Headed to the gym first thing in the morning or right after work? Exercising with low blood sugar is a surefire way to sabotage your carefully-planned routine, but it’s definitely not ideal to inhale a heavy meal just before exercising. So, what can you do if you have an early AM or pre-dinner workout?
Grab a pre-workout snack! Here we describe 12 of the best pre workout snacks to fuel for success during exercise and speed post-workout recovery, plus explain when it’s best to eat each one.
How Long to Wait to Exercise After Eating
The exact time you should wait to exercise after eating depends on the size of the meal, the planned workout and your individual biology.
🍔 Wait at least one hour, but preferably 2-3 hours, to exercise if you’ve just had a heavy meal. Your body needs time to digest, which requires increased blood flow to the stomach and intestines. If you hit the gym just after eating, your blood (and energy) will go to your skeletal muscles instead of your digestive tract. Without the necessary blood flow your meal will just sit in your stomach undigested and heavy.
🍌 If you’re hungry on the way to the gym or sports practice, grab a small, easy-to-digest snack like the pre workout snacks listed below. Most athletes can tolerate these quick-digesting foods right before – or even during – their workout without problems. Steer clear of foods with too much fat or fiber in the hour before your workout to avoid unwanted stomach upset.
Many people can also eat more (or heavier) food before a light workout like yoga, walking or recreational cycling than they can before a more vigorous workout like running, power lifting or dancing.
Pre Workout Snacks for Weight Loss
The best pre workout snack varies depending on the athlete and the activity, which is why many people experiment with different foods to find out what makes them feel best. However, nutrition experts agree that we all need a healthy combination of protein and carbs to fuel our bodies for exercise.
🍝 Carbohydrates are the main source of quick energy for our muscles. The popular process of “carb loading” is a common way to boost muscles’ glycogen stores, which gives you more available energy for short bursts of high-intensity exercise.
🥩 Protein is building block for muscles and a good source of mid-term energy. Research shows that consuming protein before a workout can boost performance, improve muscle recovery and increase lean body mass.
Healthy fats may also be beneficial as a more durable fuel source, especially for lower-intensity exercise, but fatty foods are best consumed at least 2-3 hours before your workout. Fat is digested slower than carbs, so eating too much fat just before a workout can cause stomach upset. Fats are also higher in calories in gram, so you may want to limit this nutrient if you’re in search of pre workout snacks for weight loss.
Here are 12 of the best pre-workout snacks!
What to Eat 1-2 Hours Before Your Workout
If it’s been a while since your last meal and you need a little pick-me-up to get the most out of your training session, grab one of these pre workout snacks a couple of hours before you workout. They all contain a healthy balance of carbohydrate and protein to fuel your workout and help you recover faster.
- Banana berry pre workout smoothie
Blend together 1 cup of nonfat milk (or plant milk) with 1 banana and a handful of berries. If you have it, throw in a scoop of whey protein powder to boost protein intake.
- Oatmeal with blueberries & almonds
Prepare ½ cup of plain instant oatmeal in milk or water and add a sprinkle of sliced almonds, a handful of blueberries (fresh or frozen) and a dash of cinnamon to finish off this wholesome pre workout breakfast or snack.
- Greek yogurt with fruit
Top 5-6oz of plain Greek yogurt with the fruit of your choosing. If the bitterness of plain yogurt bothers, try adding a dash of cinnamon and/or a drizzle of honey to soften the flavor.
- Veggie scramble on toast
Spray a small saucepan with cooking spray and saute-up about half a cup of your favorite veggies like spinach, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. Whisk two eggs (or one egg + 2 egg whites) in a small bowl and then add them to the pan. Cook until dry and serve with one slice of whole-grain toast.
- Milk and cereal
This classic breakfast is also a great workout snack! Opt for cereals with 6 grams or less of sugar, and preferably no added sugar, per serving and stick to one portion (usually 0.75-1 cup). In terms of milk, go for nonfat or use your favorite fortified, unsweetened plant milk.
- PB & J on whole wheat
Spread 1 tbsp natural peanut butter and 1 tbsp jam on 2 pieces of whole wheat bread for a delicious and nutritious pre workout snack. Read the ingredients on your bread to make sure it’s 100% whole wheat (not just wheat) to maximize healthy fiber and choose a PB with no sugar added.
- Turkey roll-ups and berries
Lay out two slices of deli meat and put a slice of cheese on each one, and then roll them up. Complete your snack with a cup of fresh berries like strawberries, blueberries or blackberries.
- Carrots and hummus dip
Dip 15-20 baby carrots (or celery sticks or cherry tomatoes) in 1/3 cup of hummus for a refreshing, vegan pre workout snack. Dip veggies in hummus instead of ranch dressing to boost protein intake.
What to Eat 30-60 Minutes Before Your Workout
With less than an hour to go until you’re workout, focus on fast digesting carbs to give you a quick boost of energy. Quick digesting carbs are low in fiber so that they pass through your GI tract faster. That makes them good pre-workout snacks because they won’t get stuck sitting in your stomach.
At this point, optimal pre workout snacks should also be low in fat and only have easily-digestible protein. That way you can digest the food quickly, which minimizes the risk of stomach upset during training.
Here are some of the best pre-workout snacks that you can grab on your way to the gym:
- Banana, apple or orange
Fruit is a popular and easy pre-workout snack. These snacks can either be eaten alone or paired with 1 tablespoon of nut butter or a hard-boiled egg to add a little protein.
- Toast with peanut butter
Take a piece of 100% whole wheat toast (or a rice cake) and top it with 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter for a quick, easy-to-transport snack.
- High-quality granola bar
Look for bars that have ingredients you can pronounce, at least 10g of protein and less than 10g of sugar. Snack on a half or whole bar depending on how hungry you are and the size of the bar.
- Cheese and crackers
If you’d prefer a more savory snack, munch on cheese and crackers before heading to the gym. Pair 10-15 crackers with 1oz of cheese to give you the boost you need.
You do NOT need to eat multiple snacks before your workout, but should instead choose the best time and snack for you based on your schedule, planned workout and preferences.
Supplements to Boost Your Efforts
Herbal supplements are also popular to improve athletic performance and boost results. Some common individual supplements creatine, caffeine or branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). These substances are purported to promote muscle building, boost performance and speed performance, respectively.
However, some exercisers choose to use a multi-ingredient supplement instead – especially if they want to lose weight as well. If you need a little extra energy, pre-workout supplements or Phen Caps could help you power through your workout. Phen Caps is especially beneficial because it gently suppresses appetite as well, which helps control cravings so you don’t undo your workout with constant snacking.
If you’re working out consistently and still not seeing results, a natural fat burner may be a good option to boost metabolism and help you lose more inches faster. We like 5 Star Fat Burner.
Do you grab a pre workout snack, or do you prefer to work out fasted? Share your favorite pre-workout snacks with us in the comments section below!