Best Pre- and Post-Workout Meals to Fuel Your Sweat Session
- Food affects your progress in the gym more than you might think. The wrong workout meals will prevent you from losing fat and compromise muscle growth, while the best workout meals will support fat burning and muscle repair and so you see more results when you exercise.
- Fasting is a great pre-workout meal alternative. It speeds up fat loss and preserves muscle.
- Save carbs for your post-workout meal so they replenish your glycogen-deprived muscles. Be sure they’re quality carbs, not high-glycemic, junky ones.
- To support muscle repair, prioritize plenty of complete protein in your workout meals. You can also take collagen protein after your workouts to help your joints recover.
- Check out these ideal pre-workout and post-workout meals.
You may have heard the saying: “Abs are made in the kitchen.” It’s true: the food you eat has a bigger impact on muscle-building and fat loss than you might think. If you don’t fuel your body properly with the right pre- and post-workout meal, you won’t take full advantage of your workouts and your progress will slow down.
As a quick example: eating 75 grams of sugar (about the amount in a 20-ounce bottle of soda or a fruit-packed smoothie) causes an immediate 25% drop in your testosterone, and it stays low for several hours . Testosterone plays a huge role in both muscle gain and fat loss; if you’re having cookies as a pre-workout meal or a sugary protein shake for a post-workout meal, you’re going to seriously undercut your progress.
But if you fuel your workouts with nutrient-dense, high-quality food, you’ll see a dramatic difference in how you look and feel.
Here are the best pre-workout meals and best post-workout meals to help you perform better in the gym and reach your fitness goals.
3 best pre-workout meals
As you read a moment ago, you want to avoid sugar for both pre-workout meals and post-workout meals because it will cause your testosterone to dip (although there’s a good case for having some carbs in your post-workout meal, which you’ll read about in a moment).
Instead, load up on fast-burning fats for your pre-workout meal — or don’t eat at all. Here are three excellent options for a pre-workout meal.
If you haven’t tried intermittent fasting before, skipping food before a workout may sound strange. Shouldn’t you fuel your body? Won’t you lose muscle?
Not necessarily. Working out while fasting can actually help you gain muscle and shed fat simultaneously. Here’s why:
- Intermittent fasting alone puts you into fat-burning mode, and working out fasted makes you burn even more body fat.
- Men who ate all their meals in an 8-hour window every day for 8 weeks, combined with lifting, lost significantly more body fat than those who ate an identical diet spread across the whole day. No muscle loss, either.
- Fasting dramatically increases human growth hormone (HGH). A 24-hour fast doubled HGH levels, and a 48-hour fast increased HGH 5-fold. HGH helps you put on muscle faster and also speeds up muscle recovery, so you can get back in the gym faster with less soreness.
- Trying to burn fat while maintaining (not gaining) muscle? Fasting is four times better at preserving muscle than normal daily calorie restriction.
There’s a compelling case for skipping a pre-workout meal entirely and working out before your first meal of the day.
Drink Bulletproof Coffee
If fasted workouts are a little too intense but you don’t want to eat anything heavy for a pre-workout meal, Bulletproof Coffee is the perfect option. Here’s why:
- Caffeine helps you work out harder. People who drank coffee or took caffeine before an endurance workout — biking, in this case — were faster and put out significantly more power than their caffeine-free counterparts. Weightlifters saw similar benefits from caffeine.
- Caffeine speeds up your metabolism to help you burn more fat.
- Brain Octane Oil rapidly converts to ketones, giving your cells the fuel to have a great workout. Brain Octane also increases your metabolism.
Bulletproof Coffee is a light and energizing pre-workout meal.
Nutrition Info (per 8 oz cup):
- Calories: up to 330
- Total Fat: up to 38g
- Protein: .3g
- Net Carbs: 0g
Fill up on fat & protein
If you prefer a full pre-workout meal, focus on fat and protein; you’re best off saving your carbs for after your workout, when they can help with recovery.
This keto hamburger salad fits the bill perfectly. It has high-quality protein to support muscle growth and repair, and plenty of slower-burning fat for sustained energy while you sweat.
Drizzle a tablespoon of Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil over the salad to get an immediate energy boost and enhance fat-burning. If you’re building muscle on the keto diet, this low-carb recipe is also a great post-workout meal.
Nutrition Info (per serving):
- Calories: 697
- Total Fat: 50g
- Protein: 48.7g
- Net Carbs: 6.6g
3 best post-workout meals
Your post-workout meal is just as important as your pre-workout one.
This is the time to eat some high-quality carbs; they’ll replenish the muscle glycogen that you depleted during exercise, and you’ll have increased insulin sensitivity from the workout so your blood sugar won’t spike too much. You’ll also want more protein that your muscles can use for growth and repair.
Salmon & cauliflower
This easy baked tandoori salmon with cauliflower rice (or regular rice) has everything you want post-workout: plenty of complete protein from the salmon, fiber-rich cauliflower, lots of nutrient-dense herbs and spices, and quality fat from avocado oil. Salmon is also an exceptional source of omega-3s that will help minimize joint inflammation after exercise. If you want to keep it low-carb, stick with the cauliflower rice. To refill your glycogen stores as quickly as possible post-workout, swap the cauliflower rice for organic white rice.
Nutrition Info (per serving made with cauliflower rice):
- Calories: 432
- Total Fat: 23g
- Protein: 34g
- Net Carbs: 13.9g
Steak & sweet potatoes
This post-workout meal of grass-fed steak with creamy mashed sweet potatoes feeds your muscles and your joints. It combines complete protein with quality carbs, and the sweet potatoes are nutrient-dense and have collagen protein in them, which provide plenty of the amino acids that repair your cartilage after your workout.
Nutrition Info (per serving):
- Calories: 973
- Total Fat: 66g
- Protein: 67g
- Net Carbs: 24g
Fish curry with rice
This paleo Thai fish curry with rice recipe has glycogen-replenishing white rice and complete protein from wild-caught red snapper. It’s also packed with inflammation-tamping nutrients thanks to ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, and cilantro, and has omega-3s to help your joints recover.
Nutrition Info (per serving):
- Calories: 803
- Total Fat: 36.7g
- Protein: 51.3g
- Net Carbs: 62g
These pre-workout and post-workout meals support your muscles and joints so you can get the most benefit from your workout. Give them a try and see if you feel a difference in the gym.
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