To Eat or Not to Eat? Getting the most out of your pre and post workout nutrition

mine takes me to the squat rack!

*From guest blogger Brett Sanders

Thankfully, most people who are into exercise or nutrition are now realising that the two go hand-in-hand. Kind of like potatoes and butter (or butter and anything really). You cannot have one without the other.

The saying “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet” is very, very true.

Fortunately, these same intelligent people are putting two and two together and instead of just pounding away in the gym and eating junk food are pretty clued up on what they should be eating. I think we can all agree that eating real food from wholesome, natural sources is the best way to go.

But where people get stuck is on the when of eating to fuel your workouts.

Before I get into my recommendations and how I suggest my clients eat, I’ll make something clear: the following is based on an approach that supports the body to become healthier by supporting the metabolic rate and balancing energy at a cellular level (if it sounds complicated, it’s not, don’t panic.)

If you’re looking for a quick-fix to get in your bikini/lose weight in 7 days/look good naked without realising any health benefits, this is not it.

But if you do want to have more energy to complete your workouts, beat the afternoon slump, avoid food cravings, become stronger, fitter, have a better libido, more confidence, efficient digestion, improved sleep and better moods, please read on.

Break the fast

Start off eating as soon as you can after waking up. If you’re managing to get a decent night’s sleep of 7+ hours, then it’s been at least that amount of time since you last ate and your blood sugar and metabolism will be dropping as a result. When this happens your stress hormones will be elevating and your body will become catabolic – this is a big word for tissue destruction meaning your body will be in the zone of breaking down your muscles.

For best results we want our body to be the opposite – anabolic.

If you don’t like eating first thing in the morning, this is because your stress hormones are too high from the previous day and through the night. Try to eat something as soon as you can – within one hour of waking – and gradually over time you will want to eat more of a substantial breakfast.

There are many people suggesting “fasted cardio” first thing in the morning (doing cardio training on an empty stomach) to get “shredded”. I’m sorry to say if this is your thing you will be compromising on your hormonal balance by creating a rush of adrenaline and cortisol, the body’s major stress hormones.

If you are only able to have your workouts in the morning, it is important that you consume something before you train. If I train soon after waking, I will have a snack-sized portion of whatever is on the meal plan for that day, leave it for approximately 30 minutes, and then have my workout. I will then make the next fuelling after my workout more a meal-sized portion.

How soon after training should you eat?

I recommend people eat straight after their workout. This will be at least a snack-sized portion of food, all the way up to a full-sized meal depending on what time of day you are training.

The reason eating immediately after training is so important is because the act of eating (as long as you are eating the right things) is a way of lowering stress on the body and optimising that hormonal balance again. And despite how it might make you feel mentally, exercise is a stress on the body so if you don’t fuel it properly then you could be doing more harm than good.

Eating within the 30-40 minute window after working out will ensure you are putting your body into recovery mode as quickly as possible.

Eat often

Once you’ve started your day and eaten a nutritious breakfast, you should try to eat to a regular schedule of every 3-4 hours (maximum). If you find it difficult to go this long without getting hungry, it would be helpful for you to look at exactly what you are eating to avoid this as your blood sugar handling is not optimal.

Following this schedule, it is best to plan your workouts around having a snack approximately 30 minutes before your workout, followed by something afterwards as described above.

Now, we haven’t yet covered what to eat at any of these different times of day. Quite frankly if you are eating – as I suggested above – real, wholesome, natural food, then you can technically eat any type of food at any time of the day. It does not have to be a typical breakfast, lunch or dinner food.

By following these simple tips you can now make sure you are getting the most out of your workouts by fuelling them properly, and by using this as a lifestyle plan you can follow for the rest of your life, you’ll be feeling strong and looking awesome.

meet Brett!



Brett Sanders is the managing director of  which helps connect users with gyms and personal trainers across the UK. Brett is an holistic lifestyle coach, husband and father of two. He excels at getting to the root cause of health concerns to help you live a full and happy life. For more information check out Brett’s profile at GymBuzz or connect with him on Twitter @brettdsanders

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