Ask Mike: What should I eat before and after a workout? And how do I time it right?

Here at MW Fitness personal training gym, we are all about maximising your workout. Fuelling your body before you start exercising and refuelling afterwards are both crucial to getting the most reward for your effort.

workout foods

When you come in to the fitness centre, we are always more than happy to work with you as your personal trainer and nutritionist, analysing your diet and giving you specific tips to ensure the food you eat enhances your training plan, but here is my general advice for making every fitness workout count.

Eat before you train – maximise your results

Food is fuel, it’s that simple. If you don’t prepare your body for the hard work it’s about to do, you won’t make the most of your gym workout or personal training sessions, so it’s essential that you eat something before starting your training exercises, whatever fitness program you are following.

If you don’t eat before you train, several things will happen:

  • You’ll feel dizzy, nauseous and/or lethargic.
  • You are more likely to injure yourself.
  • You’ll make it to about 40 minutes, but then you’ll flag. We can set our watches by it!

Kickstart your metabolism

Make sure you get through the whole workout by eating between 30 mins to 3 hours before you exercise. Timing can be tricky, particularly if you are training first thing in the morning or coming straight from work on the way home – but DON’T skip a meal. In these situations a quick snack is fine – the trick is to balance the amount eaten with the time available before you work out.

The balance of carbs and protein required depends on the aim of your workout – there’s no one-size-fits-all plan (that’s why you need a personal fitness trainer!) but generally if you’re aim is muscle gain or weight gain you need to be loading with a carb and protein heavy meal or snack (heavy resistance training on an empty stomach is wasting your time), whereas for weight loss you can focus more on the protein.

Go for simple carbs before you work out – they are digested fast and provide energy right when you need it. If you don’t have time to factor in a full meal, great snacks before a gym workout include:

  • fruit (especially bananas)
  • juice
  • granola bar
  • piece of toast

In terms of protein, choose something easily digestible and not too heavy, for instance

  • nuts
  • Greek yoghurt
  • milk
  • soy milk
  • protein shake with oats
  • or just grab a protein bar!

Refuel after exercise to burn more fat

When you finish your workout, it’s time to refuel. There are huge benefits from doing this, including:

  • Boosting metabolism
  • Increased fat burning
  • Faster muscle repair

There’s a window of about 30 minutes after physical training when your metabolism keeps going – we like to call it the “afterburn”. A great post-workout boost, if your body runs out of fuel the afterburn stops and starts breaking down muscle instead – so it’s essential to refuel soon after working out to keep this bonus fat-burning going.

It’s important to replace the calories used after intense workout exercises – muscles are fuelled by glycogen, and need sugar and starch as well as protein, which is particularly important if you’ve been weight training. When you lift weights, you create small tears in muscle fibres, and it’s the body’s repair process that builds up these muscles – protein is vital for that process.

If you’re refuelling with carbs, now is the time to go for complex carbs, as you don’t need them to break down quickly.

Post workout snacks should be around 150 calories, and can include:

  • brown rice
  • nuts
  • whole wheat bread
  • protein smoothie
  • fruit
  • Greek yoghurt

Mike’s top tip: It can be hard to get enough protein within the 30 minute magic window, particularly as many of you travel to and from the MW Fitness gym in Bishop’s Stortford. Why not go for a protein bar instead? My recommendation is “Pulsin Protein Booster Bars,” which are available online. They are also stocked here at MWFitness studio. Why not grab one before you leave?!!

The recipe for success

Whatever your health and fitness goals, by giving your body what it needs before and after personal training, you will maximise the benefits of all the hard work you put in at the gym. As fitness instructors, we are here to help you succeed and reach your goals, and enhancing your diet with these simple changes will positively impact your performance at every session.

Don’t waste your workout!

Yours in health,


MW Fitness Personal Training, Bishop’s Stortford