The best foods to eat before and after a workout

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Fitness enthusiasts and athletes often face a big dilemma about what to eat before and after a workout. Nutrition is an essential aspect of fitness because food helps optimize the body’s performance during physical activity. Choosing what to eat before and after a workout can be a struggle, but it’s worth it. If you’re going to put your body to work and burn calories, you must fuel it with good nutrition that can sustain you.

It doesn’t have to be any special meals just because you want to work out. It can be your usual delicious food and snacks. The kind of food you already enjoy and will even love to enjoy more now that you know it’ll help in attaining your fitness goals. What you eat after working out is also equally important. After your body is exhausted and drained, it needs to be refueled as it recovers.

Although people are usually mentally prepared for workout sessions, sometimes they forget to fuel the body. So what are some of the best meals to eat pre-workout and post-workout? How long should you eat before or after a workout?

What to eat before you workout

To get the most out of your exercise sessions, it’s advisable to eat before so you have the energy to burn. However, failing to eat before a workout could lead to serious complications such as feeling lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous, or sluggish.

According to research, you are more likely to injure yourself during a workout if you don’t have adequate sugar levels. Sugar helps keep your brain active and allows you to concentrate. However, once there’s little sugar in your body, you easily lose concentration. Essentially, skipping meals before a workout can negatively affect your performance and lower your gains.

Here is what you can eat before a workout:

what to eat


The workout involves using your body’s muscles which depend on glucose to function properly. The body processes and stores glucose using glycogen. When you’re engaged in high-intensity exercises for a short period, your muscles’ main source of getting energy is your glycogen stores.

For short and high-intensity exercise, your glycogen stores become your body’s primary source of energy. However, it varies as the carbohydrates depend on the intensity, diet, and type of training for prolonged exercises. Glycogen stores are naturally limited, and when they deplete, your workout output is reduced drastically. Research shows carbohydrates increase and expand the glycogen stores while improving carb oxidation as you work out.

Some Ghanaian foods high in carbohydrates are corn, yam, plantain, rice, etc.

Boiled corn and coconut are a go-to meal when in need of carbohydrates. It’s a quick-fix snack usually sold by the roadside in Ghana. The corn is either boiled or roasted under fire. When roasted, it is best accompanied with groundnuts.


Studies have consistently shown that protein intake before a workout drastically improves the performance of athletes. Moreover, eating carbohydrates in addition to protein before exercise enhances muscle protein synthesis making you more durable.

Proteins target your muscles and ensure they’re in the best condition while you exercise. That’s why it’s very important to consume some protein before a workout.

Some other benefits of taking in protein before exercising include:

  1. Better muscle growth
  2. Your muscles improve better and faster
  3. Improves your strength and while reducing your body mass
  4. It takes the performance of your muscles to the next level

Some Ghanaian foods high in protein are beans, fish, chicken, egg, etc.

The most popular option is beans which is commonly referred to as ‘gob3’. This local delicacy sees beans mixed with gari and palm oil. Usually, some fried plantain is thrown alongside to make the meal complete.


If you are the type of fitness enthusiast who spends long hours in the gym, you should focus on consuming fats. Glycogen helps with short and high-intensity exercises, while fat is used for more extended and rather low-to-moderate exercises.

Studies revealed that fat improves endurance and stamina as it acts as a second wind.

Some studies have investigated the effects of fat intake on athletic performance.

There are different types of fats, and you have to ensure you consume healthy and nutritious ones.

Some high-fat Ghanaian foods include avocados, whole eggs, fatty fish, coconuts, yogurts, etc.

The coconut business in Ghana continues to boom because everyone loves it. Fitness enthusiasts aren’t left out as coconuts can play a crucial role in helping you reach your goals. Aside from the quenching feeling of coconut juice, the fruit itself is one of the richest sources of saturated fat on the planet. Another reason to consume coconut is that it improves your stamina and increases your metabolism level to 120 calories per day.

Time your pre-workout meal

The time you eat before a workout is equally as important as what you eat.

To get the most from your workout, try to consume a complete meal with carbohydrates, protein, and fat at least 2 hours before you begin exercising.

If not getting a full 2 hours before a workout, you can still get a lighter pre-workout meal. Keep in mind, the lesser time to have till workout time, the lighter the food should be.

If you end up eating within an hour to workout, opt for meals that can digest and contain just carbohydrates and protein. This will help reduce the likelihood of experiencing any stomach discomfort as you exercise.

If you eat 45-60 minutes before your workout, choose simple foods to digest and contain mainly carbs and some protein.

Here are some examples of balanced pre-workout meals:

If you start workout within 2-3 Hours

  • A small portion of waakye and egg
  • A small portion of plantain and beans
  • A full-sized fish or chicken

If you start workout within 2 Hours

  • Boiled egg
  • Whole-grain cereal and milk
  • Boiled or roasted corn with coconut or groundnut

If you start workout within 1 hour

  • Yogurt and fruit
  • A protein or nutrition or fruit bar
  • Just a fruit such as a banana, coconut, orange, or apple

Remember, you don’t have to eat a lot of pre-workout meals at the same time. Picking one from the list at a time is good enough.

You are not limited to the meals listed above and try different nutrient compositions and timings.

Hydration is non-negotiable

Your body needs water to function properly.

Research shows good hydration enhances performance during physical activity.

To improve fluid balance, it is advised that you take in water and sodium before you workout so the fluids can be retained. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) advises drinking 0.5-0.6 liters of water four hours before the workout and then 0.23-0.35 liters of water 15 minutes before exercise. In addition, it’s key you stay hydrated during your workout. Try to drink one cup of water between 15 to 30 minutes, especially if you are training in a hot place.

This may take you to experiment to find out how much water your body needs during a workout.

Here is what you can eat before a workout:

It is very crucial to eat after your workout. This is because your body used up calories during exercising and needs to be replaced. In addition, the glycogen that was depleted during the workout needs to be replenished.

You need to consume protein to make sure your muscles recover faster, especially if you lift weights. Also, when you sweat, you lose some electrolytes that food can replace.

Fatigue and dizziness can set in once you workout, and don’t eat after because your blood sugar could be low. In addition, skipping meals after working out could slow down your steps to reaching your fitness goals.

Here’s what you can consume after a workout:

Keep Hydrating

Drinking water to replace the fluids lost is even more urgent than eating right after a workout.

You must get enough water in your system to make sure you feel active and hydrated.

Being dehydrated after physical activity could lead to health complications, so keep a bottle of water by your side.

Make sure to eat something, at least.

When you work so hard in the gym, it means you’ve used so much energy as your muscles will feel tired. So even if you can’t eat a complete meal after, try getting a snack to help get some energy back. For example, a chocolate or protein, or fruit bar could help you rack up some calories.

Having a snack should be temporary as you should have a full meal later. An intense workout leaves a mark on your glycogen and muscles. Therefore it’s required your post-workout should complex carbohydrates that digest slowly and have a high quantity of healthy protein.

Some complex carbohydrates include:

  • Quinoa
  • Waakye
  • Kenkey
  • Banku
  • Brown rice
  • Nuts
  • Whole wheat bread

Some healthy proteins include:

  • Tofu
  • Beans
  • Fish


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