When and What to Eat Before and After a Workout

According to the National Academy of Science and Medicine, what we fuel our body with pre- and post- exercise, can impact the effectiveness as well as overall muscle growth and recovery for each workout. Research shows that timing also matters when determining the proper fuel before and after a workout.

Research shows the ideal nutrient timing recommendation pre- workout is 2-4 hours before exercise. With this much time before hand, one may eat up to 1,000 kcals. However, for the early morning (before 7 am hours), a smaller meal of 300-400 kcals is best recommended. Customarily, it is recommended for exercisers to consume about 1 g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight one hour before exercise, 2 g per kg if two hours before exercise, and so on so forth for hour 3 and 4.

Examples of 15 g of carbohydrate include:
1 slice of whole-grain bread
1 orange
1⁄2 cup cooked oatmeal
1 small sweet potato
1 cup low-fat milk

Furthermore, this credible source goes on to explain the post exercise nutrition and timing. For optimal muscle rebuilding and repair process, 15-25 grams of protein within one hour after exercise is recommended. In addition, 1 gram – 1.5 gram per kg body weight of carbohydrate is recommended within the initial 30 minute window after exercise as our muscle glycogen stores are depleted. Finally, 16-24 ounces of electrolyte hydration is recommended for every pound of body weight lost during an intense exercise session. This type of beverage includes electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc for muscle recovery. Gatorade is a good example of a recovery beverage. For moderate exercise under an hour, typically plain water is sufficient for recovery.

In conclusion, carbohydrate is very effective 2-4 hours prior to exercise, while carbohydrate, protein, hydration and electrolytes are very important within 30 min – 1 hour post exercise for proper muscle growth and recovery.

Murphy, Lee. “Nutrient Timing: Pre and Post- Workout Questions Answered!” NASM. 2022,