Maximizing Workouts: Nutrition Preparation and Recovery

Quality and quantity are crucial for selecting the optimal nutrients for your workout preparation and recovery. There are thousands of pages of studies, opinions, and studies about studies dedicated to pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout nutrition. I am here to tell you to stop overthinking things. 50% of people aren’t meeting their nutrient needs in regards to what their workout demands. Another 30% of people aren’t training hard enough to rationalize their nutrient consumption. Anecdotally, I would estimate less than 20% of people are getting it right, and even that may be generous.

If you are part of the 50% who aren’t getting enough (or the right quality of) nutrients, you are successfully limiting your body’s positive adaption to the training stimulus. Please keep in mind that “overtraining” usually has more to do with “undernutrition-izing (this is now a word).”

Undernutritionizing can and will result in any and all of the following:

  • Increasing cortisol levels
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Muscle degradation
  • Decreasing ligament/tendon resiliency
  • Dehydration
  • Increasing your chance for muscle pulls/tears/tweaks
  • Mental and physical burn out
  • Irritability
  • Decreased performance
  • Plateau or loss of “gains” (strength, power, endurance)

…I will stop there.

What should we be doing about our Pre/Intra/Post-Workout Nutrition?

PRE Workout Nutrition


1) Improve Performance

2) Sustain Energy

3) Hydrate the body

4) Preserve Muscle

5) Speed Recovery

* Athlete should never feel full or hungry. Think about the scale where -10 means you’re famished to the point of passing out while +10 you are so full you could puke. We should be somewhere in the 0 to +2 range right before we begin our workout. Depending on how you digest food and feel during workouts, individuals should consume nutrients 45-90 minutes pre-resistance training.


6-8oz Chicken

1 cup brown rice

2 cup broccoli

2 tbsp almond butter


4-6oz chicken

1/2 cup brown rice

1.5 cup broccoli

1 tbsp almond butter

Serving sizes: Females ( ), Males <>

(1) <2> palms of lean protein

(1) <2> cupped handfuls of dense carbs

(1) <2> fists of veggies

(1) <2> thumbs of fats


*Some athletes like to have 1 serving of fruit 1-10minutes before workout begins. This is fine.

* MS/HS/College Athletes: Its ok to eat a PBJ 30-60 minutes after school and before your game or training session (pending body type and goals). Don’t overthink it.


INTRA Workout Nutrition

* It is important to note that it is only necessary for athletes to consume food during their event or workout if they are training for longer than 90 minutes, they have multiple training bouts in one day, or if they are simply training to gain muscle mass.

*Drinking water during exercise is a requirement. A minimum of 10oz of water per 15 minutes of activity is recommended.

Endurance training: 10-15g Protein with 30-40g Carbs. Options:

  • Protein/Carb/Electrolyte Gels
  • Amino Acid gels/powder
  • Electrolyte supplements (pending individual perspiration)
  • Fruit, if feasible


Resistance Training (Increase muscle mass): 30-40g Protein with 60-100g Carbs. Options:

  • Protein Shake (blended with protein powder, fruit, etc)
  • Protein/water blend with 2-3 servings of fruit/rice on the side
  • Amino Acid Powder

POST Workout Nutrition


1) Replenish glycogen stores (energy sources)

2) Repair muscle tissue

3) Enhance recovery

4) Adapt to training stimuli


Female Nutrition –

20-30g Protein and 40-60g Carbs

Male Nutrition –

30-40g Protein and 60-100g Carbs

*Replenish liquids before you do anything. You can either go by the time you trained (10oz of water for every 15 minutes) or drink 16oz of fluids for every pound you lost during your training or competition (be sure you weighed yourself pre-event, of course).

*Initial post-workout meals can be either a liquefied protein/carb drink or whole foods. Whole foods, if feasible, within 30 minutes of the event are preferred.

*Individuals who desire increased mass from a resistance training session have already consumed a protein drink with the necessary combination of carbs. In this case the individual will seek whole foods with similar quantities of macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) with the addition of 2 cups of vegetables.

*Studies have shown that liquefied food is digested more efficiently while causing less stress on your digestive system.

*There is no evidence proving that fats help or hinder recovery during post workout nutrition. However it has been debated that including fats during this MAY hinder the digestion of the carbs and protein necessary to repair muscle tissue and replenish glycogen stores.


Odds and Ends

For EARLY morning workout warriors.

  • Wake up just bit earlier than you normally would and get something in your system (pending how much you can stomach). A protein shake with as little as 16oz water, 1 piece of fruit, and 1 serving of protein powder before/during workout will do wonders for your energy levels and desired RESULTS. Be sure to have your standard post-workout meal, which should look something like: 2-4 eggs, 1 serving of oatmeal or sweet potato, and 2 tbsp of nut butter or ½ avocado (protein-carbs-healthy fat to begin your day).

For people FASTING before/during workout.

  • Just stop.
  • There are a couple studies showing sub-maximal heart rate cardio for roughly 30 minutes could be beneficial for fat loss. BUT if you ate a half decent meal, hydrated and did interval sprints for 15 minutes (10-20s runs and 30-50s walks) you will be MUCH better off and feel like a normal human.
  • I am fan of intermittent fasting, just not when mixed with exercise.

For you late evening workout warriors.

  • Nothing changes, but see my rant below.


One Big Variable – The Mix Up in Pre/Intra/Post- “Workout” Nutrition

The Pre, Intra, and Post workout nutrition posted above is for individuals that “train.” Training is a structured workout program that allows your body to progressively adapt to the exercise stimuli. A quality training program forces you to follow a structured path for improvement that includes TRACKING and MODIFYING your training and nutrition program based on measureable results. Training programs are designed to provide the perfect amount of stress needed for a positive adaption to occur. These programs are normally rigorous and intense.

Aimlessly “working out” allows people to think that 30 minutes on an elliptical, 3 sets of abs, and 3 sets of arms qualifies them to have 30g of protein and 60g of carbs at 8pm for their post-“workout” meal. This person did NOT put enough stress on their body to deplete glycogen stores or damage muscle tissue to EARN this type of post-workout meal. As a result, your body will store these nutrients as energy reserves in the form of adipose tissue (FAT). This is a huge mix up!


There are always “what-ifs” and variables associated with any workout or event. If you have follow up questions please feel free to comment or email me directly.




Joe Drain

Nutritionist & Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Compete Strength & Conditioning

[email protected]


P.S. If you enjoyed this post, here are a few other resources you will enjoy and benefit from:

Compete Kitchen: 5 Minute Dorm Room Breakfast

In-Season Nutrition