Before you get your sweat on, you want to eat something healthy that will work in conjunction with your workouts and not against them. You don’t have to be a dietician to know indulging in donuts before exercising isn’t beneficial, but the question is: what should you eat?
The ideal foods to eat will boost your energy levels and improve your fitness routine, as well as ward off muscle soreness and replenish your body even after your workout is over.
Though your nutritional requirements may differ depending on your goals and activities, these 12 pre-workout snacks will provide you the perfect ratio of carbohydrates, fats and proteins to keep you satiated and fueled up for a sweat session.
Why Timing Matters
You don’t want your stomach growling during exercise, but you don’t want to feel like you just ate Thanksgiving dinner either.
Ideally, you want to fuel your body with healthy, nutritious foods that are no longer hanging out in your stomach when it’s time to work out.
A high carbohydrate snack with a little bit of fat and/or protein is ideal for most pre-workout snacks because it can easily be digested, plus it regulates your blood sugar.
As far as timing? If you’re eating something more substantial like a full meal, shoot for a maximum of 2-3 hours before a workout, however, if you’re eating a snack, try for about 30-60 minutes ahead of your workout.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks for Better Exercise
Avocado toast is a popular and delicious snack that packs a healthy punch. One serving of avocado has 3.5 grams of unsaturated fat – the good kind of fat you want! Avocados also contain potassium which provides a jumpstart to muscle recovery. Per avocado half, you get about 427 mg of potassium.
Try this avocado egg salad toast recipe for a fun and healthy twist.
2. Steel Cut Oats
Feeling drained mid-workout? Try eating a bowl of steel cut oats pre-workout to give your body lasting energy. Oats provide both simple and complex carbohydrates which generate a slow release of energy. Top your bowl with berries and/or nuts for a tasty treat!
Edamame is a great source of plant-based protein. At 8.5 grams of protein per cup, it doesn’t take much to deliver this essential macronutrient to your system. Edamame is also a good source of leucine (about 1237 mg per cup), an essential amino acid that aids the body in muscle building.
4. Banana with a Handful of Nuts
Bananas are a great choice pre-workout. It’s a quick grab-n-go option that delivers easily digestible carbohydrate along with potassium (roughly 422 mg), which helps to promote muscle recovery. Grab a handful of nuts as well for some added fat and protein.
5. Nut Butter Toast
Whether it be peanut butter, almond butter or some other type of nut butter, the combination of protein, carbs and fat in this combo is great for pre-workout fuel. In just two tablespoons of peanut butter, you get a whopping 7 grams of protein and 15 grams of fat. Be sure to pick a whole wheat piece of toast for sustained energy!
6. Energy bar
Energy bars with nuts and dried fruit are a great choice before exercising. They provide carbohydrates to fuel your muscles and provide plenty of fiber, protein and healthy fats to energize you, while also taming your tummy. Try out this Apple Cinnamon Energy Bars recipe to ensure you know exactly what’s going in your body, since a lot of store-bought varieties are filled with refined sugar and other processed junk.
7. Greek yogurt with nuts and fruit
Greek yogurt has a mix of whey and casein, which means you’re giving your body a beneficial combination of fast- and slow-digesting proteins that give you muscle-building amino acids during your workout. Check out these 15 Greek yogurt recipes to help you great creative with this yummy snack!
8. Oatmeal or quinoa with berries
Oatmeal is a great snack option to eat before you hit the gym – just be sure to consume it an hour before, so it has plenty of time to digest properly. Full of slow-digesting soluble fibers, oatmeal is also high in magnesium to provide you with energy for your workout while keeping muscle cramps at bay.
Quinoa is a grain-free option that is high in protein, just like oatmeal. Pairing your oatmeal or quinoa with berries will fuel your sweaty gym session. This Banana Berry Baked Oatmeal recipe and this Earl Gray Breakfast Quinoa With Berries And Mint are both great options.
9. Green Smoothie/Juice
A green smoothie or green juice is perfect for those looking for a no-fuss, portable option. Spinach and other leafy greens are a good source of iron, an essential mineral which aids the body in converting carbohydrate to energy and helps muscles to function at their best. Drinking these nutrients in liquid form is just plain easy!
10. Whole-grain pretzels with hummus
If you’re going for a long run, say an hour or more, you’ll want to give yourself something sustainable an hour before you hit the pavement. Eat 2 ounces of whole-grain pretzels, which are easy-to-digest carbohydrates, for a quick source of energy, while 2 tablespoons of hummus provides you protein and iron for strength.
11. Whole grain bagel topped with sliced banana, honey and peanut butter
As we just stated, whole grains are great for you, and they provide B vitamins which help the body release energy from protein, fat and carbohydrates. The banana is rich in potassium, magnesium and fast-working carbohydrates to help you recover post-workout. Try out this Bagel Gone Bananas recipe.
12. Salad with beets
Beets eaten pre-workout will increase the nitric oxide production in your body, which will boost your blood flow — necessary for when your muscles have to work extra hard to complete those Olympic lifts. Try out this Colorful Beet Salad with Carrot, Quinoa & Spinach recipe.
Want more ways to fuel your workout? Download my new e-book, 6-Minute Smoothies! It’s packed with nutritious smoothies to power your every move.