The best foods to eat before and after a workout

The best foods to eat before and after a workout

What I eat before I exercise can really affect the quality of my workout and how I feel afterwards. And when it comes to food after a workout, I find I’m usually at a loss – I either don’t feel like food or think I’ve earned a gigantic meal! To get the lowdown on the best foods to eat before and after a workout, I speak to the creator of Precision Nutrition (who is teaming up with Virgin Active to provide nutrition coaching) Dr Krista Scott Dixon, and Fernwood Nutritionist Elita Massarotti. Take note before your next workout!

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To fuel up for a workout, Elita tells us it’s all about topping up your blood glucose levels and glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. Krista also says the type of workout, whether you have any food intolerances, and how your energy levels usually hold up while you work out are things to note when choosing what to eat before exercise. Generally speaking though, these carb-loaded foods will have you adequately prepared for a workout:

  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Wholegrain bread and crackers
  • Cereal, oats and muesli
  • Yoghurt and milk
  • Starchy vegetables such as potato and corn
  • Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and beans
  • Pasta, noodles, rice, quinoa and ancient grains

As for your pre-workout beauty essentials, it goes without saying that a sports deodorant is a must. Sweating is inevitable but BO is avoidable! We recommend a specially formulated aerosol like Rexona Sport for Women, which has extra strength for the old sport-induced sweats!


I’m usually pretty ravenous after a workout and I also feel entitled to a big feed (since I worked oh so hard at the gym!). Unfortunately, Krista tells us this is a common (and misinformed) opinion. She explains, “Many people make the mistake of thinking they ‘earned’ a big meal or poor food choices after a workout, but it doesn’t really work like that. Most people can simply eat normally and regularly, ensuring they get appropriate portions of carbohydrates and proteins.” Elita says the number one goal of post-workout meals is to “promote a speedy and full recovery”. Carbohydrates and proteins contain the nutrients your body needs to repair your muscles after the strain of exercise. Elita recommends eating any of the below foods as a post-workout meal or snack:

  • Tinned tuna with wholegrain crackers or bread
  • Yoghurt topped with fruit or muesli
  • Eggs on toast
  • Cheese on crackers
  • A meal of good quality meat (red meat, chicken, fish) with veggies and rice/pasta/ancient grains/legumes
  • Cottage cheese on crackers or mixed with fruit or flavoured honey (uumm, YUM!)

Most importantly, it’s important to eat things you enjoy and ensure you focus on rebuilding and repairing. Krista recommends doing a few minutes of post-workout relaxation “such as a bit of yoga, deep breathing or perhaps sneak a nap in a Virgin Active nap pod. This will activate the ‘rest and digest’ system of the body which calms and repairs us.”

Your post-workout beauty bag should contain a shampoo and conditioner duo that will remove all traces of sweat from your hair, leaving it super fresh. A body moisturiser to rehydrate your skin is also essential, as we tend to over-wash our bodies after sweating up a storm, leaving our skin screaming for hydration. We love Palmolive Naturals Light and Clear Shampoo and Conditioner, and Vaseline Intensive Care Spray Moisturiser.

Pre- and post-workout drinks

Neither Elita or Krista have an issue with pre-workout energy drinks and post-workout protein shakes. Elita reckons pre-workout drinks are great for people who can’t stomach food before exercise as they can still get a quick glucose hit into their body. As for protein shakes, Krista says they’re “a convenient, portable source of protein. They’re versatile and often easier when you’re on the go.”

What do you eat before and after you exercise?

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