If your idea of pre-workout noshing is grabbing a few leftover cookies from an empty conference room, it’s time to rethink your afternoon snack choice. If you’re putting in the time to exercise, it’s worth it to properly fuel your body. Not only will you get a better workout, but you’ll recover faster and build more muscle.
Here’s what to eat (and when) before a workout.
Pre-Workout Snack Timing
Depending on your workout needs and personal preference, you have two choices:
- Two to three hours before a workout: eat a normal-sized meal
- 30 to 60 minutes before a workout: eat a small snack
For most people, if your workout is less than 60 to 90 minutes and you’ve had a balanced meal within two to three hours, there is no need to have another snack. On the other hand, if it’s been awhile since you’ve eaten, or if you’re planning a longer or more intense workout, have a small snack an hour or so before you head out to exercise.
What if you work out first thing in the morning?
This one is a toss up. While some people do just fine working out on an empty stomach, others aren’t able to work out as hard. If you’re doing a short workout that is less than 30 to 45 minutes, it probably won’t make much of a difference either way. But if you notice a lag in energy levels, or if you are doing a longer, more intense workout, have a small snack before you exercise.
What to Eat Pre-Workout
The goal here is to eat something that helps give you energy for your workout, boosts your performance, will preserve your muscle mass and speed up your recovery time. The best pre-workout snack consists of two things: carbohydrate and protein.
Carbohydrate before exercise:
- Provides a source of fuel for your muscles to use during your workout which can boost your exercise performance and recovery.
- Causes a release of insulin which, when combined with protein, increases muscle building and prevents muscles breakdown.
Protein before exercise:
- Gives your muscles amino acids, aka substrate to build your muscles up.
- Can reduce muscle damage during your workout, which means you recover faster.
- Can help maintain and increase your muscle size
A little bit of fat and fiber is ok too, though if you’re eating less than an hour before a workout you’ll want to limit these nutrients. Both fat and fiber, especially large amounts, slow down digestion, which may cause stomach cramps or nausea is you workout soon after eating.
Don’t forget to drink up!
Our bodies are made of mostly water. That means if you’re even slightly dehydrated, you could see a difference in your workout performance and recovery. Stay hydrated by drinking 12 to 20 ounces of water upon waking up in the morning. Drink consistently during the day, aiming to keep your urine the color of lemonade, a light yellow. Any darker, and it’s a trigger that you need to drink more. In the 10 to 20 minutes pre-workout, drink at least six to 10 ounces of water.
The Best Pre-Workout Snacks
- 1 slice whole wheat toast topped with 2 teaspoons of almond butter and 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricots
- ½ cup of cottage cheese topped with a cup of grape tomatoes and cracked black pepper
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt mixed with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter and cinnamon to taste, serve with 1 apple sliced
- 1 ¼ edamame in the pods sprinkled with chili powder and sea salt
- Whole wheat English muffin topped with a tablespoon of hummus, a sliced hard boiled egg and tomato slices
- Smoothie with 1 cup of fruit, 1 cup leafy greens, 4 ounce plain Greek yogurt, a tablespoon of nut butter or nuts and 8 ounces of liquid
- 15 pretzels with ¼ cup of hummus
- A medium banana with a tablespoon of nut butter
- ½ a cup of oatmeal made with milk and topped with fresh fruit and a tablespoon of nuts
- 2 or 3 energy bites
- Cranberry almond bar with chia and coconut
Have you ever noticed the way food affects your workouts? Share your tips with us in the comments below and be sure to download Luvo’s 7-day meal and fitness plan for more nutrition tips and recipes.
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