So, fitness is a priority for you. You make it to the gym or hit the pavement 3 or more times a week, but because of your schedule, you exercise during what a lot of people would consider dinner time. That 5-7 PM time frame when your body is just exhausted from the day and hungry. But, you power through and make it to your workout. You’re either depleted until after or take one of those God-awful pre-workout supplements and call it energy. Then you come home and wind up eating a huge dinner, plus a large dessert (or second dinner) and feel overly full, wondering why you ate so much (again).

Evening fitness doesn’t have to be this way… and your stomach doesn’t have to be eating itself by the end of a morning exercise session, either! Embrace the mini-meal.

This post is written by Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN blog. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Luvo Inc. As always, I only align myself with companies and products that are in line with my values and all opinions are my own.

mini-meal is just that. Bigger than your average snack, but smaller than your main meal. They’re timed to give you the energy you need for that workout, without excess hunger during it, and then provide you with the right amount of energy, protein, and nutrients afterwards to aid in recovery from exercise and your busy life. Really, it’s like having a slightly larger meal split into two. And don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’re slaving over the stove for unnecessary amounts of time. As you’ll see below, companies like Luvo make your life easier.

luvo meals postworkout

I started recommending mini-meals years ago to younger athletes. I’d give a sports nutrition talk to teams, and parents were always concerned about their kids having dinner too late or having a large meal before a late practice. Splitting dinner into two is the logical answer {and I wish my 14 year old self knew this instead of having a teeny dinner and then bingeing on Reese’s puffs and PB at 9:30 PM after swim practice}.

The mini-meal theory is perfect for active individuals of any age, but harder to get adults to try because of the diet crazed world we live in – where people try to “make it” to dinner or have a tiny snack between a 12:30 lunch and a 5:30 workout. Your brain’s preferred energy source is carbs, believe it or not… oh, and yes, your brain uses lots of energy during the day, especially when you’re focused trying to be focus in the afternoon at your job. When you’re depleted, productivity plummets, as does your energy level and mood, and that evening workout is a struggle to get through.

On the weekends, I don’t think I’ve worked out without splitting my breakfast since college. For many people, Saturday and Sunday means not having to rush to exercise and/or a longer training session than during the week. Far too many people enter this longer workout under-fueled and as with those who don’t eat enough in the afternoon, wind up eating more than they wanted or needed after that weekend sweat sesh, too.

So, I have for you the art of building split meals, or mini-meals, and some examples of what to have – that are easy and convenient of course!

Your Pre-Workout Mini Meal…

should be 1.5-2.5 hours before exercise. It needs to be rich in easily digestible carbohydrates so they can fuel your exercise without sitting in your stomach. Still, you don’t want to load up on straight sugar or dried fruit or you’ll see a blood sugar spike and crash. You’ll want some protein, fat and fiber here, but not too much, since they slow the movement of food through the digestive tract, allowing for a steady release of energy and preventing you from getting hungry again before exercise.

Your Post-Workout Mini Meal…

needs to replenish the energy you used so that you have it to fuel your body and mind the rest of the day (or night), plus more protein than the pre-workout meal. This is also a good time to get in more of the fats we need for their anti-inflammatory benefits (and just because they taste good). Of course, you likely didn’t have veggies pre-workout, so this is where to fit in that nutrient packed produce.

Split Breakfast Ideas

Think of this as brunch split in two, since just a standard breakfast will be too small to fuel a long workout and normal life.

My go-to’s before exerciseOatspancakes, a couple of homemade muffins, or toast! I just recommend going a bit lighter on the toppings/fillings than if this were a full meal. Other than the toast, you can make all of them ahead of time, too.

The easiest option post-exercise? A pre-made veggie frittata or tofu scramble with a slice of toast and/or fruit. Or, how about some leftover shakshuka Want to make it even easier? Hard boiled eggs, of course, pair easily with fruit and nut butter, carrots and hummus. A high protein yogurt, high protein cereal and fruit will also do the trick. No cooking involved with the last two!

Split Dinner Ideas

One of my favorite options to provide heavier carbs in the preworkout half of dinner is to use sweet potatoes. Simply top with some nut butter and hemp seeds – and if you didn’t food prep any, just use the microwave! If you have a bit longer and digest food easily, top with some black beans and guacamole. Toast is an option here and I even have clients that will microwave some oats and add a little fruit and seeds. Another at work option is yogurt, granola and fruit.

At the end of a long work day and after your workout, I doubt you want to pull up a recipe and start following directions for your dinner. This is where easy pairings like eggs, frozen mixed vegetables, and minute rice can come together with a sauce. A sheet pan meal or simple grain, veggie and eggs may sound good, too. Or, some days you can turn to nourishing frozen meals {yes, you read that correctly}. Luvo has options that provide 20+ grams of protein and you can pair the meals with an extra serving of anti-inflammatory veggies from fresh or frozen.