Eating before or after a workout: 6 Fundamental Rules

Brandon Hahn May 23, 2012 Nutrition Articles

The rules seem straightforward, eat and grow, right? Every week there’s a new article with the same information scrambled around. You end up confused and in the spin cycle. Why can’t it just be easy and straightforward? It’s time to lay out the 6 easy rules you need to follow.

Rule 1. Eat carbs, but not too many.

Carbs seem to be on more magazine pages than Kim Kardashian. They are dressed up as the devil, but are far from it. Carbs are necessary for growth. Carbs are broken down into glucose and used as energy for your body. They also spare the breakdown of protein into glucose via gluconeogenesis.

A release of insulin helps shuttle nutrients to muscles. Depending on your sensitivity focus on 40-60 grams of carbs pre and post workout. Be sure to eat 1.5-2 hours prior to your workout for proper digestion. Focus on slower digesting foods pre-workout and faster digesting post-workout.


  • oatmeal
  • long grain brown rice
  • sweet potatoes
  • apples


  • white potatoes
  • white bread
  • fruit juice
  • bananas

Rule 2. Eat around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

 Protein is king for helping the body rebuild. However, people have too many suggestions on the right amount. Roughly one gram per pound of bodyweight has shown to be the most effective approach. Protein helps maintain an anabolic environment because it contains essential amino acids.

Too much protein can overload the body with toxins. Too little protein and your muscles cannot properly repair themselves. Protein also has the highest thermic effect (Protein is 20-30%, Carbs 15-20%, and Fats 3%). The thermic effect is the percent that gets burned up in digesting the food. Focus on lean, whole food protein sources pre-workout. Protein powder is best used post-workout.


  • chicken breasts
  • lean beef
  • turkey
  • low-fat cottage cheese


  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Most forms of Whey are suitable post-workout

Rule 3. Follow your meal timing, not the timing of your workout.
“Chug a protein shake after your workout bro!” This phrase seems to be shouted out at every gym. Eating every three to four hours is more important than a post-workout shake. Get in a meal or shake after your workout but not too close to your last meal. Eating too frequently tends to slow reduce protein synthesis.

Research shows that the “anabolic window” is not right after the workout but closer to a 24 hour period. Do not worry about chugging a protein shake immediately after the workout. Be sure to eat properly throughout the next 24 hours.

Rule 4. Limit your fat intake.

Who doesn’t love a few greasy cheeseburgers before a workout? A guy that has leg day and anyone that doesn’t want to puke! Limit your fat intake pre and post workout to limit feeling full and sluggish. Fats also slow digestion which make them a better fit before bed (Note: focus on healthy fats like poly and monounsaturated fats). Fats also slow blood flow. This is not good since it can limit muscle pumps!

Rule 5. Limit fiber pre- and post-workout.

Fiber is similar to fat in that it can make you sluggish. According to grandma, it can help keep the system clean too! Around your workout, frequent bathroom trips are not ideal. Fiber tends to sit in your stomach and slow digestion. This is why it’s important to limit how much you eat both pre- and post-workout. Fiber is a great addition to your diet, but limit the amount around your workout to five grams or less.

Rule 6. Eat whole foods, then drink the shake

Protein shakes are everywhere these days. Gas stations are stocking up on several brands. This is nice for an emergency meal, but not in your pre-workout meal. Whole foods require the body to work harder to break them down. Protein shakes digest quite fast and are ideal post-workout for a quick refuel. Try to drink no more than two protein shakes per day.

Six quick and easy fundamental rules to follow. Remember to log your food intake to keep track of your calories. You will be on your way to a beach body in no time!

About The Author

Brandon has been in the fitness industry for over seven years and has trained over 1,000 clients. He has competed in several bodybuilding competitions and continues to improve his physique with hardwork and dedication. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, Brandon has the knowledge and skills to get you on the fast track to fitness.