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Fuelling for Fat Loss – pre and post workout foods

  • December 19, 2015
  • By Carly Neave

Before and After Workout

This is definitely in my top three most asked questions, and rightly so! Why work your butt off in the gym and not reap maximum rewards? Knowing the best foods to eat pre and post workouts is crucial as when tailored correctly, it can massively increase the speed at which you achieve your goals. The difficulty is that pre and post workout routines can change significantly depending on what that goal is.

For example, somebody looking to lose fat is going to have a completely different plan than a body builder looking to put on large amounts of muscle. The same goes for an athlete who needs to perform at their maximum ability every training session, it will differ to the regular gym-goer. There is no one pre/post workout rule for everyone. It’s different for each individual based on their metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and much more,, but at the very minimum we are able to categorise dietary recommendations into goals, or what that person is looking to achieve.

The goal I want to concentrate on is fat loss. It’s the most common one I get asked about and so I want to shed some light on what you should be eating before and after a workout specifically designed for fat loss.

The same rules of fat loss apply whether you want to lose 5kg or 20kg.

At the very core of it, in order to lose fat you need to burn more calories than than you consume.

1 lbs = 3,500 Calories.

Therefore in order to lose 7 lbs (roughly 1/2 stone), you need to create a deficit of 24,500 calories.

In order to achieve that fat loss as healthy and efficiently as possible, it’s important to get the diet aspect right so you don’t let your hard work in the gym go to waste.

What to Eat Pre-workout

This might sound a little strange, but the best thing to eat before a workout when you want to lose fat is”¦


When trying to lose fat, you should not be concerned about having a specific pre-workout snack before exercising – you don’t need it. The best time to workout for fat loss is in the morning, before breakfast. If that doesn’t suit your routine and you prefer to exercise in the evenings, eat as healthily as you would during the day and again, don’t worry about re-fuelling up just before the workout.

Unless you are on an incredibly low carb diet or planning a two-hour workout, your muscles will already have enough glycogen stored in them to carry you through the workout effectively. If you eat a banana or energy bar before a workout, all you’re doing is training incredibly hard to burn off the calories you’ve just eaten; you won’t actually be tapping into fat stores or creating a calorie deficit which will lead to fat loss.

If you feel like you can’t perform well on an empty stomach, then stick to foods that have a low GL (Glycemic Load ”“ doesn’t cause a spike in insulin levels promoting fat storage) and won’t interfere with your digestive system.

The best options are berries, coconut oil, nuts or if you feel hungry even though you’ve already eaten the drinking a few big gulps of water can do the trick.

What to Eat Post Workout

Based on the fact that your exercise routine contains a combination of cardiovascular training and weight training, the following is the most effective post workout snacks for fat loss:

(If you don’t include weight training in the workout, now is a great time to start! It’s an excellent way to burn more calories and fat)

  • Protein:

In our bodies, we have specialised cells to store fat and carbohydrates, ready for when we need them. We don’t however have any specific cells for storing protein. As a result, any excess protein that we consume that isn’t used does not get stored as fat, it gets excreted.

Hence, it’s the perfect post-workout meal or snack for fat loss and muscle recovery. Your body uses what it needs to re-build muscle and then gets rid of the rest. A protein shake using whey protein is my number one choice for an after workout snack. If breakfast or dinner is quick to follow the workout, eggs or a good source of protein such as chicken or fish works well too.

  • Carbohydrates:

If you need your carbs, after a workout is the time to eat them. This way they are used to refill glycogen stores rather than being stored as fat. Your metabolism is also increased after a workout so the body can process and use them more effectively. Always try to ensure you are getting a good quality source of carbohydrate such as sweet potato or whole grain produce.

  • Ones to Avoid:

Do not buy into protein bars and energy drinks for after, or before, a workout when your goal is fat loss. They are packed full of calories (can be up to 400 per bar!), sugars and have poor nutritional value compared to other sources of protein.

I hope this helps to make the subject of pre and post workout snacks a little easier.

Please feel free to ask me any questions and note that if you have any concerns or medical conditions, you should always consult a doctor before starting a fat loss/intensive exercise programme. This information is based on my personal experience and that of within the industry, not from a qualified nutritionist stand point.

By Carly Neave, December 19, 2015 Hello and welcome! I'm Carly, originally from London but currently enjoying a little adventure in Dubai. A travel and wellness blogger exploring the world one step at a time. Think fabulous food at undiscovered gems, unique destinations, skin care obsessions and so much more. This is my life, I hope you enjoy the ride!
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  • Dora Phill
    June 1, 2019

    Carly, Nowadays, I am working out and this is just so what I have wanted. Thanks for sharing all this info especially things that
    I can have “post workout sessions” really thanks! :) A big thumbs up because all the info is useful and have been explained in a pretty simple way.

  • Urbashi
    June 7, 2018

    I am 29 yrs old, with height 168cms and weight 60 kgs, quite fit but with a tummy. My aim is fat loss(especially belly fat) and lean muscle gain. I exercise in the morning on empty stomach and do HIIT for running and abs, do weight training. Between workout i drink lemonade (water+sugar+salt +lemon). Is it ok?
    Being vegetarian i have lentils and pulses for protein. Please suggest best and fastest way to lose belly fat along with diet.

  • Mona
    February 10, 2018

    What if you want to lose fat but gain muscle at the same time? What should you eat in a day?
    And what should I eat on rest days?

    • Mona
      February 10, 2018

      And are there specific foods I should eat to trim my waist and get abs?

    • Lean Living Girl
      February 13, 2018

      Hi Mona,

      Thanks for your questions. Losing fat and gaining muscle is actually incredibly hard to do at the same time. In order to lose fat, you have to be in a calorie deficit, and in order to really gain muscle, you need to be in a calorie surplus – which is why you often hear (especially guys) use the term ‘Bulk and then shred” or other way around.

      If your goal is to lose fat, then you should have a good idea of the calories you are consuming vs burning each day and ensure you are sticking underneath the latter total. Even with rest days, it’s the same thing – try and look at your consumption / burning as an average each day, which is worked out off the basis of how typically active you are. I don’t promote cheat days for example, there’a actually been studies to show that people who have cheat days end up eating more calories on total per week than someone who ‘flexi-diets’ which is having that calorie goal in mind and if you go over one day by having a pizza for example, you then cut back the next day to make up for the excess.

      In respinse to your other question, there are no specific foods you should be eating. Keep with the calories in and out at the basic level and you will see fat loss results. Of course, when one is aiming for both fat loss and optional health (as I hope we would) then you should be paying attention to the quality of the calories that go in too.

      Hope that helps!

      Carly xx

  • Felipe
    January 25, 2018

    I was just searching in google about post workout meal and then finded this post. I readed it and find it very useful, but seems to me that have a mistake.
    The protein that is not used for replenishing aminoacid levels of the organism instead is used for energy, and then the waste of this metabolization is partially excreted.
    So take care about the amount of protein, because eating a very excesive amount of it will not be a trick to loss fat without being hungry.


  • Ankita Jaiswal
    January 17, 2018

    I’m a big fan of “How Much Protein.” It really goes against what conventional wisdom has taught us about protein intake, and that’s a good thing!

  • Mrs Pett
    November 2, 2017

    Hi Carly,
    I am 43 yo female, 5’4″, 172 lbs looking to lose 30 lbs. I need help with post workout meals. I read that eating nothing before (pre) is what is suggested which I can handle. Should most of all my meals be primarily proteins and veggies avoiding carbs as much as possible?? I also workout 5-7 days a week for an hour or more. I am very curvy and its so hard for me to lose weight. My daily meals typically look like this:

    Breakfast- 2 hard boiled eggs, half avocado, green apple or berries
    Midday snack- string cheese (1-2)
    Lunch- 4-5 ounces chicken breast with broccoli
    Snack- Protein Shake
    Dinner- 7 ounces shrimp with steamed Asia veggies

    Additionally, all I drink is water.

    Any ideas I would greatly appreciate to assist me. Thanks so much!

  • Megan
    August 10, 2017

    Hi Carly
    Ive been trying my hardest to get toned and lean abs.I eat really healthy and make sure Im eating protein and healthy fats like coconut oil with every meal and carbohydrates after a workout as well as a protein shake but I feel like Im eating too healthy to where I feel Im not eating enough.I also do toning classes in my gym 4 times a week and walk to nearly every place I go.I know it takes awhile to see results but I feel like Ive been working so hard for months and seeing no changes which is really annoying and instead of gaining muscle I feel like Ive been losing weight.Do you have any tips for me please? Thanks so much

    • Lean Living Girl
      August 11, 2017

      Hey Megan,

      Thanks for the comment lovely and I completely understand that must be incredibly frustrating, we’ve all hit those walls but do not worry – there will be things you can do to change it!

      So going off what you’ve said above without knowing your nutrition & training inside-out, the first thing that comes to mind is stress. By that, I mean how much you’re stressing/working your muscles; in order for muscles to grow and develop, we must be progressively pushing them at heavier weights to demand they grow stronger. An example core exercise for that could be the ‘standing cable wood chop’ in which you can actually increase the demand you’re putting on your core by upping the weights.

      Are the exercises you do in your toning class the same each week, and have been so for a while? Do you use the same weights? It might be that your current muscular strength can handle those exercises relatively easily and therefore there is no need for your body to recruit more muscle fibres. Does that make sense? Building a good core is also a lot about functional movements, not just the classic bicycle kicks etc so look at incorporating them into your training.

      On the nutrition side of things – if you feel like you are consistently losing weight where you don’t want to, bottom line is you are probably not taking in enough calories. You will always hear me speak about the value of what you’re putting into your body rather than how much, BUT ultimately if you are burning on average 500 more calories a day than you’re eating and you’re already lean – it’s going to be incredibly difficult to put on muscle. It might be that you have a very fast metabolism and that’s something you can get checked (BMR) to give you an idea of roughly how many calories you need at rest per day.

      I hope that gives some clarity, it’s never black or white with fitness and nutrition, just about fine-tuning things until you get it bang on!

      Let me know if you have any more questions :)

      Carly xx

  • Engi
    July 10, 2017

    Hi Carly!
    I have really been struggling with my weight for a while now. I’m not overweight and I know that, but I’m not quite satisfied with my body and would like to be slimmer and more toned. I’m 16, around 166-168 cm, and weigh about 56 kilos the last time I weighed myself (after I had lost weight due to a sickness).
    I really don’t eat all that badly, but I do have times where I lose sort of control and eat a little too much, but there are days when I eat almost nothing or very healthy.
    I have been wanting to see a nutritionist so that I could know what to eat and what not to and have someone evaluate my food journal, but I haven’t been able to.
    The thing is, before now, when I have no diet, I stopped all bread and dairy (not sure if I limited my sugar intake) for a month, while playing soccer, and walking regularly. Nothing much happened, which I thought was surprising. So I am wondering if there is a specific thing that is making me gain, or stagnate.
    Right now I am trying not to eat any bread, and be smart about sweets. I have this weird compulsive eating thing occasionally though. I am also trying to go to the gym 5 times a week (running 30 mn), although that is usually more like 3. I have recently tried starting cardio exercises at home.
    My main goal would be to tone and muscle my stomach and back, as well as slim my thighs and calves but still muscle them.
    Do you have any advice for me? I would be so grateful, thank you!

  • Lily
    May 18, 2017

    Hi Carly,
    I am aiming to lose 15-20 lbs but I’m not sure how to plan my workout. I’m currently 154lbs. I haven’t started working out as yet but I generally eat healthily and more on the vegetarian side. Will running on the treadmill for an hour 3-4 times a week result in weight loss? Also, will tofu be enough protein for my post workout meal?


    • Lean Living Girl
      May 19, 2017

      Hi Lily,

      Thanks so much for your comment :) In answer to your last question – Tofu has a really high protein content so yes, that ticks that box. You can also look into plant based/ vegan protein shakes to increase these level when you need it.

      With regards to your workouts – personally I think the best form of cardio for fat loss is high intensity interval training. This is when for example you will sprint on the treadmill for 60 seconds and rest for 30 seconds, sprint for 60, rest for 30 etc. Maybe repeat that 8 – 12 times. It’s all about pushing your physical fitness as far as it can go in the sprint phrase and allowing yourself to recover in the rest so the body is ready to go full at it the next round! So adjust your work/ rest periods with this in mind. (There’s no point starting sprint two if you’re still out of breath).

      Even just doing that 3 times per week will be a fantastic start for weight loss (and yes, I’m sure you will see results as long as the nutrition side is there too :).

      You can then develop into body weight exercises, finding out what you like best and what works for you – there’s a million and one ways to get fit which makes it super exciting!.

      Hope that helps a little!

      Carly xx

  • Rosabella
    April 27, 2017

    Hi!!! Thank you so much for your post!
    I am an 18 year old girl, and I am about 119 pounds and 5’7 is my height.
    I need to lose 10 pounds to get into modeling. I have always thought of myself as not skinny enough. I have tried everything to lose weight, but I am stuck on this weight no matter what. I have to have long lean muscles. I have even tried starving myself. Nothing works. I am super healthy right now and exercise but nothing seems to work. My thighs are naturally muscular and my upper body is generally smaller than my lower. Do you have any tips for me? Thank you so so much !!!

    • Lean Living Girl
      May 4, 2017

      Hi Lovely,

      Thank you for your message. 119 pounds sounds really tiny for your height, I know modelling can be a strict and stressful profession but it seems we are thankfully moving into a healthier more toned and full body image rather than the classic ‘skinny’. I think this is the massive market at the moment so would definitely concentrate on being strong and toned rather than losing fat.

      We all get to a point where our bodies keep hold of fat so that we survive and function at our best, it won’t be a lot but it may be that you are snuggling to lose any more because your body knows it’s unhealthy to and we need to thank it for that! It’s incredibly hard without seeing you and knowing your body fat percentage to give accurate advice – do you know what that percentage is by any chance?

      In the gym, are you lifting heavy weights or light ones?

      Carly xx

      • Rosabella
        May 4, 2017

        OMG thank you Carly!!!!!!
        you’re the best 💕
        i actually don’t know my body fat percentage but i can calculate it if there is any way. i’m not sure how to though.
        i actually don’t really life weights in the gym. i don’t even go every day. usually i will do jogging for some time and occasionally youtube excercises for legs. usually for one hour. i am trying to figure out a more consistent and effective workout but am so confused

        • Rosabella
          May 4, 2017

          I can also send you a picture of me if that would make it easier

          • Lean Living Girl
            May 4, 2017


            Email me at and I will try help you the best I can, but by the sounds of things fat loss s definitely not what you should be going for. Weight training and getting stronger I can help with!

            Carly x

  • Kate
    July 7, 2016

    Oh okay I haven’t heard that about green tea before I will definitely stop using it. Thank you so much for your recommendation i will give that one a go and let you know how I get on.

    Thank you Carly xx

  • Kate
    July 6, 2016

    I don’t understand why it’s making me feel sick. I’m using the My Protein ‘impact diet whey’ and mixing it with water. I am using it post workout but not as a meal replacement.

    Could you recommend a different brand I could try instead?

    Thank you so much Carly,

    • Lean Living Girl
      July 7, 2016

      Hey Kate,

      So I think I know why you were getting sick…that brand includes green tea extract, and I can only speak for myself but whenever I have tried green tea not in an actual tea form, I am almost immediately sick or definitely feel very queasy! It’s very strong and can have that affect quite easily. I personally use Sun Warrior protein (get the Vanilla blend not natural – doesn’t taste good if you’re mixing with water only!).

      You can get it from UK online retailers and it’s very reasonable online. Let me know if that makes a difference, would be really interested to hear!

      Carly xx

  • Kate
    July 6, 2016

    Hi Carly,

    I’ve recently starting having a protein shake after my workout but it’s making me feel very nauseous and sick. Is this normal? Can you recommend a brand of protein shake I could try instead? As im trying to lose weight and feel protein shakes would aid in that.


    • Lean Living Girl
      July 6, 2016

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks for the message. I haven’t experienced or heard of the nauseous feeling after protein shakes I must admit…what brand are you using and what are you mixing it with?

      Protein shakes can be great for weight loss because they aid in muscle gain and can curb unhealthy cravings but I wouldn’t recommend using them as meal replacements. Is it for pre-post workout for you or are they replacing meals?


      Carly x

  • Laura
    March 1, 2016

    Hi I hope you can help I am 18 and really active as in I train for football 3 days per week, I do weights in the gym twice a week, a high intensity workout once a week and a spin class once a week yet I cant seem to loose fat, I eat well 80% of the time but nothing seems to change

    • Lean Living Girl
      March 4, 2016

      Hi Laura,

      Thanks for the comment. Sounds like you’re incredibly active indeed! I’m completely supportive of having a balanced diet but it sounds like you need to pay particular attention to both the healthy 80% and the not as healthy 20%. I would start with sugar intake as that is more commonly the cause of fat gain (or lack of burning) than eating actual fat from sources like avocados and nuts.

      I would write a 5 day food diary and look at the percentage of sugar in the foods you eat, even from sugar sources such as the fructose in fruit, have a look to see if it’s relevantly high? Try cutting that sugar intake (carbs included) by 40% or so for 2 weeks and see if you notice a difference. Make sure you replace the calories with lots of vegetables and protein so that you are still maintaining a healthy diet.

      Hope that helps Laura and feel free to email again with anymore questions,

      Carly xx

  • Peach
    December 19, 2015

    What about girls who want to gain muscle and some weight? What would you recommend pre and post workout ?

    • Lean Living Girl
      December 20, 2015

      Hi Peach, thanks for the comment.

      For muscle and weight gain you need to look at a combination of your protein intake and overall calorie intake. Ultimately if you’re not taking in enough calories, you’re going to lose mass.

      You need to work out your BMR (this is how many calories your body burns at resting) and then ensure you are consuming sufficient calories (energy) each day to support your training and growth. It’s of course an individual thing but my suggestions for per and post workout for your above needs would be:

      For maximum performance whilst you’re training, make sure you have something already in your system rather than training first thing on an empty stomach. A handful of berries, banana or protein shake with a combination of some oats and the above is a good option. However the most important thing is that your day-to-day diet supplies you with well-rounded nutrition. So make sure you are getting good levels of fats, carbs and protein every day.

      For muscle gain it is absolutely essential you help the muscles to rebuild and repair by taking in protein. Research has shown the optimal time is within 30minutes of your workout, otherwise you’ll miss out on all the potential gains you’ve just worked hard for, this is why a Whey protein shake is an easy and perfect option. Keep the carbohydrate intake high to keep the body fuelled and continue with a well-rounded diet.

      Hope that helps and let me know if you have any other questions,

      Carly x

      • Peach
        December 27, 2015

        Thanks so much Carly! How do I calculate my BMR? Also what carbs are good to eat for dinner?

        • Lean Living Girl
          January 4, 2016

          Hi Peach,

          There are lots of methods you can use, some more expensive than others depending on how scientific and accurate you want to be. The one I use frequently which doesn’t require tests and extensive analysis is called the Schofield calculation. This is a nice little website which will help you to calculate your BMR:

          If you need a higher level of carbohydrate for dinner then the likes of sweet potatoes, lentils, wild rice, butternut squash and pumpkin are some of my favourites! You can combine them with plenty of meats or have a vegetarian meal. Hope that helps!

          Carly x

Carly Neave

Hello and welcome! I'm Carly, originally from London but currently enjoying a little adventure in Dubai. A travel and wellness blogger exploring the world one step at a time. Think fabulous food at undiscovered gems, unique destinations, skin care obsessions and so much more. This is my life, I hope you enjoy the ride!

About Me
Hi, I'm Carly!
A travel and wellness blogger exploring the world one step at a time. Think fabulous food at undiscovered gems, unique destinations, skin care obsessions and so much more. This is my life, I hope you enjoy the ride!
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