Pre and Post Workout Nutrition

I get many questions about pre and post workout nutrition.  Do I eat before I work out or should I workout on an empty stomach?  There are good arguments both ways, but I recommend eating at least a little something.  If you are working out with no food in your stomach (most times in the morning) your body is already at a low glucose state.  The increase exercise will soon cause you to break down muscle in order to provide the body with enough energy to make it through the workout.  It is generally ok to eat a regular meal 2.5 hours before a workout, but anything sooner and you might be asking for it to come back up!  I recommend eating a little something within 30 minutes of starting to exercise.  This will do a couple things: it will provide the body with some energy to get more out of the workout, it will prevent your body from eating its muscle, and it primes the body to recover and heal faster after the workout.

For after a workout your body gives you a 45 minute window where the muscle fibers are very receptive to protein, in fact, it is 400% more receptive to protein.  So it is important to get enough quick absorbing protein into the muscle cells as possible to aid in muscle recovery.  In order to more quickly and efficiently get this protein into the muscle, you need simple sugars to shuttle that in.  Think of the sugar as a high speed train, carrying the protein into the muscle.  Without the sugar it would be like a biker trying to bike the protein into the muscle, much slower and less efficient.  So the sugar you consume after a workout (assuming it isn’t too much) will be used to replenish glycogen stores in the liver and muscle, which means you don’t have to worry about it getting stored as fat.

In both the pre and the post workout meal, it is important to not eat fat, because fat slows the absorption rate down, making it more difficult for the protein to get shuttled into the muscle… think of the fat as rush hour traffic for the biker or train.

Well there you have it, the geeky and scientific part of pre and post workout meals.

Now here is my moms post and her suggestions!

Today’s topic is another good one that was requested. I have learned that I have been doing it wrong; typically, I’ll take a protein shake along to the “Y” and drink maybe a fourth of it before working out and save the rest for afterwards. This part is fine, Dustin says. However, I put all but the kitchen sink in this drink, including ground flaxseed-a big no-no! I have learned that this drink is ONLY simple carbs and protein, NO fats! And it should be in a ratio of about 2:1 or 3:1, carbs:protein, with 50-100 cals before and 2-300 cals after the workout, depending on your size.

I’ll let Dustin discuss all the technical aspects of the subject and get right down to making some suggestions of combinations using the above ratios. Dustin says fruit works well, so matching that up with a variety of proteins can give you a lot of variety. I have to admit here that simple vs. complex carbs has me a bit confused when we are calling fruit a simple carb; I always thought of all the white flour and sugar, all sweeteners, etc. as simple. So I just now googled and here is their list for simple carbs:

fruits, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, honey, molasses, and sugar. Their list of complex carbs are: vegetables, bread, cereal, legumes, and pasta. I think I have heard Dustin say there are a lot of theories out there regarding what you should and shouldn’t have before and after working out and I have just seen that-all the way to post workout drinks including coconut oil!

Let’s start with the basic protein drink; my little magic bullet container makes about 2 cups, so I use half a cup of frozen or fresh berries (40 cals.), ½ of an 8″ banana (50 cals.), a scoop of protein pwd (110 cals.), and either 1 c. of skim milk ( 90 cals.), ½ c. nonfat yogurt (60 cals.), or water for your liquid. Ice may also be used for a thicker consistency. I use stevia for sweetening, but according to the list, some honey or molasses (60 cals./Tbls. for both) would work too. If you are using this shake for both before and after your workout, simply use maybe a third of it before and the rest for after. Adding this all up, you could get to as high as 350 cals. Frozen mango and peaches work well too, with a little higher caloric value than the berries.

If you prefer to eat some foods, an apple and ½ oz. lofat string cheese would be pretty good, providing around 110 cals for pre, and doubling this for a post snack.

Two Tbls.of nonfat cottage cheese and half a peach or nectarine would provide around 70 cals. A small orange and an oz. of lite feta cheese gives you around 100 cals. Some times a little juice would be acceptable instead of the fruit, but not to be a habit. A cup of melon at 50-60 cals could also be used for your fruit.

I think the protein is supposed to be fast absorbing and is why your protein drinks are so perfect; I am curious about tofu fitting this criteria, and also cooked egg whites for the protein source. I assume fish, chicken, and beef are slow absorbing. I have recently read about the bad rap soy has been given and that it should still be used in the same moderation as any other food…..would any of you have some info on this subject to share with us?

With milk and yogurt being considered a simple carb source, and it also being a protein source, would that make either one an acceptable single food for the pre and post snack??

Well, as you can tell, I am swimming upstream here and have lots of questions myself!

I’m looking forward to a lot of experts jumping in here with lots of good input!!

Keep eating, and drinking~healthy!

Dustin’s Mom~Joy


  1. Love having protein drinks that are low in sugar for breakfast and before Mamatone.Yogurt blends in so easily and makes me feel satiated. I even add powdered green tea (matcha) to my smoothies!

  2. What kind of protein powder should I look for? I assumed that the protein powders were for people who wanted it bulk up their muscles… I’m also a little afraid because I know a guy who used these ‘muscle builders’ and now is in kidney failure- dr’s did not confirm this as the direct issue but we have our suspicions. Maybe we could have a list of what brands and/or types or protein powders that others find good?

  3. Allison Maida says:

    I have never tried a protein powder and I’m wondering if anyone has a favorite they’d recommend. Thanks for the topic…this is really helpful! :o)

  4. Louise Schrunk says:

    I love to eat but my new getting up at 5am to drive 30 minutes for boot camp is making it hard to eat so I started to eat just 10 almonds and 16 oz of water before my workout, then drink 32 oz on the drive home. then get the kids to school and eat either grape nuts with berries or egg with english muffin. I have a raspberry protein powder but it hard to choke down and when I put it in a blender it gets so foamy it makes like 32 oz and I have to throw half away. I think I will try Karina’s protein bars as an after workout for my drive home?

  5. Tera Boak says:

    I was really happy to see this one! I’m very much with Allison and Sheila- I’d like some suggestions on which Protein powders to purchase, as I assume not all are equal. Also, I know some are extremely expensive, and I’m on a budget. ;-]

    Thank you Dustin & Dustin’s mom!

  6. Before my work out I usually eat half a toast with PB or banana and PB. After I usually make a protein shake with some fruit, almond milk, and spinach. Some people call it a “Green Monster”, it is a good way to get veggies in your diet and you can’t even taste the spinach. I was also wary of protein powder, but I found one I like at Whole Foods. It is Jay Robb Vanilla Whey Protein. They also have chocolate, which can be good mixed with peanut butter and banana for a treat.

  7. Catherine says:

    I don’t eat before bootcamp, so I’ll have to start getting up a little bit earlier to try to eat something. I always have a protein smoothies afterwards. My husband makes it for me while I’m at bootcamp, so it’s ready to enjoy when I get home. He uses frozen fruit, protein powder, fiber powder, ice cubes, and milk. I buy the vanilla flavored protein powder from Target (purple bottle). We’ve also tried the strawberry and thought it was fine. We’ve never tried another brand of protein powder, so can’t compare it’s taste and texture to other brands.

  8. I make my protein shakes with frozen fruits, protein powder, and water. Sometimes if my workout is during lunch or dinner I’ll have it as a meal replacement and make it in the food processor and whip it up with a lot of air and eat it with a spoon (only works for home workouts though).

    Dustin told me that whey protein is the best absorbed and I normally use the brand from his Supplements link above- Advocare — it is my favorite. I have also used EAS whey protein powder in the past. Roundy’s generic Whey Protein Powder uses stevia to sweeten it and you can find great sales on it sometimes (when the Pick N Save turned into Copps it was buy one get one free).

  9. Marisa! You took the words right out of my mouth!! I too have been on a long time search for the best protein pwd. available, and also at a decent price. Our local health food dept. at Coburns groc. store (Mpls. area)carries Jay Robb’s books and products and I have tried them; up to this point, they are the best I have found, first of all from the no-junk-sugars standpoint; he uses stevia and nat. flavoring (which I am curious about). However, I do not consider them low cost. But Dustin’s recent blog about buying quality food would apply here-do we want to pay a bit less and waste it ALL on harmful fake sugars??
    Dustin has a friend, Tracy, who has her degree in Naturapathy (sp?), and I would really like her input here and if she has a product to recommend, including costs. And if you have time, Tracy :), your thoughts on soy protein and all soy products; I for one am up for grabs, with all the controversy out there, believe me!!

    Maleah, could you tell us more about your powdered green tea-am assuming we can get it from you-? Is it loose or in capsule form?

    Sheila, you might be thinking about “muscle milk” that guys use to bulk up; that has tons of calories in it. Protein pwd. is whey prot. with 20-25 g. of prot./30 g.scoop, around 110 cals,1-2 g.fat, 2 g. carbs. Even so, if your friend did use muscle milk and it is the problem, wonder how much he used? Sad story!

    Allison, you are smart checking out the scene–I highly discourage using any pp that has any fake sugars, which will greatly limit your choices. GNC has ONE pp that is labelled “unflavored” and has no sugars at all; however, the first ingred. is whey prot. concentrate rather that the superior whey isolate which has better absorption–as I understand it-! Someone please correct me here…..this is a reasonable price, but probably a case of getting what you pay for.

    Louise, I think a lot of us have been winging it here, but you probably gathered now that the complex carbs (Eng. muffin and cereal) is not what you want right away with your protein; also, I asked Dustin this morning about the egg whites and they are okay, but not the fatty yolks. I’m afraid those healthy almonds aren’t going to cut it here either with the fat and complex carbs-bummer, huh?? With your tight time frame, I’d say making a prot. shake the night before would work the best for you. Don’t know what’s with that rasp. pp that foams up–but check the ingred. for starters! And again, Katrina’s bars have lots of fat, with all that peanut butter 🙁 !!

    Tera, hopefully Tracy will be able to offer us something besides Jay Robb’s pp–and she may be able to comment on his product too, if it is acceptable-! Not putting any pressure on you, Tracy-ha!

  10. Thanks for all of the information regarding what to eat before and after working out. I have been wondering…..
    I haven’t been eating prior to my morning workout. I think I will try next week and see if it makes a difference.

    Regarding protein powder, I have tried several, and so far Jay Robb’s is my favorite. I buy it at Whole Foods.

  11. The powdered green tea, matcha, is from Japan and is loose. I sell it through Dustin. The 30g tin (1 oz)is premium green tea granite ground. So, you consume the entire leaf. It’s naturally sweet and exhibits a “full of life & energy” bright green color. 1/2 teaspoon is a serving and is so versatile. Make a cup hot, drink it with ice and milk or add it to your smoothie. Think green tea ice cream. The green comes from matcha tea! If you ever make it to Madison Joy I would love to offer you a tea tasting!

  12. Trader Joe’s has some store brand pp that are affordable $10 and low/no sugar.

  13. I alternate between whey protein and rice protein powders. The rice can be found at Whole Foods and Willy St. Co-op.

  14. I travel a lot and find making shakes, etc is not easy from hotels. Because I frequently am working from a hospital, I found it’s very common to see Naked Juice drinks in the cafeterias. Wondering how good they really are. They seem to, for the most part, be 100% juice and they have protein versions as well that contain over 65% of your daily protein needs. They don’t seem to have a bunch of artificial stuff, and they certainly taste good and have a lot of different flavors. Anyone else know how good/bad they are? THe nutritional info on the bottles seems decent.

  15. Maleah, thanks for that tea tasting offer-sounds fun!
    I have seen some hemp protein pwd. at T.J.-is that what you are referring to, or does your T.J. have some whey p.p.d? I called them, and it has 9 g. of protein/serving and 5 g. of cane sugar (at least not fake!). What do you know about hemp as a protein source? The rice protein at Whole Foods and at the Coop, what are the sugar specs on that, and price? Jay Robb has a new rice protein also.

    Austin, I have looked at Naked Juice before but will have to check them out again in light of a protein shake substitute-sure would be handy!

  16. Melissa says:

    The protein powder I’ve been using is Ultra Whey Protein Isolate by Georgia’s protein for balance. I get it at Woodman’s for about $18 for a 16 oz bag. It says it contains no BGH, sugars, artificial sweeteners, synthetic vitamins or fillers. For post workout I mix it with low fat chocolate milk. For smoothies I mix it with plain yogurt, frozen berries and a bit of vanilla extract. I also add it to pancakes and muffins and such. For breakfast I aim for 25 grams of protein and something bread based. I need something bread like in the morning to settle my stomach during allergy season. So breakfast examples would be a small smoothie with protein powder and toast or a muffin or a glass of milk, an omlet and toast.

  17. Melissa, sounds like you are onto a good protein source, at a reasonable price! And your other food choices sound great also….keep up the good work and thanks for sharing where you Madison folks can get some good protein powder.

  18. Jennifer says:

    I go right to work after MamaTone, so making a protein smoothie doesn’t work well for me. Does anyone have any suggestions for a post-workout snack that I can eat on my way to work?

  19. Melissa says:

    I put protein powder and chocolate milk in a Nalgene (or other reusable) bottle. Then just shake and drink. You could keep it in a little cooler with an ice pack until you’re ready to drink it. I mostly do the chocolate milk because I buy unflavored protein powder and I love chocolate. It usually keeps me from grabbing a candy bar later in the day.

  20. Jennifer says:

    Thanks Melissa. I didn’t think of that. That is a great idea.

  21. I’m glad to hear of a few non-dairy protein powders. Which of these are any good nutritionally & taste-wise? I am lactose intolerant.

  22. Jenny J says:

    lots of brands of protein powder out there and I’ve tried several, all leaving a pretty chalky taste and texture to them…
    however I came across one i absolutely love and its by Nutrilite. Its a whey protein powder that comes in convenient single serving pouches, vanilla and chocolate. I love the taste and no chalk!:-) I have heard that whey protein helps your body immediately build and rebuild muscle after exercise, while plant-derived digestive enzymes help your body process protein more efficiently. Each pouch has 25 g of whey protein in each serving.
    There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and I love that. It does run about $27 a box/14 pouches. I tend make decisions based on the value and quality of a product before cost but understand others may have a different perspective. This is made by a private company so if you want access to it I can send you a link, as well as let you try some of mine first if you’d like:-) Try before you buy is always a nice option, and if not there is a 6month money back guarantee on everything no questions asked…even if you use it all and send back an empty box:-) Anyway, if you have further questions feel free to ask, been using there products for awhile and won’t go back to anything else.

    Hope this helps,

  23. Ok all, maybe I am totally dense, but I’m still having a hard time figuring out good pre & post work out foods. Can we have a list of examples? I think maybe the paragraph format is confusing to me. Not sure….


  24. Heather Suprak says:

    Hi “Dustin’s Mom” otherwise known as my favorite “Auntie Joy”. =) So I signed up for a boot camp that starts tomorrow (yikes!) and was reading up on the suggestions for pre workout snacks. I didn’t see any mention of oatmeal (the real stuff, not the sugar filled kind). I have always been under the impression that it was a good choice for before workout fuel. Any thoughts on 1/4c of steel cut oats w/ craisins? Love u!

    • Hey Heather! That is great you signed up! Congrats. Oatmeal is an awesome food, and steel cut is the best, but it contains a lot of fiber and takes awhile for it to breakdown in the stomach. Now this becomes a problem if you are eating within 60 min of working out. You might taste it on the way up 🙂 You could eat that 2 hours before and should be fine. But every person is different. Try oatmeal right before and see how your body responds to it! I am guessing it might not like it, but who knows!


  25. Hey Neice Heather!! Seeing how I have 4 beautiful neices, better not label any of you as my favorite!! 🙂
    And like Dustin said, congrats on the bootcamp–although your summer heat down there in Phoenix would melt you down before even starting the workout-! What time of day is your bootcamp?
    Glad Dustin answered you; I was trying to come up with combinations just using the few healthy products they listed as simple carbs; oatmeal would be a healthy carb, but whole grains are complex.
    But keep us posted on what works for you, and how those bootcamps are going–be fun if you could check out your little cuz’ Madison bootcamps!

    Hey, you gals are doing awesome, helping each other out! Laura, up above Maleah tells about where to get some rice pro. pwd.-she alternates it with the whey. Are you able to use egg whites? Jay Robb has an egg white prot. pwd. out, as well as rice; but I don’t know where you can get it, other than online direct from him. Taste wise and nutritionally, I think his stuff is great, using stevia.
    And also, Laura, sorry about the format this week-I realized it was not as user friendly as the past weeks’ lists…maybe some ambitious person will turn it into a list and post it here for you! 🙂

    Jenny, could you post a link for Nutrilite, or is it simply Also, am assuming it has no fake sugars? Sweet, offering to let others try yours!

  26. P.S. Jenny, I went to and read a little about their prot. pwd., but couldn’t find much; it did mention having soy isoflavones, but not sure if it is 100% soy. Like I said above, I’d like to hear more opinions about soy.

  27. Jenny J says:


    Yes I will actually post my site and it will take you directly to the sports and nutrition products as well as some others. Once you click on the Whey protein powder it will open up several tabs below with added information as well as nutritional info with all ingredients posted. Simply Nutrilite is another group of products under Nutrilite…greared more toward busy moms/people who are always on the go but want healthier options as they run out the door:-) With my schedule I don’t have much regularity so its always nice to have a little something in my car or purse that i won’t feel guilty about eating or drinking just because its convenient. Hope this helps, if you have other questions please inquire:-) have a great day all!

    Jenny J

  28. Jenny J says:

    Hello again,

    That link should help answer most of your questions. The base of that product is Whey (milk derived) and not soy (plant derived) so if you are looking for a soy protein powder I am not sure which one to recommend. Been unsure about soy after all the controversy so I don’t consume much of it. For those lactose sensitive it may cause some gastrointestinal challenges, however i am somewhat senstive and don’t find a big problem with it. I know consuming large amounts of protein can also cause similiar problems so not sure which one is the culprit sometimes:-) I also take a digestive enzyme supplement that saves me from the bloating when I know I will be taking in high protein foods. Works like a charm:-)

    Jenny J

  29. Jenny, I just went to your site and checked prot. pwd…. the unflavored has 10 g. of prot./serving, 8 of which are soy derived (in case you don’t want soy). Also, I could not find a list of ingred.–could you help me there? I get way nervous about any prod. online that does not list ingred. as they appear on the container. Not trying to sound negative, but it says nothing about fake sugars, only that it does not have sugar–could you look on your packaging and see if it has any? The same goes for the energy bars, no list of ingred.; maybe you have a link that would go there?
    Thanks for answering so many questions!

  30. Jenny J says:

    Hi there,

    thanks for bringing that to my attention:-) I double checked the site and you were looking at a different protein powder. The ingredients for that one are listed in the nutritional tab on the bottom (you will have to click on it). I was referring to the vanilla whey protein powder in individual pouches. If you click on that then look at the bottom there is an ingredient list tab you can clink on. You are right i don’t think there should be anything to hide and all things should be listed:-) Also with the energy bars and when you click on the product scroll all the way down and there is an ingredients tab..all the tabs are links that will bring up the information associated with each one. Hope this helps, sorry for the confusion hope this helps.

    Jenny J

  31. Heather Suprak says:

    Hello from Phoenix again. 🙂 I think I will take your advice and try something else for preworkout. Two hours before is 330 in the morning and that is NOT happening! LOL. I am waiting for the protein powder I ordered from Advocare and in the meantime am doing string cheese and 1/2 an apple or an Atkins shake (any thoughts on those?) I drank one of those right before my workout this morning and it didn’t seem to bother me. So far the boot camp is good, I am really sore, may have to call for assistance to get out of my chair by the end of the day but I am determined to stick with it! The requirement for this boot camp is to work out at least 3 days a week, but they strongly encourage going 5-6 days a week- so that is my goal. Your right Auntie- IT IS HOT!! Even at 530 in the morning. Dustin- Hydee, Hannah and I decided you should just come down to Phoenix and be our trainer- what do ya think? It’s only going to be 110 today! Miss you both!


  32. Thanks for hanging in with me, Jenny; I went to your site again, and my computer blocks all the nutritional info; maybe you could quick tell me if it has any fake sugars, such as sucralose, and what type of protein….in the pro. drinks and energy bars. Thanks!

    Gee Heather, just set that ole’ alarm and eat your oats and go back to bed! Way proud of you, setting that example for your boys and working out, like the blog on eating disorders talked about yesterday!

    Okay, going out on a limb here, but gotta’ be consistant; Dustin and I have this ongoing discussion about prot. pwd. with fake sugars. Not meaning to make life complicated, seeing how your Advocare p.p. is on its way, but that product has fake sugar in it. All one has to do, like I did, is go online and google fake sugars and read 5 minutes and come away KNOWING you will never use them again–seriously! I think a little cane sugar is less harmful, that’s how bad the fake stuff is!

    Tell those sisters of yours to bring that subject up again this winter to Dustin, about training you gals down there-ha! Better yet, save up and y’all join him on his next bootcamp cruise :).

  33. Austin, I have finally been able to check out Naked Juice! I was reading the label, quite impressed, til, sadly, found soy to be the source of protein :(! After today’s article, guess we need to keep looking….which I did; right next to Naked Juice were the Bolthouse products. They also had a protein drink, using whey prot….this store only had coffee prot. drinks, which wouldn’t be my style, but may suit your needs while on the road! If I remember right, it had 10 g. of prot./serving, 2 per bottle, and I think about a 3:1 ratio of carbs/prot.

  34. This is a nice blog containing information abt good health product .. please visit … thanx for visiting such a nice blog.

  35. Jenny J says:

    I appreciate an inquiring mind so your questions are welcome. Bummer that you were unable to open all the information but I would be happy to tell you what the ingredients are. I could list them off to you but it may not be necessary due to the fact there is sucralose in it. I can see from your statements above that you would prefer not to consume products with that ingredient. I do hope you can find something to your liking through all your research. Lots of great things out there just gotta do enough work and inquiring to find them.

    Jenny J

  36. Daisy Linville says:

    Protien powder

    U can Get awesome protein powder from “Garden of Life” brand. They put fucoxanthin in it…..its an extract of brown seaweed that has awesome antioxidants, and natually revs up your metabolism. I think it gave me a cutting edge in my weight loss. it comes in vanilla, choc, and I think strawberry. (Garden of life also makes fucoxanthin pills…..just an extract of brown seaweed, ask any biology major) … 🙂

Speak Your Mind