Meal Plans

The Ultimate Fast Food Survival Guide

Our roundup of the 17 best pre- and post-workout meals from fast food joints and chain restaurants.

Healthiest Fast Food

The pages of Muscle & Fitness are always packed full of monster training tips, super clean eating advice, and delicious recipes that are loaded with nutrient-dense ingredients—in a perfect world, all guidelines, tricks, and information that’ll keep your muscles pumped and your waist trim. Unfortunately, the reality is that getting (and staying) ripped requires a huge commitment of time and resources that we don’t always have at our disposal. Our world is filled with distractions that pull us away from clean eating, consistent workouts, and on-point discipline.

We understand that as well
as anyone, and we like to take a step back every now and then to explore how to keep your diet and training goals in line with the fast food options that are out there and tempting us every single day. Every corner and strip mall in

America is loaded with fast-food joints pulsing out cravings that call to us, a siren song of slop that can sometimes cause even the most disciplined guy to break down and stop for a convenient—and greasy—snack. And it’s usually not even that we can’t control the yearnings for fast-food fare, as once you commit to a diet of whole, clean, and fresh foods, the hankerings for fatty ones quickly dissipates.

It’s really more about the ease of a drive-thru or quick stop in a culture that demands more and more of our time. So we consulted with nutritionists and dietitians and scoured lists upon lists of nutrition info on countless websites to come up with a guide to getting the most out of fast-food joints. This year we found the 17 best options for picking up quick pre- and post-workout meals that can provide you with the macros you need to stay on target. Eating well on the go is possible if you know what you’re looking for.

“Good options for both meals will include a combination of healthy carbohydrates, lean protein, and a bit of healthy fats,” says Heather R. Mangieri, R.D., C.S.S.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a board-certified specialist in sports nutrition in Pittsburgh, PA.

Best Fast Food

Fill the Tank

When fueling for a workout, start with a balanced meal that includes high-quality carbohydrates and lean protein with a ratio of carbs to protein somewhere between 2-to-1 and 1-to-1, with carbs being the main focus. “Pre-workout meals should include a combination of healthy carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and a serving of lean protein, such as low-fat dairy, eggs, chicken, or fish,” Mangieri says. You need a meal that is going to give you sustained energy to keep you going through a workout but that will also reduce hunger pangs. “You’ll also want to steer clear of foods that can cause gastrointestinal distress such as fatty foods, along with refined carbohydrates that can cause

your blood sugar to bottom out during your workout,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., a registered dietitian in New York City and creator of The F-Factor Diet. “An ideal snack consists of complex carbohydrates— your muscle’s main energy source—plus a little protein for sustained energy.”

If you are going to eat a larger meal, make sure you consume it three to four hours before working out and stick with 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates and 30 to 40 grams of protein. “Those trying to squeeze their workout into a hectic day can get away with a smaller meal of 30 to 45 grams of carbs and 20 to 30 grams of protein
60 to 90 minutes before hitting the gym,” says Jessica Cording, R.D., C.D.N., a registered dietitian and owner of

Pre-Workout Meals

Here you’ll find a range of options
that offer a moderate amount of carbs, protein, and healthy fats—whether you want a whole meal or a light snack (or just a shot of caffeine). No matter what kind of diet you’re on, you can’t derail it with one of these nine pre-workout options.

NEXT: Post-Workout Meals >>

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