Should You Eat Between Workouts?

It’s a common question with a lot of different answers. Here’s what the science says about eating before or after exercise.

Benefits of Eating Between Workouts

Eating between workouts can be beneficial for athletes and gym-goers alike, as it can provide the extra energy needed to complete a session and make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs. Eating the right snacks between workouts can help you to perform better, recover faster, and build muscle faster. Let’s explore the benefits of eating between workouts.

Improved energy levels

Eating between workouts can help to improve energy levels and help you achieve a better workout performance. It can also provide your body with the fuel it needs to restore and build muscle after exercise. Eating between workouts can result in increased energy during forthcoming activities, improved nutrient delivery during and after workouts, better muscle recovery, improved performance in high-intensity workouts, fewer cravings, and greater satiety following meals.

When choosing pre- or post-workout snacks, choose those that are low in sugar and include a combination of protein for muscle recovery and complex carbohydrates for sustained energy. Planning meals or snacks around your workout schedule will make it easier to prepare healthier options. Good choices may include a piece of fruit with nut butter or yogurt with a small portion of whole grains like oats or quinoa.

Increased muscle gains

Eating between workouts can provide a number of benefits when it comes to increasing muscle gains. Muscles are broken down and need protein, amino acids, and other nutrients and vitamins to repair, rebuild, and grow after exercising. Eating a snack between workouts can provide the necessary fuel for muscles to rebuild stronger. Protein is necessary for muscle re-growth and should be included in snacks between workouts for maximum benefit.

Another benefit of eating between workouts is that by eating frequently during the day, your body is better able to fuel activities after a workout. Pre-workout snacks will help you perform at your peak during exercise whereas post-workout snacks will promote recovery and provide energy for after exercise activities.

Eating several smaller meals during the day has been found to be more beneficial than eating one or two larger meals spread out farther apart over the course of a day. During working out kcal content should be fairly low but with enough carbs included so that the muscles have stimulated activity, before being replenished afterwards with higher kcal foods once activity has finished.

The right mixture of carbohydrates, protein, fats and essential vitamins will ensure optimal gains in lean muscle mass if eaten between workout periods throughout the day. In addition to promoting lean muscle growth, proper fueling before and after exercise can also help speed up recovery time so that you will be able to get back in the gym sooner rather than later!

Improved recovery

In order to benefit from your workout sessions and make the most of physical activity, recovery must be addressed as well. When you exercise, your body can become depleted of energy and nutrients, which is why consuming food within a few hours before or after workouts is beneficial for recovery. Eating between workouts helps replenish energy reserves in the muscles and promote greater physical performance. Additionally, eating timely meals provide the body with essential vitamins and minerals, like sodium and potassium that can help speed up the recovery process. Nutritionists often recommend consuming food that is high in protein and carbohydrates prior to a workout session to ensure muscle health during exercise and post-workout snacks that are rich in carbohydrates to optimize nutrient absorption. Incorporating these habits into your routine can help aid in improved recovery after every workout session.

What to Eat Between Workouts

Eating between workouts can be beneficial for muscle recovery and ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs for optimal performance. However, it can also be easy to get off track if you’re not paying attention to your nutrition. It’s important to understand the best pre- and post-workout snacks to ensure your body has the energy it needs for an effective workout. Let’s dive into what to eat between workouts.


When it comes to keeping your body fueled and energized for exercise, carbohydrates are an essential part of planning meals, snacks and hydration. Carbohydrates provide the fuel needed for intense workouts and activities. The quality of carbohydrates you consume is just as important as the quantity.

Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly so they can be used in a short amount of time while complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and can supply energy over a long period of time. For example, if you plan to exercise for more than an hour, it’s recommended that you have some form of complex carbohydrate that breaks down slowly such as nuts or whole grain pasta or bread prior to exercising. During exercise, simple carbs like fruit juices or sports drinks can help keep your energy levels up so you can continue performing at your peak.

For those trying to lose weight through diet and exercise, it’s important to remember that doing more than one hard workout per day is not recommended unless adequate nutritional planning is in place. Eating both simple and complex carbs between workouts provides sustained energy as well as muscle glycogen replenishment which helps with recovery after intense bouts of physical activity. Eating balanced meals with small snacks between large meals is always the best way to ensure adequate fuel is available during strenuous physical activity throughout the day.


Protein is an essential nutrient for building and maintaining muscle mass, as well as aiding in recovery after a workout. However, determining how much protein to eat and when to eat it can be tricky. The amount of protein you should consume depends on the type of exercise you’re doing, the intensity of the workout and individual factors such as body weight. Generally speaking, if your training session is less than one hour long and at low intensity, no additional post-workout nutrition is required. However, you should aim to consume some quality sources of protein including fish, poultry and eggs within a few hours of your exercise session for optimal muscle recovery.

If your nourishing window exceeds four hours post-exercise or if your training session was high intensity or longer than one hour, you may want to consider supplementing with a quality source of protein such as whey protein powder or plant-based proteins. Quick absorbing proteins are best for replacing lost nutrients from a workout while promoting faster recovery times — just be sure to stay away from candy bars or sugary snacks! To ensure maximum absorption of nutrients and optimal muscle repair you may also want to include some complex carbohydrates along with your protein snacks such as oatmeal, quinoa or even brown rice cakes.

Healthy fats

Healthy fats are an important part of anyone’s diet and they’re especially beneficial prior to workouts. That’s because they provide slow-release energy and essential nutrients, like Omega-3 fatty acids. Eating a small amount of healthy fat, such as grass-fed butter, olive oil or coconut oil, before your workout will give you sustained energy and also improve muscle recovery time after a workout.

A few good food sources of healthy fats include avocados, nuts (such as almonds), seeds (like chia and flax) and fatty fish (salmon is an excellent choice). See if you can incorporate some of these foods into your meal or snack plan between workouts. Additionally, coconut products like coconut manna provide a delicious source of healthy vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that are beneficial in fueling a strenuous workout session.

Timing of Eating Between Workouts

When it comes to exercise and nutrition, timing is very important. Eating between workouts can help you refuel your energy stores and help you perform at your best during the workout. However, it is important to plan the timing of your meals in order to optimize their benefits. Let’s explore the best timing for eating between workouts in order to maximize results.


Eating before exercise is key to maximizing performance, especially if the workout includes intense exercise. Pre-workout meals should provide a source of carbohydrates, along with some lean protein and healthy fats. The timing of your pre-workout meal is based on how long before your workout you will be eating.

If it is more than 2-3 hours prior to exercising, aim for a well-balanced meal with proper portions of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Eating protein before working out helps to build muscle mass and can contribute to better performance during a workout. Some examples of pre-workout meals include whole wheat bread or rolled oats topped with almond butter along with plain yogurt, or cottage cheese and fruit served with nuts or seeds; both are balanced meals that are light on the stomach and provide energy for exercise.

If it’s closer to 1 hour before exercising then consuming some type of snack that’s higher in carbohydrates like a banana, apple or toast topped with nut butter may be beneficial. This will give you the energy that you need without being too heavy on your stomach – try avoiding highly processed carbs like white breads as they might send your blood sugar levels soaring then crashing shortly after exercise starts. Avoiding too much fat prior to an activity as well since these take more time to digest which can lead to feeling stuffed while working out!


Eating after your workout is essential for the body to maximize its potential. Post-workout meals should contain both carbs and protein. Consuming these nutrients after a workout helps your muscles return to their pre-exercise state and prevents them from breaking down instead of building up. After an intense workout, your body needs carbohydrates to replenish lost glycogen stores, while protein helps build muscle and repair cells damaged during exercise.

It’s best to eat soon after finishing a workout, but strive for within two hours of completing your session if possible. It is recommended that you consume 20–30 grams of protein at each meal, with 25–50 grams at post-workout meals. Additionally, include carbohydrates in a ratio of 3:1 carbs to protein for refueling; about 0.4 g per kilogram of body weight is indicative of this ratio — 70 grams for a 175-pound person. Some foods that contain the ideal amounts of macronutrients include eggs potato or sweet potatoes with tuna or another lean meat, couscous with grilled chicken or salmon, yogurt with fruit and nuts or nut butter toast, lentils and ground turkey over salad greens, tofu scramble and oatmeal with walnuts or almonds.

In-between workouts

Eating in-between workouts, or pre and post workout nutrition, is an important part of optimizing your performance and preventing injuries. To best fuel your body for physical activity, it is important to eat the right amount of the right type of food at the right times.

During exercise, energy comes primarily from stored glycogen—carbohydrates that are stored in the muscle. As a result, athletes should make sure they have consumed adequate amounts of carbohydrates to support their workout, as well as proteins and fats to supply energy throughout their training session. This can be done by either eating a pre-workout snack or meal 1-3 hours before exercise or consuming smaller snacks 15-30 minutes prior to exercise. After exercise, it’s also important to fuel up with carbohydrates, proteins and fats to replenish stores that were used during training.

Studies suggest that consuming carbohydrates immediately following exercise can replace lost muscle glycogen stored in muscles more efficiently than if no carbohydrate was ingested after the workout. Timing isn’t everything though; research also suggests that following a balanced meal plan throughout the day can help support recovery between workouts and optimize training performance overall. Regardless of what you eat or when you eat it, it’s important to continuously replenish necessary nutrients like protein and vitamins lost through physical activity so our bodies can perform optimally!

Considerations for Eating Between Workouts

Eating between workouts can be a great way to fuel your body and optimize your performance in the gym. However, there are certain things to consider before eating between workouts, such as timing, type of food, and portion size. Let’s take a closer look at the various considerations for eating between workouts.

Type of workout

What kind of workout you have just completed is a major factor when it comes to deciding if eating between workouts is necessary. In general, the intensity, duration, and type of physical activity you have performed will determine how important it is for you to eat shortly after exercising.

For short-duration, low-intensity activities such as walking and yoga, it is usually not necessary to eat immediately afterwards. However, longer duration or higher intensity activities like running and weightlifting require specific nutrition for full recovery and should be fueled soon after exercise.

Weightlifting: Eating immediately after a weightlifting session helps replenish energy stores while providing essential nutrients (such as protein) needed for muscle repair and growth. Protein shakes are convenient options that can help rebuild muscle tissue quickly.

Cardio: Eating shortly after completing cardio exercises such as running or cycling can help replenish glycogen stores in your muscles to ensure that energy levels remain high over the course of your next workout session(s). Post-workout snacks that contain carbs and proteins in a 3:1 ratio are ideal in assisting with recovery post-cardio.

It’s also important to consider overall calorie and nutritional needs when deciding if eating between workouts is necessary. If you’re already adequately meeting your daily dietary requirements through meals evenly spread throughout the day then snacks between workouts may not be necessary. However, those engaging in high-intensity physical activity may need more fuel than normal (especially if showing signs of fatigue) which could necessitate unique nutritional needs prior to their next workout session(s).

Duration of workout

When considering whether to eat between workouts, the duration of the workout is an important factor to consider. Generally, for short-term workouts of about 30 minutes or less, it is not necessary to consume additional fuel in the form of a snack or meal before or after a workout as long as your existing nutrient intake is adequate. However, eating a small snack that contains some protein and carbohydrates prior to exercising may help maintain energy levels during your workout. If your training session exceeds 90 minutes but you do not have time for a full meal before exercising, it is recommended to eat a light snack with carbohydrates and protein beforehand in order to provide some extra fuel for your muscles and maximize performance. Additionally, following workouts of longer duration, such as 90 minutes or more, consuming carbohydrate and protein-containing snacks will aid greatly in muscle recovery and support optimal performance during subsequent exercise sessions.

Body type

When considering if you should eat between workouts, one factor to consider is your body type. People who have a higher percentage of muscle mass tend to use up the energy (fuel) more quickly than other body types. Those with higher muscle mass may require an additional energy source before and after their workouts in order to make sure the muscles are fed and not broken down for energy.

On the flip side, those with a higher percentage of fat are likely going to have a better time with longer-term fuel stores and can therefore perform on less frequent feeds. In that case, eating more around main meals and larger snacks throughout the day may be more beneficial than having small snacks before and after each workout session.

Depending on your individual body composition, your nutrition plan should take that into consideration. It’s important to assess over the course of several weeks how you react to nutrition before, during, and after physical activity, in order to naturally learn what works best for you and your specific needs.


In conclusion, whether or not you should eat between workouts is highly dependent on your individual needs. If you are looking to improve your overall physical performance, refuel your muscles, and replenish lost energy after a strenuous activity, then eating a snack between workouts can be beneficial. It’s important to choose healthy options with appropriate macronutrient levels and stick to the recommended portion sizes for adequate nutrition without overindulging. There are also non-food options available such as electrolyte drinks and protein shakes that may be better suited for those who do not have time or prefer not to eat solid foods between workouts. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what works best for your lifestyle and health goals when it comes to eating between workout sessions.

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