The Best High Energy Snacks for Athletes to Eat Pre-Workout
We all know that eating well is super important to getting the most out of your gym workouts.
This is even more important for high-performing athletes. If you're training for a specific sport or event, you want to make sure everything is on point.
To maximise your performance you need to make sure that your diet is on point, but also your pre-workout game is on point.
We've compiled a list of the best high energy snacks for athletes to eat pre-workout, in order to help maximise gym performance and recovery.
The Importance of Fuelling Your Body Before Exercise
Whether you're an athlete, bodybuilder or just looking to stay in shape, pre-workout nutrition is important.
Not eating before you work out is like driving a car when your petrol light is on. Not only will your workout be less effective, but you’ll also burn fewer calories during exercise.
Eating a snack or light meal before your workout can help increase energy potential, prevent hypoglycemia and settle an unsettled stomach. A light snack also helps manage hunger and fuels muscles with glycogen for enhanced performance.
The Perfect Pre-Workout Macro Split
If you’re planning to do some high-intensity exercise, it’s important to keep your energy levels up. One of the best ways to do this is by eating snacks containing both simple and complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbs (like glucose) release energy quickly into your bloodstream, while complex carbs (like whole grains) take longer to digest and provide sustained fuel during activity.
However, if you're in the middle of an intense workout and need quick energy, you'll want simple carbohydrates. These are easily absorbed by the body and provide a quick boost of energy that prevents you from hitting "the wall."
However, you don’t need to focus on synthetic snacks full of added sugar, there's plenty of natural sugar found in fruit and other snacks.
People who train regularly need to consume more protein than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. A snack containing protein alongside a protein-rich meal will help you meet your daily intake goals, especially if you don't like supplementing with protein shakes.
Make sure to check for electrolytes like sodium and potassium in your snacks. If you engage in sweaty activity, you lose a lot of salts, so rehydrating properly requires more than just water.
Depending on your goals, you'll want to eat a certain amount of carbs and fat before a workout.
For resistance training or HIIT style workouts, the ratio of carbohydrates to fats and proteins in a pre-workout snack should be weighted towards carbs.
Carbohydrates are the best choice for a pre-workout snack, as they will sustain your energy levels throughout the workout. Aiming for 15-30g of carbohydrate and 10-20g of protein is a good starting point.
The Best Pre-workout High Energy Snacks for Athletes
For athletes and everyday people alike, bananas are the go-to snack. A single banana contains 30 grams of carbohydrates (half of which is sugar), making it a simple source of energy, even when you’re on the move. They also contain potassium and magnesium and are easy on the stomach.
Energy Bars are made to give you a quick burst of energy when you need it most. The Science in Sport bars are made with natural fruits, so they're packed full of carbs, perfect for a healthy snack that delivers energy in an efficient format.
Oranges are a great source of energy, and vitamin C helps the body create an enzyme that is important in metabolism. If you’re a competitive athlete concerned with fine margins, fresh oranges can help keep you focused and sharp.
Cashews, almonds and walnuts are high in calories and carbohydrates. They're great before a workout because they have both protein and carbs but only take up a small amount of space so you won't feel full too soon.
Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, all of which help stave off fatigue.
Nuts are a healthy snack option which contain B vitamins and vitamin E, two nutrients that help reduce fatigue and increase your energy levels.
Peanut butter is a favourite snack among people who regularly visit the gym, because of its high protein content.
Combining nut butter with a high-carb snack like a banana or some dried fruit is an easy way to meet all your sports nutrition needs in one go.
Berries are full of antioxidants, which can help minimise soreness caused by delayed-onset muscle pain (DOMS) in the days after a hard training session.
Berries contain natural sugars and are high in fibre, which makes them delicious and refreshing.
All seeds offer a good source of protein, unsaturated fats and important vitamins and minerals.
Flax and chia seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, key for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. They’re a bit difficult to eat if you’re on the move, so try tossing them into salads or adding them to your porridge instead!
What Snacks Should You Avoid Pre-workout?
Low carb, high fibre protein bars
Carbohydrates are your body's preferred energy source. Your body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream and travel into cells where they can be used for energy.
Fibre rich foods
Although fibre is great for your gut, and it can hinder your workout. High-fibre foods such as broccoli or cereal take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates, so they draw blood away from muscles.
Complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, vegetables and beans are not the best source of energy for endurance training, as they won’t help you fulfil your potential.
Hot and spicy foods
Spicy and hot foods can trigger heartburn or acid reflux, which is caused when acids from your stomach leak into the oesophagus. This leads to a burning sensation in your throat and sourness in your stomach, which makes exercise uncomfortable.
What Are Some Other Healthy Snacks for Athletes?
Eggs contain protein, vitamin B12, and iron, all nutrients that help rebuild muscle after a workout.
Eggs are rich in lecithin, which helps break down fats so they digest more easily, making them ideal for those who are lactose intolerant. Adding spinach or tomatoes to your omelette will add antioxidants that help prevent cell damage.
Fruit with Greek Yogurt
Fruit and Greek yogurt are an excellent combination. The carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats in fruit give your body the energy it needs to perform at its peak during a workout while maintaining blood sugar levels.
Yogurt contains natural sugars, as well as proteins and probiotics which are essential for building muscles. The yogurt's probiotic content also helps strengthen your immune system, which means you'll be less likely to catch an infection that could affect your workout performance.
When Should Athletes Eat Snacks?
Snacks should be fast, easy and healthy. Athletes need to plan ahead so that they have snacks on hand when needed in between meals.
Athletes should pack snacks to take on-the-go so that they can eat healthy even when life gets busy. A variety of foods from all four food groups will ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
Why are Healthy Snacks Important?
Provide an energy boost between meals
Keeps hunger pangs under control and prevents overeating at next meal
Source of additional nutrients such as high protein, fruit and nuts
Is Fruit a Good Pre-Workout Snack?
Fruit is a good pre-workout snack option because it contains a special blend of nutrients that assist in preparing your body for physical activity:
- Fruit is a source of carbohydrates, which are required to fuel your body with energy during exercise.
- Fruit also contains healthy fats, which help to keep you fuller for longer.
- Fruit can absorb excess acid, which aids in the relaxation of your stomach while suppressing your appetite.
- Eating fruit can allow you to replenish your muscular glycogen reserves while also providing immediate nourishment to your active muscles.
- Choosing fruit as a pre-workout snack can maintain blood sugar levels and reduce the chance of low blood sugar, which can often bring dizzy and light headed symptoms.
- Easy to grab on the go and eat as part of your busy day.
- Form of hydration which is key for helping general cardiovascular function.
Do Protein Shakes Provide Energy?
Protein shakes provide calories, and calories convert to energy. If you’re on the go, rushing to the gym in the morning before you start your day or straight from work.
A ready to drink protein shake would be a great pre-workout option. Your protein shake choice should include plenty of nutrients for fuel and a large protein content, you can get all you need in one bottle.
Shop Our Top High Energy Snacks for Athletes
Protein bars are quick, convenient snacks that can give you an energy boost before a workout.
Protein balls are bite-sized pops of protein that are light on the stomach, high in fibre and keep your hunger in check.
If you are in a rush, and don't have time to prepare your own protein shake, ready-to-drink shakes can be a great pre-workout option. A good protein shake should provide nutrients to fuel muscles and a large amount of protein.
For people who prefer to exercise early in the day, porridge is an excellent breakfast choice for athletes.
Complex carbohydrates, which are in porridge, digest slowly and provide fibre. To boost your protein intake you can add some of your favourite protein powder to it.
If you don’t have much time to prep, you could always grab a porridge pot, add water and you are ready to go.