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How to meal prep for a good workout routine

man stretching for workout

Timing your meal prep for a good workout is one the most important factors for maximizing your eating and exercising. What you eat, as we all know, plays a huge role in a healthy lifestyle, weight loss, and muscle building but aligning your meals with your workout can be trickier. Having the right nutrients in your body at the right time provides the fuel for an effective workout session and body recovery. Even without getting too deep into measuring every nutrient in your diet, you can make easy adjustments to your meal prep for a good workout.

What type of exercise are you doing?

Everyone’s exercise goals and routines are different. Whether you’re aiming for muscle gain, fat loss, or overall maintenance, your nutritional needs will vary. Are you working out in the morning, at lunch, or in the evening? Sticking to a routine will help plan your meals. 

Timing your meals can play a major role in fueling a strong workout. 

Pre-Workout Nutrition: Eat a balanced meal of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats about 2 hours before your workout. This provides the necessary energy to fuel your exercise session.

Post-Workout Nutrition: Within an hour after your workout, focus on a post-exercise meal rich in protein and carbohydrates. This aids muscle recovery and replenishes glycogen stores.


If you’re a morning gym person, aim for a light breakfast that you can eat easily and digest entirely before your workout. Then have a larger meal for dinner to fuel the next day’s workout session. You can keep lunch balanced with protein and carbohydrates to recover from your workout and replenish the glycogen stores that were burned.


Midday or lunch workouts benefit from a good sized, healthy breakfast with plenty of carbohydrates to fuel your workout in a few hours. Lunch can be much more simple with high protein foods and some fruits and veggies. Dinners will tend to be lighter so you can meal prep small meals and prepare for bed.


Late afternoon or evening workout schedules are more flexible as you can adjust when you eat dinner. If you want to eat your big meal before you workout, make sure to eat early enough for your body to process the food and include carbohydrates for the workout. If you plan to workout first and eat afterwards, make sure your lunch from earlier was large enough to fuel the workout and have a simple dinner of protein, fruits and veggies. Breakfast in this case is generally smaller. A quick breakfast bar or some eggs is a great start. 

Another popular approach to planning your meals for a good workout is to break meals up into smaller portions and eat more often throughout the day. This is a great approach for some. It staves off feeling hungry, mixes up the food types, and is consumed/digested easily since the meals are smaller. A lot of us are too busy with work or family and if this doesn’t work for you don’t worry. Meal prepping 3 square meals a day with portion control and good nutrition is great too.

Meal prep for a good workout routine usually revolves around the major meals and balancing nutrients and calories. Everyone snacks though. If you are the type of person who can resist snacking, that’s great. For the rest of us it is better to plan healthy snacks rather than trying to resist altogether.

If you’re an avid snacker you should consider it during your meal planning and prepping. There’s nothing wrong with snacking but if you have workout and health goals, planning your snacks can make or break a successful nutrition plan.

  • Nuts
  • Greek yogurt
  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Trail mix
  • Beef jerky
  • Popcorn

There are a ton of healthy snacks. The best approach is to make your own rather than buying it from the store. It’s far cheaper as you can make it in bulk and portion out the right amounts for you. You also get to avoid the sugars, salts, and any preservatives that are added.

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water regardless of your workout or eating routine. You should be drinking water throughout the day. This can make a huge difference on your workout and how good you feel during and after.

Part of a balanced meal prep for a good workout routine


  • Raw Nuts: pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts
  • Legumes: chickpeas, black beans, lentils, edamame
  • Seeds: pepitas, sunflower, chia, hemp, flax
  • Powders and Shakes: look for natural, organic and non-GMO protein powders with no artificial sweeteners or ingredients
  • Eggs: look for free-range, pasture-raised and organic with no added hormones
  • Dairy: kefir, cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt


  • Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, squash, Brussels sprouts (look for frozen to maximize shelf life)
  • Fruits: berries, mangoes, peaches, bananas, grapes, pineapple (look for frozen to maximize shelf life)
  • Whole Grains: quinoa, oatmeal, barley, farro, spelt, brown rice
  • Starches: sprouted grain bread, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob
  • Fermented: kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, red cabbage

Fats (Omega-3-rich)

  • Plant-Based: avocados, olives or extra-virgin olive oil, natural peanut butter, tempeh, baked plantain chips
  • Animal-Based: salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines (choose wild-caught and look for frozen to maximize shelf life)

Prep Yo Self can help with meal prep for a good workout! Check out our Weekly Meal Plans for Free.

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