Pre and Post Workout Fueling

I had an amazing opportunity presenting to the Green Valley Orangetheory Fitness Center members on what to eat pre and post work out. Orangetheory Fitness uses the science of Heart-Rate Based Treadmill Interval Training, the efficiency of Indoor Rowing for increased power and the proven concept of Weight Training Blocks to create the fitness level. I highly recommend trying out their classes. I personally love working out there. For more info and how to receive free sessions go to

There is a lot of conflicting evidence from different fitness and nutrition experts out there on this topic. I always base my recommendations on science. Even then, certain topics invite debate .So I am going to give you some general guidelines but again always remember every individuals needs are different and always listen to your body and fine tune based on how your body is responding.

What you eat before (and if needed, during) your workout is crucial for fueling the workout itself and maximizing your performance throughout.

What you eat after your workout is crucial for optimizing the recovery process (which basically begins as soon as your workout ends) and ensuring that your body has all of the supplies it needs in order to recover, adapt and improve the way you want it to

Pre-workout Fueling

The purpose to Pre workout fueling (“Energy Phase”)

  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown
  • Decrease muscle glycogen depletion
  • Enhance performance with more energy
  • Prevent hypoglycemia ( low blood sugar)

You need energy, of course, for intense exercise. You probably interpret energy as food, but you also have some energy stored in your muscles as glycogen. Your body uses that glycogen to carry out functions even when you are sleeping. So when you wake up in the morning the glycogen stores are low and therefore we need to replenish those stores by fueling before our morning workout.

Don’t run on an empty tank

Just like a car, if you don’t put gas in the car, it is not going anywhere. The same way, your body is not going to be able to perform without any fuel. May people don’t like eating before a workout, especially if they are working out early in the morning because they are afraid of cramping, nausea or vomiting. It’s true that exercising on a full stomach can cause some people to experience nausea, muscle cramps, or lethargy, but not eating beforehand may make you feel light-headed, weak, or lethargic because your body doesn’t have enough fuel to sustain you during exercise. Some people can work out well in the morning on an empty stomach. They go into the gym and maintain steady energy throughout their grueling workout. What you don’t want to do is eat a big meal or a high-fat snack immediately before you work out. But if you are doing some intense workout for an hour and over like at the Orangetheory fitness center you definitely want to fuel at least 30 -60 minutes pre work with some easily digestible carbohydrates and protein. Avoid eating just 10 or 15 minutes before a workout to avoid discomfort. This fueling will also help your recover faster post workout but also reduce muscle protein breakdown.

Timing is everything

The time your body needs to digest depends on the type and quantity of the food that you consume. Generally, foods that are high in protein, fat, and fiber take the longest to digest, and the same is true with large meals. It takes about 3-4 hours for your body to digest a big meal, 2-3 hours for a smaller meal and 30 minutes to 1 hour for a mini meal. Keeping that in mind if you are working out in the evening you should have enough energy stores after your lunch meal but ifs more than 3 hours I recommend that you have a small snack with a protein and carbohydrate combination like an apple with 2 tablespoon peanut butter, a cup of plain Greek yogurt with some berries and some protein powder, eggs and some nuts, sweet potatoes with some beans. For more food combinations click here to receive your free guide on fueling for pre and post work out.



Post Workout Fueling (“anabolic phase “meaning the “the building phase”)

The purpose to Pre workout fueling (“Energy Phase”)

  • Restore muscle glycogen that was depleted during your workout.
  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown Increase muscle protein synthesis.
  • Reduce muscle soreness and fatigue..
  • Reduce cortisol levels.
  • Enhance overall recovery

Post-Workout Fueling

The first 45 minutes after a workout is the most critical period for refueling your muscles with the nutrients they need to recover and grow. Intense exercise burns a lot of sugar during a workout but more fats and calories and overall later. That’s why you need fueling post work out to optimize fat burning and replenish your muscle glycogen stores and increase muscle protein synthesis. How you refuel within the first hour post workout will determine how much energy you will have for your next workout.

Muscle repair demands carbohydrates to refuel your muscles stores and protein to rebuild your muscles. Avoid high sugar carbs post work out which will shut down post workout fat burning.

Eat slow-digesting high fiber carbohydrates like quinoa, sweet potatoes, beans and lentils, brown rice wraps, berries etc. This will prevent your blood sugar from spiking. You want to make sure you combine these carbs with a good quality proteins like organic pasture fed bison, chicken, wild fish, eggs, nuts, nut butters, legumes. Also make sure you add some healthy fats at each meal like avocado, coconut oil or ghee. Avocados are also very high in fiber. Coconut oil and coconut milk, for instance, are rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which your body can use as an alternate fuel source instead of glucose. If you are a on the go person, Protein smoothies post workout are beneficial. Some people do well with whey and casein protein powder because they ae amino acids that are absorbed very quickly into the blood stream. But some people do better with pant based non-GMO proteins like pea, hemp and rice protein powders. For more information on post work out fueling please click here to receive your free guide.


Post work out your stress hormone cortisol is elevated. Cortisol accelerates the breakdown of proteins into amino acids These amino acids move out of the tissues into the blood and to liver cells, where they are changed to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. A prolonged high blood concentration of cortisol in the blood results in a net loss of tissue proteins and higher levels of blood glucose. As it’s part of the inflammatory response, cortisol is necessary for recovery from injury. However, chronically high levels of cortisol in the blood can decrease white blood cells and antibody formation, which can lower immunity. That’s why post recovery fueling is so crucial to reduce cortisol levels post workout. Omega-3 fatty acids in wild-caught fish, flax and chia seeds, and walnuts can also help reduce the inflammation. You can also take Glutamine supplementation for recovery as well.

General tips

  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Drink at least 16 oz of water pre workout.
  • Sleep is essential for recovery and improved performance. Recommend 7- 8 hours
  • Have some exercise break days for your body to recover

Remember, “You Can’t Out-Exercise a Bad Diet!”

Download the Pre and Post Workout Guide Below:


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