What Should I Eat Before a Workout?

Eating before your workout is very important to ensure that you go into the session with fuel levels topped up enough to sustain energy levels. Eating before a workout can also help you to avoid distracting hunger pangs in your session. Generally, most people can tolerate a meal 2 – 4 hours before exercise, whereas a smaller snack is best if eating 1 – 2 hours before.

Find a meal or snack that is carbohydrate-rich, low in fibre to prevent tummy upsets, low in fat for easy digestion, and of course familiar and well-liked. Everyone is different in terms of their preferences, appetite and what they consider comfortable to eat before exercising. Some ideas of foods include:

  • Peanut butter whole grain bread or toast.
  • Fruit smoothie.
  • Sliced apple and yoghurt.
  • A bowl of oats with low fat milk.
  • Spaghetti served with a low fat, tomato-based sauce.
  • Sliced banana and honey on whole grain toast.

Should I only eat protein after a workout?

Most people only focus on protein after training. However, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, consuming protein along with some carbohydrate is the best choice for optimal recovery. This is because the protein will help build and repair muscle damaged during training, whereas the carbohydrate tops up depleted glycogen stores so you’re ready for the next training session. Interestingly, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), you only need a small amount of 20– 25g of protein after a workout to maximise muscle building. The following foods contains 20 – 25g of protein: one serving of a regular protein shake, two eggs with a slice of whole grain toast, 50g lean biltong, or one cup of plain low fat yoghurt topped with a handful of nuts.

If you are trying to lose weight, try to keep these pre- and post-workout foods part of the meal and snack options as indicated on your kilojoule controlled meal plan. That way you won’t add extra kilojoules into your diet that will hinder weight loss.



  1. Burke, L, and Deakin, D. Clinical Sports Nutrition. 4th 2010. McGraw-Hill, Australia.
  2. Joint Position by the American College of Sports Medicine, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. (2016). Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 543-568.
  3. , S. Sport nutrition: A review of the latest guidelines for exercise and sport nutrition from the American College of Sport Nutrition, the International Olympic Committee and the International Society for Sports Nutrition. (2013). South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 26(1), pp. 6-13.