FAQs: What should I eat pre- and post-workout?

Diane Sanfilippo Athletic Performance & Athletes, Books 13 Comments

This is for sure one of the top 10 questions I get – of all time:

What should I eat pre- and post-workout?

Here’s the two word answer that is the absolute fact, bottom line truth that you need to hear… it depends.

I’m sorry, but it’s true.

There is no one-size-fits all, perfect pre- or post-workout meal or snack.

Why? Well because, inevitably, the question itself warrants that I reply with a series of questions right back at you, including:

  • mealTimingWhen are you training?
  • If it’s a morning workout, how long are you awake before you train?
  • If it’s a mid-day workout, what time did you eat breakfast or your last meal?
  • If it’s an evening workout, what time did you eat lunch and when do you go to bed?
  • What kind of training are you doing?
  • Is it high-intensity intervals?
  • Is it long duration and moderate or lower intensity?
  • What is your primary goal? Fat loss? Or athletic performance?
  • What foods do you tolerate well and what are foods to which you have sensitivities or allergies?

I could go on and on.


So, your seemingly simple, straightforward question just doesn’t have one simple answer. And what you need to know (and the tips I think that make the whole thing easier and do-able) won’t fit neatly into one blog post.

Why, then, am I posting about the topic?

Well, while I don’t have a simple answer for you, I do have a fantastic solution.

By learning how to navigate eating real food as an athlete, then making tweaks for your primary goal (and it can only be one), and finally answering some questions about how your day unfolds pre- or post-workout, you can find out exactly what and when you should eat for the duration of your day.

Sound good? Good.

Now, this may seem frustrating to you, because I know how badly you want a simple, one-size-fits-all answer. But you know how different you are from the tons of others asking the same question, right? So you know deep down that customizing your own fuel is the way to go.

And I owe it to you to avoid over-simplifying a fairly complex issue by making a broad generalization to apply to all athletes. And, yes, you are an athlete.

So, for starters, get comfortable identifying yourself as an athlete, because if you’re asking what to eat pre- and/or post-workout, you are one.

Okay, all that said, I have to tell you something major.

I’ve never put the details of what I tell my athletes about how to fuel (all day, not just pre- or post-workout) down on paper before for use by a broad audience.

That is, until now.


When the fitness savant herself, Jen Sinkler, asked me if I’d like to collaborate on her new project to help guide folks on the nutrition portion of performance, naturally I jumped up and said “HECK YES!”

And, so, Eat Better Faster was born.

Where’d the name come from?

Well, during an interview a couple of years back, a reporter – baffled by Jen’s approach to fitness – asked a question that would soon after prove to be the start of something, very, very big.

Reporter: “But, what do you do for cardio?”
Jen Sinkler: “I lift weights faster.”

So, in the sprit of Jen’s approach (and, I must say, my own approach to getting real food on the table day in and day out) I created Eat Better Faster. This guide will be the missing link for you – the information you need to help you master your own nutrition planning, and track how you’re doing in order to tweak and improve it.

What you get:

Part 1:
Chapter 1 – What to eat
Chapter 2 – How much to eat
Chapter 3 – What to eat (and what to eat when)

  • An overview of what it means to eat real food – the good, the not-so-good, and notes on primary and secondary sources of protein, carbs, and fats (if you already eat Paleo or have my books, this will be quite familiar to you!)
  • Details on portion size guidelines – protein, carbs, and fats, once again – with variations for men and women as well as details on starchy versus non-starchy vegetables, etc. Note: The information in Eat Better Faster is not an exclusively Paleo eating plan but can be if you so choose. It is based on real food, and the meal plans and recipes themselves are all 100% Paleo.
  • EBF_ch3Details on when to eat (and what to eat when) – this is your step-by-step Q&A to review your daily routine, where exercise fits into your day, and how to fuel for the entire day based upon multiple factors. Planning throughout the day includes 3 meals and 3 optional snacks, again based on how you answer the questions within the flow.
  • Notes on protein powder – who might want to use it, what kind to use… because you guys never stop asking about protein powder!
  • My signature 1-page guides – on fats & oils, sweeteners, good carb sources, and food quality (again, if you have my books, these will be familiar to you, but they’re modified/re-formatted for this guide and are printer/iPad friendly)

Part 2:
Meal Plans & Easy Recipes

  • 7-Day Meal Plan for an Athletic Performance Focus – if performance is your primary goal, this is the plan for you. I’ve included details on optimizing performance as well as 7 days of meals and snack ideas that correspond to the recipes in the guide (and make good use of leftovers!) as well as some quick-fix/no-recipe-required meals and snacks mixed in.
  • 7-Day Meal Plan for a Fat Loss Focus – if fat loss is your primary goal, this is the plan for you. I’ve included details on optimizing fat loss as well as 7 days of meals and snack ideas that correspond to the recipes in the guide (and make good use of leftovers!) as well as some quick-fix/no-recipe-required meals and snacks mixed in.
  • Over 40 RECIPES! Holy cow – I’ve jammed this guide full of recipes from breakfasts, to main meals, to snacks and treats – and even my famous sweetener-free-tastes-like-store-bought ketchup in a handy, printable single page. These recipes are the ones referenced in the meal plans, so you’ll want to have them handy and all together when you go to shop and cook. They are pulled from my extensive library that are published amongst my books and blog, but this specific collection is not available anywhere else all together!


But wait – there’s more!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

I’ve also thrown in an additional bonus guide called Cook Meals Faster to get you moving, well, faster in the kitchen.

Here’s what’s in the 34-page bonus guide:

  • CMF_sneakpeekDetails on protein, carbs, and fats that will make meal prep faster – inside tips and tricks on which pre-cooked/ready-made items are great and how to stock your fridge and pantry so you’re ready when hunger hits.
  • Big & Small Kitchen tools you need – there are lots of tools out there, but the primary movers and shakers in your kitchen are explained here (and there aren’t a ton of them). These are the ones that keep me moving quickly every day – and I am cooking 3 meals a day most often when I’m not on the road!
  • The Top 10 Meals I Cook… Fast – people always ask me how I manage to keep my nutrition on point given my hectic schedule – these are exactly the meals I make as my go-tos most often!
  • My Quick-Fix Meal Math guide – perfect for stocking your fridge and pantry for those moments when you just can’t possibly break out a pan or are on-the-go and need something handy. This guide will put together flavors and food combinations you may never have considered before, but you will love now!
  • 15 more recipes! I’ve added my absolute favorite quick-cooking (or no-cook) recipes to this guide that I promise you will love! I couldn’t help myself and I know how much you guys love having these recipes handy.

These guides are going to make your life so much easier if dialing in on performance nutrition is your goal!

Here’s the thing… Eat Better Faster and the Cook Meals Faster bonus guide are not available anywhere else.


I partnered exclusively with Jen on this program, to coordinate and create it to work in-sync with her comprehensive fitness program, Lift Weights Faster.

In Jen’s program, you’re going to get more training information, planned workouts, tips, tricks, and videos than you could ever get by purchasing just one hour with a personal trainer – for far less moolah. She’s taken a huge amount of time and spent a huge amount of effort to put a program together that anyone would be able to use – with her best information all in one place.

Now, let me back up for a minute, because if you don’t know Jen, let me introduce you to her.

This is Jen Sinkler.
She is a former professional rugby player. Translation: Jen is a total bad-ass.


JenSinkler-rugbyNow, though Jen no longer plays professional rugby, she is currently nothing short of a true fitness and training connoisseur. She literally travels the country – and the world – to learn from top fitness professionals in every type of modality, so that she can bring the best back to her clients.

See, Jen and her husband David own The Movement Minneapolis, a full-service training facility, so she’s not just learning and then re-hashing what she hears into these programs. Her methods are tried and true. She trains clients day in and day out with these workouts, and they just. Plain. Work.

Jen hasn’t always been the sassy-looking, toned version of herself you see above. Nope, like many of us, she had her own version of a wake-up call about her health and fitness.

In her own words…

JenSinklerBefore…it wasn’t just my diminishing athletic prowess I was worried about. By this point, I felt weak and was completely miserable overall. I felt sick to my stomach after almost every meal. My whole face and back broke out in a terrible acne-like rash that a dermatologist told me was rosacea, and caused by hormonal changes.

I was regularly suffering from what I thought were muscle spasms in my midback, for which I sought help from sports medicine specialists, general practitioners, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and two ER docs. Finally, I was correctly diagnosed with gallstones. Like a little old lady, at age 28.

LWF-EBFYou’ll be hearing more from Jen here on the Balanced Bites blog soon, as well as on the podcast (yesssss!) – because I know how much you all love to hear amazing interviews with folks out there who just do it right – whatever it may be.

Oh, an important note here… Eat Better Faster is actually not available on its own – because Jen and I want you to have all the tools you need to get strong, fit, and healthy – you can only get it as a part of her seriously amazing program, Lift Weights Faster.

To get all the details on what’s included in the program (loads of workout plans, videos, and every possible thing you need to get in shape and drop body fat), just head on over to this page. It will not only explain the reasons why Jen created Lift Weights Faster in great detail, it’ll show you some amazing folks who’ve been following the plans, as well as detail out every single thing you’re getting in this comprehensive program.