What To Eat Before And After A Workout: A Personal Trainer Explains

What To Eat Before And After A Workout: A Personal Trainer Explains Hero Image
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To celebrate Mindful Movement Week here at mindbodygreen, we’re sharing the many ways that fitness enthusiasts practice mind-body exercise.

Todd McCullough (TMAC) is the founder of TMAC FITNESS and located in Santa Monica, Ca. TMAC FITNESS’s mission is to assist in creating a culture that is conscious of the body and the world in which we live. For more workouts from Todd, please check out his video course, 20 Minutes To Strong, Healthy & Fit: A 7-Day Personal Training Program. And for even more info on all things fitness, check out our awesome video courses.

My food philosophy is pretty simple. If I can plant it, pick it or catch it, then I can eat it. If not, then I stay away. This is the same approach that I take when it comes to pre and post-workout snacks. It's a big step forward from my teenage days of crushing Ultimate Orange! When I fuel up before a workout, I usually go for a combination of sugar and fat. The sugar gives me energy before the workout, and the fat fuels me through the workout. I don’t always have access to both a sugar and a fat all the time, so I sometimes have to settle for just one.

Here are some natural foods that will prep you for your workouts and help you recover afterwards.

Pre-workout snacks:

1. Handful of Raw Almonds and Blueberries

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2. Spoonful of Peanut Butter with a bit of raw honey

3. ¼ Spoonful of Coconut Oil (an old athlete secret)

Post-workout meals

For post-workout meals, you need to focus on a combo of protein, fat, carbs and sugar. I suggest getting your carbs from veggies and having a small serving of sweet potatoes if your goal is to lose weight. Remember: Don’t overthink any of this, keep it simple. Just eat real whole food!

1. Veggie Egg Scramble + Fruit (my go-to breakfast after a workout)
  • Pick 3 of your favorite Veggies (onion, mushroom, spinach, etc.)
  • 2-4 Eggs
  • Small Bowl of Fruit- Watermelon is great post workout snack. Growing up in the hot south, I assure there is nothing more quenching after a long, hot football practice than some good ole watermelon!
2. A Huge Salad (my go-to lunch after a workout)
  • Dark Leafy Greens- use spinach, kale, romaine or arugula, and add in some chopped herbs like basil, parsley or cilantro
  • Lean Protein- choose between chicken, turkey or fish. I use canned tuna, salmon, or even sardines are fine on occasion
  • Vegetables- use an unlimited amount of beets, carrots, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, radish or celery
  • Fruit- use only 1-2 servings of strawberries, blueberries, apple, pear slices, cucumbers or tomatoes
  • Fats- choose 1-2 of the following: ¼ - ½ avocado, 6-8 raw almonds or walnuts, or sprinkling some raw sunflower seeds
  • Dressing- 1 tablespoon olive oil + a touch of vinegar (red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar are great options) and a squeeze of lemon or lime
3. Dinner (if I exercise after the work day)
  • Protein- chicken, fish, beef or wild game
  • Veggies- 2 servings
  • Fat- 1 serving

I make an effort to eat within 30-45 minutes after a workout. If that's hard to make happen, I pack fruit and raw almonds with me. Also, I make a conscious effort to drink a lot of water post-workout to assure that I don’t overeat. Dehydration is often mistaken as hunger. I should just hand out my business card at the smoothie stations at gyms and say call me in a month when you realize your hour cardio class followed by your banana, blueberry, mango, strawberry smoothie has actually made you gain five pounds! This $12 "healthy" smoothie sends your insulin levels on a roller-coaster ride, causing your body to store fat. You do need sugar post workout, but limit the smoothie to one or two servings.

Now with my 20-Minute Workout Videos my clients have the time to get their workout in AND cook a well-balanced meal at home.

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