VIDEO: Pre and Post Workout Nutrition for Workouts Less than 1 Hour

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What you eat prior to your workout will determine your energy levels during a workout. What you eat after a workout will determine how quickly you recover.

By Marni Rakes, MS, ISSN 


Pre and post training nutrition are two key elements to your training performance. What you eat prior to your workout will determine your energy levels during a workout and what you eat after a workout will determine how quickly you recover. While it is significant that you should eat something prior to your workout, the duration of the workout should be taken into consideration in order to properly fuel. Similarly, the post training snack should be calorie-appropriate to the length of the workout.

Pre Training Snack

LENGTH OF WORKOUT: 1 hour or less
HOW MANY CALORIES: Nothing to 75-120 calories


  • Water- 1 water bottle

  • Coffee – 1 cup

  • 8 oz. sport drink or low sugar/diet fruit juice (diet V8 splash)

  • Graham Cracker Sheet

  • Rice Cake

  • Toast (40-50 calories) w/spray butter, cinnamon or sugar free jelly

  • ¼-½ granola/sports bar

  • ¼ cup dry cereal

  • A few nuts

  • Handful pretzels

  • Nothing

WHEN TO EAT: 20-45 minutes prior to workout


WHY: Exercising on an empty stomach for light intensity 30-45 min. workouts (swimming and cycling) increases fat metabolism. This is useful for those wanting to lose a little weight or for endurance athletes who want to preserve glycogen.


To prevent feeling dizzy or lightheaded, experiment with foods to see how little you need in order to have a quality workout. It is recommended to have something in your system right when you wake up if you are doing a run workout or something high-intensity. Because of the change in blood pressure with lifting weights, have something light before weight lifting. Because the purpose of the pre-training meal for 1 hour or less workouts is to prevent hunger, while raising blood sugar after an overnight fast, your body doesn’t require a lot of food for these lighter workouts.


Prevent a rapid rise in blood sugar from eating high glycemic carbs, sugary drinks or too many calories. Avoid high fat and high fiber foods as well. If the workout is more than an hour you will be more concerned with having enough food in your system for stamina and endurance.

Post Training Snack

LENGTH OF WORKOUT: 1 hour or less
HOW MANY CALORIES: 100 calories or less, followed by a 300-400 calorie complex carb/ complete protein meal


Post training snacks options:

  • Water- 1 water bottle

  • 8-12 oz. sport drink or try a low sugar/diet fruit juice (diet V8 splash)

  • 100 calorie snack pack (carbohydrates)

  • Rice Cake

  • 8 oz skim/soy milk (preferably light soy milk)

  • ½ - ¾ granola/sports bar (same bar from morning)

  • ½ cup dry cereal

  • A few nuts

  • Piece of cheese

  • 1-2 hard boiled egg whites

  • 40-60 calorie yogurt

  • Handful pretzels

  • 1 scoop 90-110 calorie protein powder w/water

  • Small lollipop

  • Piece of sugar-free gum

  • Nothing – consume meal

Post Training Meal

  • Example: ½ cup instant oatmeal, 10 raisins, ½ cup vanilla light soy milk, ½ ripe banana, 1 heaping spoonful protein powder (mix after oatmeal is cooked) = 250calories.

  • + 1 cup seasonal fresh fruit = 80 calories

  • + ½ cup cooked egg beaters (or 3-4 cooked egg whites)
    Total breakfast: 390 calories

WHEN TO EAT: Snack within 15-30 minutes after the workout and eat within 45-60 minutes after workout. Allow at least 10-20 minutes between snack and meal.

WHY: Regardless if your workout was short and light or quick and intense you are likely going to feel hungry after your workout, especially if you choose to eat nothing before the workout. The purpose of a short workout post-training snack is to prevent overeating during your post-training meal. Whether your 1-hour workout takes place at lunchtime, in the evening or early morning, it is likely that you will have a meal after your workout.


If you are working out mid-day or mid-morning, you will want to plan your workout so that it is a few hours after a meal. Be sure your pre-training meal is fully digested (allow 2-3 hours). You will want to follow your workout with your mid-morning or mid-day snack.


Unless your workout was a shorter high intensity bike or run, a 1-hour workout will not initiate an extreme amount of stress to your body. Therefore, a protein-recovery drink is not necessary. A carbohydrate-protein meal within 15-30 min. after the workout will ensure quick refueling and protein re-synthesis.


If you feel extremely hungry after the workout, and consider yourself to be a grazer when it comes to eating after training, help yourself to a 100 or less calorie snack immediately after training. With a light post training snack you will actually end up eating less at your meal due to a suppression of hunger after your workouts.


About Marni - See all Articles - Custom Nutrition Program
Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. Certified sports nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition.  Spinning class teacher and CPR certified. 2006 Boston Marathon, 2006 IMFL, 2007 Ironman World Championship finisher and qualified for the 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

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date: November 4, 2007