What (and When) to Eat before a Workout

What you eat before a workout should fuel your hard exercise and keep you going longer and stronger. Empty stomach workouts appeal to some people, but studies show that exercisers lift more, workout longer, and give up less if they are fully charged.

When to Eat

About an hour or two before your workout, grab a snack that will keep you going strong. An hour gives you time to get digestive juices flowing. Your digestive system takes a break during workouts to focus energy on the muscles that are working so hard. So, give yourself some time so your meal doesn’t just sit there like a rock. The shorter the time between, your body continues to send blood to the digestive system, instead of to your pumping muscles.

What to Eat

Eat a combo all three macronutrients: carbohydrates for energy, a little protein for staying power, and minimal fat and fiber to keep your GI tract happy.


Who hasn’t heard of low-carb / no-carb diets? Well, pre-workout, ignore everything you’ve heard! Carbohydrates are major energy sources and keep blood glucose levels high for superior energy, and the most important inclusion to your pre-workout snack. Your snack should be heaviest (of all three macronutrients) in carbohydrates, making up about 70-80% of the calories in the snack. However, be sure that simple, or added, sugars are minimal. Carbs should come from natural sugars and grains.


A snack with no protein will leave you feeling hungry after just a few minutes. Add a few grams of protein for some staying power, so you feel fuller, longer. Protein is most crucial after a workout, however, a few grams, or about 10-15% of the calories are a good idea.


Fats slow digestion, so a few grams, or about 10% of the calories, of healthy fats are not so bad, especially if you are eating your snack an hour or more before exercise. Be sure to focus on ‘healthy’ fats, like those from peanut butter, hummus, and the natural fats in cereals and milk.


Add some fluids to the mix as well! Be sure to drink at least 16oz of water, juice or tea prior to working out. Eating fruit or vegetables is a great choice, too. They are high in carbohydrates and packed with water.

Snack ideas

Try a variety of different snacks over the course of a few weeks to see what works best for your body. These choices include a good balance of the necessary nutrients:

  • Low-fat cereal with banana
  • Yogurt with berries and a sprinkle of granola or crunchy cereal
  • Low-fat granola, cereal or a trail mix bar
  • small bowl of black beans and brown rice
  • A low-fat, whole grain waffle spread with 1 tsp peanut butter and berries or bananas
  • 1 pack of instant oatmeal with cinnamon and 5 chopped almonds or chopped apple
  • 1/2 whole wheat bagel with nut butter or 1 tbsp cream cheese 
  • 1 whole wheat pita spread with 2 tbsp tomato sauce, and sprinkled with low-fat parmesan cheese. Toast it under the broiler.

Be sure to stay hydrated through the workout, and follow up your sweat session with a proper post workout snack or meal as well. Maximum sports nutrition will keep your exercise powerful and muscle recovery quick.


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