Smart Energizing Pre-Workout Foods

Updated on October 5th, 2020
Foods That Will Energize You Before a Workout

If you’ve ever had a sweat session on an empty stomach, you know how light-headed you can get as soon as your heart rate starts to increase. But, on the other hand, if you’ve ever had food mere moments before your sweat session, you’ve probably experienced vigorous nausea that often happens as a result.

You should understand that there are two very opposite ends to the spectrum, and know that it’s common to drink (shakes and water, of course) before a sweat sesh, the question remains: Should you take food before a sweat sesh?

If so, what’s the miracle time slot to do to avoid any stomach upset? Know more about everything there is to know about nutritional exercise preparation. 

Should You Eat Before a Workout?

Yes. If you have enough time to spend actually to read into the nitty-gritty of pre-workout consumption, check it out: whether or not you should eat before a workout depends on the time of day, type of workouts, and how your body responds to the type of food you plan to consume. 

In most cases, yes, you should eat. But if you walk in the morning, you definitely will not require the same energy as you would if you were doing a HIIT workout at noontime. 

That said, irrespective of the time of day, having a little, wholesome snack before workouts can give you a better chance of getting the most out of your exercises.

[Also Read: A User’s Guide to COVID-Proof Gym Workouts]

How Long Before Exercise Should You Eat?

Remember: It’s all about timing. You don’t want to eat far in advance of an exercise, but you also don’t want to eat too close to its beginning. For that reason, eating between half an hour and three hours before an exercise routine, depending on what you’re consuming.

If it’s a lighter meal, you can take it closer to the beginning of your exercise, and if it’s a heavier one, you should have it further in advance. 

No matter what you consume, though, you should always give yourself at least 30 minutes between your last bite and the start of your sweat sesh for food to feel settled. If you eat and then decide to go for an exercise session seconds after, you might feel a little sick (cramping or nauseous).

[Also Read: Which Is the Best Exercise for You?]

What to Look For in Pre-Workout Meals

The secret to making pre-workout meals is to look for simple foods to digest and contain ample amounts of carbohydrates and small amounts of fat and protein without getting super calculated [1].

While carbs are often speculated to be the culprit, that they’re actually the nutrient that gives us the most energy—particularly before an exercise session. 

Muscles use ATP (adenosine triphosphate) as the energy currency to perform the exercise. Protein, carbohydrates, and fat can all be converted to adenosine triphosphate; however, carbohydrates are easily converted and the most readily available.

Carbohydrates are also the only fuel that may be utilized without oxygen or anaerobically, making them the main fuel source in high-intensity exercises [2].

As for protein, it’s worthwhile to take it before a workout, as well, because it helps repair and builds muscle while also supporting to keep you full. 

Foods That Will Energize You Before a Workout

It’s essential to remember that not all foods are made equal. And, when it comes to choosing the best pre-workout meal, you want to go for more wholesome, healthier snacks than anything riddled with loads of ingredients and processed fats. Keeping that in mind, check out the list of nutritionist-recommended pre-workout foods below. 

1. Plain Greek yogurt with granola and berries 

The granola and berries provide easy-digesting carbs to fuel your workout, and the Greek yogurt provides adequate protein to prevent some of that muscle breakdown. Look for granola with seeds, nuts, and wholesome carbs (like amaranth, oats, quinoa, and millet).

Try to find carb sources sweetened with dried figs, coconut oil, and vanilla; you want to keep sugar to a medium. The same applies to the yogurt: Opt for plain rather than fruit flavors.

[Read: Surprising Benefits of Greek Yogurt]

2. Toast With Nut Butter

If you have enough time to spare before your workout,  pop a toasted piece in the toaster and slather it with a tablespoon of nut butter (think: cashew, almond, or organic peanut butter). You are getting a proper balance of the fiber (grains) and some nut butter protein.

For even more flavor and wholesome goodness, add a few berries or banana slices on top.

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[Read: Health Benefits of Almond Butter]

3. High-protein oatmeal and blueberries

If you’re always running out of time, whip up these almond-blueberry overnight oats. Chia seeds, almond butter, and oats majorly offer sustained energy for prolonged workouts.

This recipe also gets a protein punch due to protein powder (vanilla or unflavored) and plain Greek yogurt. One scoop of protein powder adds amino acids to help your muscles that are breaking down.

[Read: Benefits of Oatmeal]

4. Banana with Peanut Butter and Honey

Bananas are mother nature’s nutrient bar: They’re powered with potassium, which helps with optimal nerve and muscle function and simple carbs for fuel. Garnish it with a serving of peanut butter—or any other nut butter of your choice. (Just try to stick to the suggested two Tbsp serving size.) If you want a little sweetness, add some honey.

It’ll release slow, steady glucose levels into your bloodstream—great for endurance workouts and grueling WODs when your body can start using muscle glycogen as fuel if it doesn’t have sufficient readily available carbs.

5. Protein Bars (With the Right Calorie Counts)

The market is inundated with protein bars, and some are better than others. Always see for nutrition labels and look closely to ensure there’s only a single serving in the bar.

Unless you’re a hardcore fitness enthusiast who’s about to burn loads of calories, avoid snacking on bars with over three hundred calories. Generally, aim to go for protein bars with around 200 calories and at least ten grams of protein.

[Read: Benefits of Protein Bars]

6. 100-Calorie Packs of Nuts

Nuts have most of the nutrients required to fuel physical activities. Few nuts, like almonds, may even help you shed weight. But they are reasonably calorie-rich, which is why portion-controlled packs with 100 calories each are so beneficial.

It’s easy to go overboard if you don’t have pre-measured servings! These packs combine well with fiber-dense fruit, like apples.

Bottom Line

These pre-workout foods, selected by our experts, are a good step towards the right mix of protein, carbs, and fat to ensure you feel strong throughout your entire sweat session. Aim to eat the snacks roughly 30 minutes before you start moving.

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