Ask the Health Coach: What Should I Eat Before and After Workouts?

The right fuel is key for getting the most out of your sweat sessions. Maura explains why the food you eat is so important, and offers tips for what to chow down—and when—for the best results.

Dear Maura,

My new exercise routine has me starving 24/7. What should I snack on to fill me up without undoing all my hard work at the gym?

~ Erica


Hi Erica,

Thanks for the honest question—I’m sure you’re not alone in this! First things first: no starving. Not good. I’m going to try to answer this question as simply as possible without getting too technical.

Of course your feelings of being starved are a sign of hunger, but on a deeper level, don’t forget to remember that your body is perfect; if it’s telling you it’s hungry, it’s for a good reason. It needs fuel. And not just for more workouts, but also for functions that we have no control over like respiration, digestion, metabolism and muscle recovery. If you are starving and not feeding yourself correctly, your body gets the message that food isn’t coming and starts to go into survival mode—meaning you may not see your weight come down (if that’s a goal you’re trying to achieve) because it is holding on to any and every last calorie it has. Make sense?

The other thing that maybe you are noticing is that it if you don’t fuel yourself correctly, you may notice that your energy levels are getting super low and you feel totally drained post-workout. Or you might even feel like you can’t get through your workout at all. Yes?

Feeding your body correctly both before and after workouts is the key to burning calories, losing weight and building muscles. The right fuel supports muscle recovery and keeps your metabolism fired up. And you should notice that your energy levels stay pretty even, if not get higher. Get in the habit of preparing this food ahead of time so there are no excuses for why you didn’t eat.

It’s worth noting that hydration is a super important piece to this puzzle. Make sure to drink lots of water throughout the day and make a bigger attempt to replenish fluids lost from your workout routine. Everyone is probably sick of hearing me say it by now, but aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. (As a side note, if you are dehydrated, your body will often tell you that it’s hungry, when that is not actually always the case.)

Here are some examples to get you started:

Pre-Workout: Eat at snack consisting of carbs and protein two hours before your sweat session, such  as …
• Banana or apple with peanut or almond butter
• 1/2 cup quinoa with black beans
• Whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese or hummus
• Yogurt with fresh berries

Post-Workout: Eat a small meal consisting of carbs and proteins, within an hour of completing your workout. Some examples …
• Brown rice with chickpeas, avocado and broccoli
• Scrambled egg with sauteed greens like spinach or kale
• Smoothie with banana, berries, almond milk and flaxseeds
• Whole-grain toast with tomato and fresh mozzarella cheese

I hope this helps. Keep up your workouts, eat more food and just say no to hunger pains!

Good luck,


>> What are your favorite pre- and post-workout foods? Tell us in the comments!

If you have a question for Maura,  email us and your question could be answered in a future column. Find more of Maura’s advice here.


Maura Manzo is a yoga teacher and health coach specializing in integrating diet, health and wellness. She supports others in becoming their best possible selves. Maura is available for private instruction and coaching, as well as on-site corporate classes and speaking engagements. She is co-creator of the Beyond Asana 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training and the Art of Letting Go: Maya Tulum Mexican Yoga Vacation. Learn more about her teaching schedule, coaching practice and yoga trainings at