healthy workout meals ideas man stretching on bridge pre run

In part i, we took a brief look at how you might look to structure your workout nutrition a bit better. But looking at the theory is just one side of the coin because we need to attack the practical element too. What does this theory actually look like on a plate in the form of some healthy workout meals?

What are healthy workout meals?

Below are just a few ideas of healthy workout meals which you can adjust to suit your needs. Remember, for the general adult training for health and fitness, the main requirement for workout nutrition is to focus on healthy workout meals that provide whole food sources of energy.

Some key points to note:

Pre-workout meals can be anything from 2-3 hours to <60 minutes before a session. This time affects the size of the meal so if you prefer to eat right before you hit the gym, the obvious thing to do is choose something small which in this case might just mean halving the portion of the ideas listed below.

healthy workout meals ideas kettlebells runners

A note on fasted training:

Some of us train first thing in the morning and might come up against this question of whether to train fasted or eat some sort of healthy workout meal? Well, in short, it depends on what you think works best to provide you with enough energy to sustain the workout. However, if you’re trying to use this strategy to lose weight, it’s futile.

Fasted cardio, commonly used by bodybuilders, has now been shown to have very little effect on fat burning. Specifically “fasted cardio leads to lower resting energy expenditure as well as less total fat utilized over a 24 hour period” (source). Second, the elevated cortisol from relying on stored energy means your body becomes more catabolic, increasing the risk of losing muscle mass. And since having muscle mass equals a better metabolism, this isn’t ideal (source). If you train at 6 am and just can’t stomach food, make sure your dinner is a properly balanced meal of protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats and then try a liquid shake or some BCAAs or even just a bite of a banana on the way to your early morning session.

Pre Workout For Muscle Gain:

If you’re trying to gain muscle, then eating might be a good strategy. In order to build muscle, your training will contain heavy lifting. But you also want your body to stay anabolic and this means your workouts need to be supported by adequate fuel. While gaining scale weight is easy, gaining muscle requires a bit more attention in the kitchen. You want to include either a pre or peri meal that helps glycogen repletion and encourages nutrients to go to the muscle cells. In short, a mix of quick absorbing carbohydrates and protein for example in a shake.

Pre-Workout (< 1 hour)Post-Workout
A protein shake:

  • One scoop protein powder
  • A cup spinach
  • Almond milk
  • A cup of berries
  • Cinnamon
Omelette with spinach, tomatoes, peppers and feta
Apple and handful of nutsTuna with mango salsa on whole wheat pitta
Natural/Raw fruit bar like a Naked Bar Cheese and chopped cucumber wrapped in turkey slices
Apple slices, yogurt, 1 tbsp hemp seedsGood quality protein bar like Quest bar/Fulfill Bar.
Slice of toast, peanut butter and sliced bananaGrilled Salmon, sweet potato fries and side salad
Fresh beetroot salad with mackerel, rocket, veggiesSourdough toast, hummus and sliced chicken
1 cup cooked oatmeal, sliced banana and 1 boiled egg on the side.Grilled chicken, ½ avocado, cooked rice
Greek yogurt, berries, chia seedHomemade protein pancake with drizzle of honey (mash up 1 banana and two eggs, protein powder optional..fry in coconut oil)
Be Free tortilla wrap, 1 tbsp greek yogurt, 1 tbsp nut butter, 1 chopped banana or apple rolled upPost workout smoothie:

2 cups spinach, 1 cup frozen berries, 100g yogurt, 1 cup water/dairy free milk, protein powder.

healthy workout meals ideas apple tape measure

Post Workout:

Post workout, you are looking for a well-balanced meal but you’re in no rush. We discussed that magic workout window in part i so read why over there. There’s a lot of myths around post workout nutrition and people generally just overthinking it. The key is to just get some good quality protein and carbohydrates so as to help support your body. If you train on an empty stomach, the post-workout meal becomes a little bit more important. By that, we just mean making sure it is a healthy workout meal the guarantees nutrients.

Don’t forget to get plenty of water in before, during and after the session!

They key is getting a balance of macronutrients and also choosing quality sources.

Omelette with spinach, tomatoes, peppers and feta grilled chicken, ½ avocado, cooked rice

Greek yoghurt, berries, chia seedHomemade protein pancake with drizzle of honey (mash up 1 banana and two eggs, protein powder optional..fry in coconut oil)

Slice of toast, peanut butter and sliced bananaGrilled Salmon, sweet potato fries and side saladFresh beetroot salad with mackerel, rocket, veggiesSourdough toast, hummus and sliced chicken1 cup cooked oatmeal, sliced banana and 1 boiled egg on the side.

And finally remember, these are just guidelines. There are a lot more factors at play like your age, hormone profile, lifestyle and the specifics of your training plan.

To summarise, this is a bulky topic with a lot of research behind it. Of course this also means there is a myriad of opinions and advice. In light of all of this, the key is to get the foundation of healthy workout meals right. From there, you can build out through adequate research and trial and error. And finally, take note that workout nutrition won’t magically transform your physique or performance. There is a lot to put in place before.

References:

  1. https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-lose-more-fat-stop-training-fasted
  2. https://www.t-nation.com/training/fasted-cardio-eats-muscle