What Does Pre & Post Workout Mean?

Coach and little league players stretching

For some, a "workout" includes the entire exercise session: the warm-up, the main exercise session and the cool-down. For others, the warm-up and initial stretching session are separate pre-workout activities, while the cool-down and second stretching period are part of the post-workout session. In general, what you do pre-workout helps fuel your exercise session and prevent injury, and what you do post-workout helps rebuild muscle, replace lost nutrients and keep you limber.

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Your body needs fuel to perform at peak efficiency during your workout. Starving yourself before you work out forces your body to burn muscle energy while you’re exercising. The contents of a pre-workout meal will vary depending on your workout goal, but in general you should eat a meal about two or three hours before your workout that includes plenty of protein, some healthy carbs and a little fat. You may also want to drink a protein shake, particularly if you’re trying to build muscle.

Post-Workout Nutrition

The meal you eat after exercising helps replace the nutrients your body uses during exercise. Eating after a strength-training session is particularly important because your body must repair the damage you’ve done to your muscles. Indeed, it’s the damage-repair cycle that helps build stronger muscles in the long run. Your post-workout meal can resemble the pre-workout meal, though you can probably be a bit more liberal with your carb intake. The American Council on Exercise recommends a 3-1 to 4-1 ratio of carbs to protein in your post-workout meal because the carbs help your muscles absorb the protein. A whey protein shake, which is easy to digest, can help your muscles recover quickly. Eat the meal within an hour of your workout.


It’s important to warm up before you exercise. Begin with five to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity, such as riding an exercise bike, walking briskly or jumping rope. Follow with dynamic stretches that put your muscles and joints through the full range of motion they’ll use during your workout. If you’re going to work out your arms, for example, stretch first by performing arm swings or arm circles.


Cooling down post-workout lets your muscle temperature drop slowly, which may help reduce post-workout soreness. The cool-down can resemble your aerobic warm-up. If you’ve been running for 30 minutes, for example, you can slow to a light jog for five minutes, then walk for five minutes. The post-workout period is also a good time to perform static stretches, which can help increase your overall flexibility. Stretch slowly, then hold your peak positions for about 30 seconds each without bouncing.