If you exercise in the late afternoon or evening, it can be difficult to know what to eat before and after your workout – and throughout the day – in order to fuel your fitness and keep your energy levels high. We asked elite sports nutritionist James Collins for his tips.


Next, read what should I eat if I exercise in the morning? Discover what to eat for a run, swim or cycle, plus find out the benefits of carb-loading.

What should I eat if I exercise in the evening?

During the day aim to include carbs in your meals, preferably those with a higher fibre content so they release energy more slowly without causing spikes and crashes, as well as some lean protein. How much you need to eat and in what proportions will depend on the intensity of your planned exercise as well as your individual needs.

Remember, what you eat is only useful once it’s been digested, so the timing of your meal is relevant too. If you are eating lunch 2-3 hours before you exercise then focus on a carb-based meal with lean protein. If there is a longer gap between your workout and last meal, include a small snack about 30 minutes beforehand – a banana or smoothie is a great choice.

For a moderate to high intensity session lasting 35-40 minutes, you should aim to eat a moderately high-carb, low-fat and low-protein meal three hours before your planned exercise. Don’t be tempted to skip meals, especially if your workout is over an hour and of moderate to high intensity – failing to fuel correctly will impact your performance.

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How should I fuel my evening exercise?

If you exercise in the late afternoon or evening, the priority is to make sure your muscles are fuelled before training and recovered after, especially if it's a hard session. There can be a number of benefits to evening exercise but this doesn't always work for everyone, so find what's best for you and what fits in with your lifestyle and commitments.

On a single-session training day, for example if you run in the evening after work, you should aim to eat:

  • Two 'fuelling' meals
  • One 'maintenance' meal
  • Two snacks (one 'fuelling', one 'maintenance')

To learn more about what counts as 'fuelling' and 'maintenance,' check out James's Energy Plan.

Should I limit the carbs in my post-training evening meal?

If it’s a hard session, you need to ignore the old wives’ tales about eating carbs late, as you will need them to refuel your muscles. If it's a light session, you don't need to worry as much.

Recipes to support your workouts

Whatever exercise you do, the recipes below will support your training sessions. We've included three meals and two snacks to give you options, but if you prefer to only have one snack that’s fine.

Maintenance breakfasts

Crab & asparagus omelette
Melting tomato & basil omelette
Herb omelette with fried tomatoes

Herb omelette with fried tomatoes

Morning maintenance snacks

Spicy roast chickpeas
Sweet & spicy nuts
Nutty cinnamon & yogurt dipper

Roast chickpeas on a baking tray

Fuelling lunches

Chickpea & coriander burgers with a Greek salad
Quinoa salad with grilled halloumi
Smoked mackerel, orange & couscous salad

Chickpea & coriander burgers

Afternoon fuelling snacks

Pear, nut & blackberry bircher
Healthier flapjacks
Energy bites

Energy bites in a bowl

Fuelling dinners

Mexican chicken stew with quinoa & beans
Moroccan chicken with sweet potato mash
Thai prawn & ginger noodles

Sweet potato mash topped with chicken breast

Please note: your nutritional requirements are unique to you, so you may need to adjust portion sizes to meet your specific needs.

Keep up the momentum

Consistently following a healthy, balanced diet is vital for maintaining energy levels not only during your workout but at home and work, too. Check out our healthy recipes and 10 fitness foods to include in your meals.

Learn more about this approach in James’s book, The Energy Plan, where he explains how to monitor your progress and what to eat on days when you exercise more or less.

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This article was reviewed on 11 December by Registered Nutritionist, Kerry Torrens.

James Collins is the author of The Energy Plan, published by Penguin. For more information and to find a stockist, visit penguin.co.uk.

James Collins is recognised as a leading Performance Nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade he has worked with Arsenal FC, England and France national football teams and Team GB. Previously elected President of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Food and Health Forum, he has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life: jamescollinsnutrition.com.


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