuming fluids.
Supplements are added to the meals to improve body composition and muscle mass pre workout and to reduce muscle damage post a workout session.


Recipe for preworkout Nutrition

Peanut Butter Sandwich (Serves 1)

Very healthy and an energy booster, packed with proteins and filling, the right mixture before a workout session.




2 whole wheats multigrain bread
1 Ripe banana, sliced
1 tbsp peanut butter
½ tsp cinnamon powder 



Take the bread slices and spread the peanut butter on one side.
Place the banana slices on the buttered side, sprinkle the cinnamon powder on the top.
Place the other slice on top and press slightly. Cut diagonally and serve with a milkshake or smoothie.

* To serve grilled or plain is optional.


Nutritional Information (per sandwich)


      320 kcal


      52 gm


      11.5 gm


      13 gm


      12 gm

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