Your Best Body Meal Plan

Eating the right food — at the right time — is crucial to getting the body you want. Oxygen makes it easy with meal plans designed around your workouts.
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Whether your goal is weight loss, endurance or preparing for a contest, your preworkout and postworkout meals can make or break your success. Increasing your endurance, for instance, requires a whole different nutritional approach than if you’re trying to build muscle. That’s why we’ve broken down the diet advice into five specific goals. Choose your goal and get started!

Goal 1: Endurance

You need to be adequately fueled for endurance workouts lasting longer than an hour, says Amy Goodson, MS, CSCS, CSSD, Dallas Cowboys sports dietitian and co-author of Swim, Bike, Run, Eat: The Complete Guide to Fueling Your Triathlon (Fair Winds Press, 2014). “In general, you want to eat two to four hours before your workout to have fuel for training. Meals should be largely carbohydrates, some protein, and lower in fat and fiber, which can cause gastrointestinal distress.”

2 to 4 Hours Before Your Workout

Your plate should include half complex carbs (e.g., sweet potato, brown rice), a quarter lean protein (e.g., grilled meats, egg whites) and a quarter of easier-to-digest vegetables.

Sample Meal: Eat 2 to 3 ounces of turkey with a slice of 2 percent cheese, lettuce, tomato and 2 tablespoons hummus on two slices of whole-wheat toast, plus 6 ounces low-fat Greek yogurt with ½ cup berries and ¼ cup granola, baby carrots and 20 ounces of water.

30 Minutes Before Your Workout

Carbohydrates and some protein should be on the menu, Goodson says. Consume 5 to 10 ounces of water or a sports drink (best on hot days to restore electrolytes).

Sample Snack: Eat a whole-grain granola bar and a few almonds, banana and a string cheese or a small protein bar. Pair each with a 5- to 10-ounce sports drink.


Eat 45 minutes after your workout or sooner, then follow it up with a more complex meal within two hours, Goodson says. Aim for a 4-1 ratio of carbs to protein. “Simple carbohydrates work best because they digest quickly and promote recovery faster when paired with a protein powder high in branched-chain amino acids,” Goodson says.

Goal 2: Muscle Building

In order to gain muscle, you have to eat more calories than what you need to maintain your weight, Goodson says. “You can eat all the protein in the world, but without adequate calories, you will not gain muscle.” Preworkout and postworkout meals should aim for 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight or close to a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Increase your calories with quality foods such as complex grains (quinoa, couscous, oats, etc.), lean protein and fatty fish along with other healthy fats like nuts and nut butters.

2 to 4 Hours Before Your Workout

An ideal meal contains complex carbohydrates, lean protein and veggies with a plate of one-third complex carbohydrates, one-third protein and one-third vegetables, Goodson says. “Add a dairy item to this meal to up the protein content and contribute calcium.”

Sample Meal: Eat 4 to 5 ounces grilled salmon, 1¼ cup quinoa, 1¼ cup veggies and 8 ounces low-fat milk or ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese, and drink 16 to 20 ounces of water.

30 Minutes Before Your Workout

Eat a small snack. “The goal would be some carbohydrates and quality protein,” Goodson says. In addition to drinking 5 to 10 ounces of water, a sample snack may be half a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread and a few almonds; or beef/turkey jerky and a piece of fruit; or 6 ounces low-fat Greek yogurt with berries.

Yogurt and Berries


Eat something within 45 minutes of completing your workout and follow with a more complex meal two hours later, Goodson says. Aim for a 2-1 ratio of carbs to protein. Consuming 20 to 25 grams of quality protein jump-starts muscle rebuilding after a workout. Replenish with simple carbs, rebuild with whey protein and rehydrate with fluid.

Sample Postworkout Snack: Mix 1 scoop whey protein with water, 1 banana and 1 cup berries and blend together; or mix 8 ounces low-fat chocolate milk with ½ scoop whey protein; or eat one protein bar with 40 grams carbohydrates and 20 grams protein. Drink water with each of these snacks.

Goal 3: Drop the Last 5 Pounds

Leaning out is more difficult because you have to get pickier about what you eat, Goodson says. “One way to do this is by ‘cleaning up’ what you typically eat,” she says. “So eat more whole foods and cut out the processed stuff.” Limit cheating to one meal per week and stick to the plan the rest of the time. Keeping calories adequate to match your daily need or drop them somewhat under helps you reach your goal.

2 to 4 Hours Before Your Workout

Eat a meal containing a complex carbohydrate, lean protein and veggies with a plate of a quarter complex carbohydrates, a quarter lean protein and half veggies with 16 to 20 ounces of water.

Sample Meal: Eat 3 to 4 ounces grilled chicken, 1 cup brown rice, 1½ to 2 cups veggies with a little healthy fat like avocado, hummus or a healthy oil.

30 Minutes Before Your Workout

Consume some carbs and a quality protein such as 6 ounces low-fat Greek yogurt with berries or 1 apple, plus 1 tablespoon freshly ground almond butter with 5 to 10 ounces of water.


1-1 ratio (if a strength-based workout) to a 2-1 ratio (if a cardio-based workout) of carbs to protein. “Consuming 20 to 25 grams of quality protein will jump-start muscle rebuilding after a workout,” Goodson says.

Sample Postworkout Snack: Mix 1 scoop whey protein with water and eat a banana or eat ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese and ½ cup chopped fresh fruit.

Goal 4: Shed 20 Pounds or More

A 1- to 2-pound weight loss per week should be your goal if you want to lose 20 pounds or more, says Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., RD, CSSD, assistant professor of sports nutrition at the University of Georgia. “It’s considered safe and reasonable to avoid compromising lean body mass.”

This requires a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories a day through increased calorie expenditure or decreased calorie intake. “Of course, some people may lose more or less when calories are reduced and activity is increased, depending on a variety of factors such as hormones,” Pritchett says.

In general, Pritchett recommends against excluding any food groups but focusing on nutrient density versus calorie density. “Protein may help with satiety and maintenance of muscle mass,” she says. “And replace starchy carbs like rice and bread with fruits and vegetables.” Also, cut back on any high-sugar beverages and substitute with water or unsweetened tea to save calories.

Preworkout and Postworkout Meals

These meals should be the same, Pritchett says. Decrease starchier carbs to a quarter to one-eighth of the plate and replace with fruits and vegetables, which should take up about half your plate. Add lean protein to fill out the remaining quarter of your plate.

Goal 5: Contest Prep

The strictest diet starts when you’ve reached your goal weight and would like to get super defined, either for a contest or to see how cut you can look. Strength and conditioning coach Missy Mitchell-McBeth, MS, CSCS, of Texas Christian University, followed this regimen to get in contest-ready shape. (Note: An extreme diet such as this is not usually recommended for the average woman, Goodson cautions.)

1. Carb cycle — two high, two medium, three low days (depending on your specific needs). “You can add more low days as needed when you get closer to competition,” Mitchell-McBeth says.

2. Include protein at every meal (every two and half to three hours).

3. Prep all your food for the week, weighed out and in containers. Freeze anything to be eaten later in the week. (Mitchell-McBeth keeps only Monday food out and pulls other proteins out of the freezer the night before or morning of depending on thaw time.)

4. The closer you get to competition, the more your protein consists of white fish only.

5. Cut out sugars, period. No fruit. “Honestly, I believe this was the biggest piece to me not having cravings,” she says.

6. Eat all your food, even when you don’t want it, so you aren’t susceptible to cheating because you just aren’t hungry.

7. Watch out for condiments ... every gram of everything counts.


Drink a protein shake with just 1 scoop of protein (20 to 25 grams of whey protein) and water ideally within 15 to 30 minutes postworkout. Follow it up with a lean protein and carb (sweet potato) within the hour.


Sample Postworkout Snack: Mix 1 scoop whey protein with water, 1 banana and 1 cup berries and blend together; or mix 8 ounces low-fat chocolate milk with ½ scoop whey protein; or eat one protein bar with 40 grams carbohydrates and 20 grams protein. Drink water with each of these snacks.

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