Interested in trying StairMaster workouts? How about a Barre workout? Maybe you are deciding between Yoga vs Pilates or circuit training vs HIIT. Whatever the case may be, a great workout starts before you even set foot on the spin bike or pick up a barbell—feeding your body well plays a significant role in keeping your body happy, healthy, and moving to give you the energy you need to power through your last set of reps.
You probably already know that protein can help repair your muscles after a strenuous sweat session, but what should you eat before a workout? If you’re looking for invigorating options to fuel your next training, opt for carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
What Should I Look for in a Pre-Workout Snack?
If you skip eating before your workout or haven’t had enough to eat that day, you’ll likely feel dizzy, lightheaded, and unable to crush your workout. However, feeling too full or eating a dense meal before working out might not sit well with your stomach and may leave you feeling less than your best.
That being said, a pre-workout snack should be easily digestible to avoid any discomfort while you exercise. But it must also be satiating and packed full of the macronutrients you need to energize your body.
Your body uses the macronutrients in food to power your muscles and your brain—think of macronutrients as the fuel powering your internal engine. These macronutrients include:1
- Complex Carbohydrates – Complex carbohydrates, which are found in foods like beans, grains, brown rice, bread, and fruits, provide your body with glucose that is converted into glycogen, which your muscles depend on for energy.
- Lean Protein – Lean protein, which you can get from meat, poultry, fish, eggs, lentils or nuts, serves as the “building block” of your body, providing the structure and support needed to repair and renew muscles and power your body’s many internal processes.
- Healthy Fat – Dietary fat can help to promote a feeling of fullness as well as provide important nutrients like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Now if your goal for working out is weight loss or losing belly fat, you might be worried that these foods might just add to your body weight. But the point of eating them is not only to fuel your workout but also getting the right nutrients. Depending on when you plan on working out, your pre-workout meal or snack should incorporate a balance of these macronutrients into your diet to ensure your workout is fueled properly.
That being said, you’ll want to customize your pre-workout snack depending on the time of your next workout.
What Should I Eat Several Hours Before a Workout?
You’ve been looking forward to it all day—your favorite group fitness class that’s scheduled just 30 minutes after your work day ends.
Since you probably won’t have the time to fit in a pre-workout snack in between finishing the day’s tasks and packing your things, you’ll need to supercharge your lunch with a pre-workout plate that’s packed with nutrients.
A protein-heavy plate with healthy fats and whole grains is the best meal to eat before a workout, such as:
- Pasta with fresh greens and chicken sausage
- Grilled fish with wild rice and avocado
- A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread
- An omelet filled with your favorite veggies with a side of protein-packed Greek yogurt
- Oatmeal with nut butter and berries
If you have the time, you may also want to “top up” your energy a half hour to an hour beforehand with a light but carb-heavy snack. This way, you also won’t be relying too much on protein powder.
What Should I Eat an Hour Before a Workout?
If you’re planning on heading to the gym in an hour or so, you probably don’t want to eat a full meal to avoid feeling queasy or overly full during your exercise. Instead, you should opt for a slightly lighter but still filling “mini-meal” that’ll give you the boost you need without slowing you down.
Look for options that serve up plenty of carbs and a bit of protein—eating a high-carb snack an hour before working out has been shown to increase performance and boost your mood.2
Some of our favorite mini-meals that feature energy-packed complex carbohydrates and muscle-building protein include:
- Whole wheat toast or a rice cake with nut butter
- A hardboiled egg and a piece of fruit
- A smoothie with banana, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, berries, and spinach
- Trail mix with nuts like cashews or almonds and dried fruit like raisins
- A protein bar and an apple
What Should I Eat 30 Minutes Before a Workout?
Decided spur of the moment to head to the gym or to take a virtual class on your phone with an app like iChuze? Make sure you’re fueled up! While you definitely don’t want to eat a heavy meal so soon before your workout, you still want to make sure that your body has everything it needs to work up a sweat.
When planning what to eat before a work out, you’ll want to opt for carb-heavy options for that instant burst of energy, while avoiding foods high in fat or fiber—these are more difficult for your body to digest and might cause a little discomfort if eaten right before exercising.3
Save your big meal for after the gym. Instead, look for quick, easy-to-digest options filled with energy-packed carbohydrates that you can snack on while getting your gym playlist fired up like:
- A banana or an apple (add a tablespoon of nut butter on the side for extra satiety)
- A sports drink or an energy gel
No matter what time you’re eating, make sure you’re also pairing those snacks with plenty of water—hydration is key to helping your body feel its best before, during, and after a workout. The point of your pre workout snack or meal is to aid in your exercise goal, whether that’s strength training, muscle growth, etc.
Of course, what’s just as important as your diet is to assess the condition of your body. Perhaps you’ve wondered, “Should I work out while sore?” The answer depends on your body’s limits. If you push yourself too hard, you might get injured.
- HealthLine. Pre-Workout Nutrition. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eat-before-workout#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3
- Forbes. What to Eat Before a Workout. https://www.forbes.com/health/body/what-to-eat-before-workout/
- Hospital for Special Surgery. Here’s What to Eat Before and After a Workout. https://www.hss.edu/article_eat-before-after-workout.asp
- VeryWell Fit. What to Eat Before Exercise. https://www.verywellfit.com/what-to-eat-before-exercise-3120662