What Fuels Your Workouts?

This post is part of the Soy Simple campaign. Read my disclosure here.

When I first started working out seriously as an adult, it was to lose weight. While I wasn’t otherwise counting calories, the idea of either eating something right before or after a tough workout seemed counterintuitive to me. (Although studies have shown that a morning workout before you eat can actually help with weight loss.)

I also was likely to not eat before a morning workout so that I could sleep, rather than wake up earlier and wait for something to digest before working out.

Then I started running and realized what a strong tie what you ate had to your athletic performance. And that it gave you a reason to call your food “fuel” and sound all intense and serious.


I usually have have a bar (and a banana) before a long run because of the combination of (soy) protein and carbs. Why is protein so important for workouts?


…helps you build muscle.

…promotes muscle recovery through amino acids and antioxidants. Antioxidants help reduce stress caused by free radicals produced during exercise that contribute to muscle fatigue.

…provides energy for muscles while working out


Consuming protein after a workout is incredibly important to repair the tiny muscle tears you’re creating while exercising. I often go for a smoothie with protein powder after a workout so I can get some protein in, even if I’m not craving solid food. (Which, for as much as I love food, happens more often than I ever thought would.)


Tofu cream cheese is a new favorite way to get my protein and carbs in after a workout.

What do you use to fuel your workout? Leave a comment below by November 20, and you could win a $50 gift card to Sports Authority!

67 comments on “What Fuels Your Workouts?

  1. Katherine

    I realized the hard way a few times that I MUST eat before a run that’s longer than 3 miles, even though I exercise in the AM before my stomach should be awake. If I’m going for a short run (3-6miles) I’ll eat a 50-100 calorie snack like a banana, part of a cliff bar, 1/2 a piece of wheat bread, etc. If I’m running 6+ miles I’ll have a slice of wheat toast with a little bit of peanut butter (too much doesn’t digest well) and a banana depending on distance. I of course fuel during and after my run as well πŸ™‚ Still trying to figure out what works best for me during a longer run (over 12miles) because just Gu/gel/sports beans doesn’t do it for me after a couple of hours.

  2. Kristin

    I usually have something very light before a workout: plain yogurt and fruit or a 1/2 piece of toast and cream cheese. After, I like 2 scrambled eggs with veggies or 1/2 c oatmeal with an egg white or two in it.

  3. Linda Chan

    I usually have a Kashi bar. It’s the same thing that I have for breakfast every day. It’s usually enough for me. I’m allergic to some tofu and other soy products. It’s weird that it’s not across the board soy and tofu products. I think it’s some kind of additive. I just haven’t figured out what that additive is, just yet.

  4. Gillian

    I am terrified of eating before a run, as I sometimes struggle with painful cramps. Although, if I’m trying to hold off hunger before a later morning run, sometimes a few saltines do the trick.
    Post run — nothing tastes better to me than a big, gooey bagel with cream cheese and a nice hot coffee. Yum!

  5. Rebecca

    I’m a morning workout person, so I prefer to have something small that still allows me to have a real breakfast post workout. The best things for this (for me) are a banana or 2 dates. The sugars really give me the boost I need! A cup of coffee works wonders, too.

  6. Verhanika

    I have a banana before I workout, or some kind of easy to digest fruit. After I’m all about eggs, chicken sausage, and a smoothie. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day so whether I get to workout in the morning or not, knowing I’m getting my favorite meal is plenty of encouragement to get to the gym!

  7. Kimra

    I struggled a lot to find long run “fuel”/food that worked for me. I have a really tough time eating before running, but I also need to when I’m going to be out there for a while. Two things that rarely fail me are Think Thin bars and this pumpkin bread I make in huge batches and freeze when I’m training for things.

  8. Meg G

    These days it’s a pre- workout Larabar and post workout eggs and bacon as soon as possible. I also love smoothies with protein. I get homicidal if I don’t get something in my belly after a long run or a race.

  9. Michelle

    I usually grab a Lara bar or cliff bar before my morning workouts! (Although I got a little sick of PB cookie Lara bars after 18 weeks of marathon training!)

  10. Amy

    If I am running 12 miles or less, I do not eat prior to running. I run first thing in the morning and cannot handle food in my stomach when I am running. If I am running over 12, I try to eat oatmeal with a banana and peanut butter.

  11. Krista

    If I work out first thing in the morning before work I usually don’t have anything because I don’t like working out on a full stomach. But if I have time to digest, I usually have a larabar, peice of fruit, or rice cake with peanut butter!

  12. Alex

    I HAVE to eat something in the morning before I work out otherwise I get super nauseous from low blood sugar. But if I eat too much I will end up with stomach cramps. I found that dried fruit are perfect for giving me a quick carb boost but not actually filling up my stomach, so I usually have a few dried apricots, figs and/or dates in the morning. Plus they take basically no time preparing and I just eat them while putting my workout gear on so no valuable sleep time is lost πŸ™‚

  13. Kristen

    Before a run I usually have a half or whole bagel (depending on the length of the run) with peanut butter, a banana and a little bit of chocolate milk or powerade.

  14. Leah

    Honestly, I’m not great about eating before I run, especially in the morning. Something about food in my mouth when the clock still has a “4” as the first digit, invokes a huge mental block. Sometimes it’s nothing, sometimes a handful of cereal or some dried fruit. I don’t like bananas enough to eat them and peanut butter makes me leery before a run, so I used to eat Turkey before longer runs. Super weird, but it worked. Post-run, I am an egg-white omelet lover with some fruit!

  15. marci

    Before a run or race I love 2 Kashi Waffels with pb/jelly and sliced bannanas on them it sits well in my stomach not to heavy but gives me the energy I need. After I something light either yogurt with berries or cottage chesse and blueberries πŸ™‚

  16. Blair

    Chocolate milk! I’ve read forever that it’s a great post-workout snack but I couldn’t imagine stomaching milk after a tough run etc. But then I finally tried it and now I’m hooked!

  17. Irina G (Fit Flexitarian)

    I made my own gluten-free vegan granola bars that were packed full of nuts and berries and were SUCH a great way to fuel up right after a workout. But when I occasionally run out out of those, I go to bananas, Fage 0% yogurt or oatmeal.

  18. Kaitlin

    Like most of the people commenting, a banana and a slice of toast w/ PB (and a small cup of coffee) is my favorite pre-run breakfast! My post-run breakfast is either plain greek yogurt w/ fresh berries or a green smoothie!!

  19. Nicole

    Before a run under 6 miles I like to eat a LaraBar, for longer runs I like having a Chocolate Chip Cliff Bar! (It tastes like a cookie!)

  20. katie

    for long runs i’ll do a clif bar [carrot cake is the favorite flavor for this year] and a starbucks doubleshot – if it’s over 16 miles i’ll add in a banana. post run i tend to have a breakfast sandwich of some sort – definitely something salty since all my pre + during run fuels tend to be sweet.

  21. Margo

    Banana and peanut butter are usually my go to for a pre-workout meal. For after my workout, nothing goes down easier than a nice smoothie! Yum!

  22. Gia

    I’m completely addicted to the Tofu French Onion cream cheese. I put it on everything. But before a workout I am a strict banana and peanut butter girl. I need something simple because my stomach tends to do funny things when I run.

  23. Christina

    I’m definitely a fan of some type of carb (tortilla, english muffin, bread) with some kind of nut butter and banana for pre-long runs.

  24. Jillian @ sprinkle massacre

    I usually work out so early, and like you said, don’t want to wake up earlier so that i can eat and digest. However, on the weekends I typically fuel with half of bar (usually larabar or something similar) and eat the other half when I get home with a smoothie.

  25. Jen @ Such a Funny Fat

    I usually work out in the morning and, like you, don’t eat before I work out because I’d rather use the time to sleep. I have a few things that I do to recover when I’m finished though.

    Before I leave I pour myself a giant glass of water so that when I get home I just have to lift the glass and drink.

    I fry an egg and make toast OR
    I’ll have a bowl of oatmeal.

    Sometimes I’ll throw in a piece of meat (whatever is left over in the fridge) for some extra protein.

    On the days when I go farther/longer than I thought or planned then I’ll start with the water while I make a protein shake. Lately my favorite is to add some pumpkin pie spice to the mix for extra flavor.

  26. Kaelin

    If I workout first thing, I usually don’t eat anything. But if I am working out after work I try to have PB and toast or a graham cracker to fuel my runs!

  27. Meredith

    I’m all about So Delicious coconut milk or water. I know when you hear milk you don’t think to put it anywhere near a workout but a glass of coconut milk after a morning run or workout leaves me feeling pretty great.

    Congrats and good luck with the new job!

  28. Martha @ running in mommyland

    I usually eat a bowl of cereal with skim milk and a banana in the morning, before I run. Today, when I got home from a tough 7 1/2 I ate a lemon greek yogurt and a bagel thin with low fat cream cheese. I was surprised at how satisfied I felt (and still feel).

  29. Mery

    1 slice of ezekiel bread + peanut butter + a drizzle of honey will hold me for an 8 mi. run. more than 8 miles I have to gup up.

  30. Shannon R

    I workout in the morning so whatever I eat for breakfast is my fuel. Sometimes a protein bar, sometimes peanut butter/honey toast & sometimes eggs.

  31. Robin

    If I work out first thing in the morning, nothing. I am in the same boat as you…can’t fathom waking up earlier to eat and then wait for it to digest (and I can’t eat right before a workout). Otherwise, a banana or a piece of bread with peanut butter or sometimes tofu cream cheese.

  32. rachel

    I always eat something before working out! I usually grab something out of my snack drawer at work like a granola bar or a few pretzels.

  33. deb

    I drink a ton of water prior, then a banana with a slice of cheese or peanut butter. but always at least an hour before.

  34. Cheryl

    For runs less than 9 miles, I usually don’t eat anything special. I used to fuel for long runs with a whole wheat English muffin, a little honey, and half a banana. I’ve recently switched the out honey for a little peanut butter (protein) to help keep me fueled for a little longer.

  35. Danielle

    I don’t usually run far enough to require pre-race “fuel” but I always look forward to my weekly bagels and lox brunch or cinnamon toast to refuel afterwards!


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