Pre- and Post-Workout Fueling Summary for Athletes

Pre Post Workout Venn 2.0More on this to come soon, but here is a simple diagram to help you remember general fueling recommendations for pre- and post-workout nutrition.

In short, for a pre-workout meal, stick to protein and fat while the post-workout window – ideally within 15-30 min of finishing your training – should focus on protein and carbs. Both have protein in common. If you’re into performance, adequate protein is a must.

References: Robb Wolf, Whole9

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12 Responses

  1. Can you give me a couple of meal ideas pre and post workout. My post workout meal needs to come with me to training as it takes about 25 mins to get home so I need to eat in the car.

    Love this diagram.

    1. Hi Janine. Great question! Pre-workout for me is usually something like leftover cooked meat or an egg and a handful of nuts. Other good ideas: jerky, a scoop of nut butter, coconut flakes, canned fish, etc. For post-workout, any of the same proteins apply (though I would keep away from egg yolk because of the fat content). If you tolerate it well, you might want to try whey protein shakes (not ideal though good for convenience sake). Sweet potato or any starchy veggie (pumpkin, hard squash, taro, yucca, etc) is great for replenishing carbs.

  2. I think I’ve got the pre-training meal covered but I’m still working on the post training meal as up til now I’ve been grabbing a coffee on the way home, I know I know!!! But it fills me up and takes away my appetite and then I don’t feel like eating so…… I’ve sourced a good whey protein shake I can take along to training for afterwards, I’ve also started boiling eggs and have found some fabulous “tuna fillets in a jar, all natural and lovely” but can you suggest some ways to take cook/take the carbs? Apart from roasting some cubes of sweet potato that still tastes great cold I’m running out of ideas for carbs. Sorry to be a pain but my main mission with going paleo is to start fuelling my body correctly for the amount of training I’m doing. I don’t need to lose weight but I need to start eating for energy as I’m not only slumping during the day but some mornings I’m not getting as much out of myself in my training sessions as I know I could give and I just know this is down to food.

    1. Hi Janine…great questions. For a different way to use carbs post-workout (that’s super easy) I like baby food fruit/veggie puree in the little portable squeeze pouches. They taste great and are pretty easy to bring with you, plus there’s enough variety that you can rotate it in with your sources. The downside is that they do cost a bit more. Food could definitely be the culprit of what you describe. When do you usually train?

      1. At the fear of seeming really stupid aren’t baby fruit/veg purée pouches sugar??? Not carbs??? Or am I not understanding the contents of these little squeezies!
        I always train around 9am. I alternate between interval runs/sprints & high intensity boot camp. I am taking my first crossfit session next week! Very scary & exciting. I seriously struggle to eat the protein/fat combo pre-workout without it repeating on me during my training so I end up having a banana pre-workout & haven’t been able to manage much more. I’m up at 6am, workout around 9am. The whole subject of food pre & post workout is an area I’m struggling with so you post really really resonates with me.

        1. Definitely read labels but you can find varieties with sweet potato only or with sweet potato or squash plus a little bit of fruit. Sugars are a type of carb (in addition to starch) and it’s more preferable to focus post-workout carbs on starches from veggies compared to fruit. It doesn’t mean you can never have fruit but just that the starchy veggies are going to be more effective at replacing muscle glycogen.

          Pre-workout (and that’s a whole other post coming in the future) it’s best to focus on protein and fat, such as an egg plus some nuts or coconut. Three hours should be long enough to digest a small quantity of that. Have you tried to cut down on how much you’re eating post-workout into a smaller quantity?

  3. I like the simplicity of the way this is put. But if one were to be doing an activity that would use a LOT of glycogen would this change at all? When I did my first marathon earlier this year I stopped eating Paleo as I just found it too hard. But as I prepare for my next one I want to keep it up. I always seemed to feel better for my long runs if I had a decent amount of carbs in them. I’m talking long runs 2 hrs + in duration. Should I do this any differently for activity like that? My copy of ‘Paleo for Athletes’ has just arrived, just starting to get into it.

    1. Hi Anita…great questions. You have to remember that even when glycogen is fully topped off, we only have (at best) about 500 grams of it present in the body. For marathons and long distance endurance events (over 60 min in duration), that glycogen is going to be long gone and hopefully, if one is fat-adapted, you’ll be able to rely on your fat stores for energy through beta oxidation. During your training session or race, if you eat, there’s only so much fuel your body can assimilate, and you can never take in enough nutrition fast enough during your event to completely make up for what you’re burning. If you’ve ever tried, you’ll know what happens…bubble gut, feeling sick, etc. What you’re left with is a delicate balance…take in enough carb (and protein if you’re going over 3 hours) and try to rely on fat stores for energy. If you’re not fat-adapted, being able to access fat stores will be less efficient.

      When you say, “I always seemed to feel better for my long runs if I had a decent amount of carbs in them,” can you be more specific about the type of carbs and roughly how much? During my 12 hour mountain bike racing days, I generally used some sort of carb drink like Vitargo.

      1. What you said about over consuming while training? That’s exactly what I went through in my race. I was feeling bloated and nauseous before even the halfway point- a true lesson in mental toughness!!
        My standard long-run breakfast used to be either a protein pancake (1/2 banana & 1/2 c rice flakes as carbs) or PBS on g/f fruit toast. I now have switched back to meat and healthy fats as my breakfast, but I haven’t built back up to long runs yet.
        I’m prepared to still use some gels and sports drink during my long runs, but with some natural alternatives in there too, like dates, sultanas, or homemade Lara bars.
        I certainly wasn’t fat adapted, as looking back I can see that I did most of my training at much too high a HR to draw on fat stores. At the moment I’m working on training with a much lower HR to train my body to be much more efficient and fat adapted.

        1. I’ve made that mistake before, too! It’s such an awful awful feeling so good on you for finishing!

          Yeah, it sounds like your standard breakfast was relatively low in protein and possibly the banana was a bit to high GI for you?

          The dried fruit is okay but it contains mostly fructose which isn’t metabolized in quite the same way by the body as a starchy veg or glucose-based drink. It’s not to say they’re bad but you may do better with something like pureed sweet potato with some apple mixed in and stuffed into a reusable gel flask? Something to think of.

          Sounds like you’re taking the steps you need to now to make sure everything goes well on the next race day.

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Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau, bs, ma, cissn!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sarcasm.


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