Fuel Your Workout

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We’re going to cover another reader question today. She asked, “Should I eat before I workout? And if so, what should I eat?” This is one that I hear a lot from my personal training clients as well, so I thought it was a good topic to cover!

Fasted Cardio

Okay, so, if you’re only going to do cardio and its early enough in the day you can usually get by without eating. There have been studies that have shown fasted cardio will burn more fat during the exercise (however not necessarily afterwards). It is okay to do fasted cardio if you’re not hungry, just don’t starve yourself intentionally. If you’re hungry, EAT. The few benefits that fasted cardio has to offer, aren’t worth it.


As I said above, fasted cardio “burns more fat” during the exercise, but not after. The more carbohydrates that you burn during the exercise, the greater the afterburn will be. This is your elevated metabolism post-exercise that we discussed in the last post (which you can find HERE.) Again, eating a little something before cardio will help you out in the long run.

Fill ‘er Up

If you’re doing anything more than cardio, you need to eat something. You can compare it to driving your car on E. You may get a little further, but eventually you will run out of gas. When it comes to strength training, our bodies need fuel. We don’t need to make it complicated. Eating an easily digestible carbohydrate will suffice. Examples of a great pre-workout snack include:

  1. Whole Wheat Toast
  2. Oatmeal
  3. Banana

Having a little bit of something will not only give you fuel to get through your workout, but it will also keep you from getting lightheaded, dizzy and nauseous. A small meal or snack, pre-workout will allow you to get the most out of your effort!

Re-fuel and Recover

I figured now would be a great time for us to go over a post-workout snack, as well. So, again it doesn’t need to be anything huge, just a re-fuel to help yourself begin the recovery process. We want to make sure we get a little bit of carb with some protein in our post-workout snack. A few examples of well rounded post-workout fuel include:

  1. Egg with toast
  2. Tuna with crackers
  3. Grilled chicken with veggies
  4. Greek Yogurt
  5. Protein Shake

Proceed with Caution

Protein shakes are one of my favorite post-workout snacks. I know a lot of my clients enjoy them as well. One thing that we’ve had an issue with in the past though, is throwing “too much” into our protein shakes. Remember, we CAN overeat “healthy food”… but that’s a post for another day.


One of my clients wasn’t tracking his food but he did say that he was eating “healthy”. It’s important to remember that healthy food STILL contains calories.

So he was drinking a post-workout protein shake which included: 2 scoops of protein powder (that contained way more carbs than I approved of), almond milk (instead of water), 2 eggs for extra protein (he didn’t take into account the fat content), 2 TBSP of peanut butter for flavor (HELLO extra calories…) and 1 whole banana because it made it taste better. Before we knew it he was eating almost an 800 calorie “snack”. Now, if he was trying to gain weight it would be one thing but he was trying to lose. If I recall correctly his fat loss macros had him around 2000 calories. His post-workout snack took up almost have his days in calories.

Keep it to Scale! 

My point is guys, we need to keep our pre-workout and post-workout snacks balanced to what we can fit in our own specific diets. Think of it this way:

You have 1800 calories for the day to meet whatever goal you have.

You eat 3 meals per day at around 500 calories each.

This leaves you with 300 calories for pre and post-workout food.

We can’t afford an 800 calorie protein shake.

If you’re going to have a higher calorie protein shake, it should replace one of your meals.

On a Side Note…

Give it 30 minutes to an hour for your pre-workout fuel up to kick in. As to how fast you need to eat post-workout, there’s a bit of disagreement with this. Some people believe that you need to re-fuel no longer than 30 minutes afterwards or all your hard work will be for not. That’s not the case guys. Don’t stress it. Your workout still counts. Just refuel your body within an hour or 2 and you’ll be just fine. It’s all about recovery. The faster you can begin that process, the better off you’ll be.


We’ve learned that it is okay to do fasted cardio but most of the time we benefit from eating a little something even then. If you’re strength training eat an easily digested carbohydrate pre-workout, and a small meal or snack with some protein and carbs afterwards to help your body recover. It’s not complicated. Most importantly, keep your meals and snacks to scale for YOUR body.

Now that you know what to eat pre and post-workout, do you have a workout plan in place? If not, I can help! Click HERE to get your customized training plan to help you reach your fitness goals!

Until next time…


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I'm an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist. I worked in a gym setting back in Florida for over 2 years, training one-on-one clients and leading group fitness classes. I absolutely loved it, but once we moved across the country to Colorado, I decided to take the opportunity to pursue a slightly different career! My obsession with exercise and love for writing collided, which is how I became a fitness lifestyle writer.

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