The Best Pre-Workout Snacks to Fuel Your Gym Sessions
If you're hitting the gym, going to an exercise class or working out from home, you want to get the most out of your training. Whether you’re lifting weights, taking a spinning class, or going for a run, it’s important to nail your pre-workout nutrition to maximise your workout.
There’s so many different pre-workout drinks, supplements snacks and meals to pick from. It can be hard to know what you should eat before a workout to get the most of your training.
Eating the “wrong” thing at the “wrong” time can actually hurt your workout performance.
Whether this is eating too close to a workout, eating too much or not eating enough calories or eating the wrong kinds of foods that will have you feeling full and bloated.
Well today, the Snackfully team is making the choice easy for you. We’re giving you a rundown of the best pre workout snacks to fuel your gym sessions, so you can make the gains you deserve. Whether your goals are to lift heavier, spin faster, run quicker, jump higher.
And, while many of us prepare mentally for a challenging workout, we sometimes forget to fuel the engine or to do it properly. So, what to eat before a workout?
Pre-Workout Nutrition 101
Carbohydrates are one type of macronutrient, which provides energy to the body by breaking down into glucose that is used in various ways.
Carbohydrates can be found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables. They are also often a part of dairy products and proteins like meat or eggs.
Carbohydrates are made up of simple and complex forms. Simple carbohydrates include refined sugars like table sugar, whereas complex carbohydrates contain fibre that helps us feel full for longer periods of time.
For decades, researchers have examined the importance of carbohydrate intake before exercise. Many studies have shown that athletes perform better when they consume carbohydrates than when they don't eat any carbohydrates before exercise.
This is because carbohydrates are the most effective form of energy and fuel that our bodies can use. Exercise leads to a decrease in muscle glycogen stores, so athletes must replenish them before they start training or competing.
Protein consumed before a workout can boost athletic performance, muscle recovery, and mass. It also helps you stay fuller for longer so you're less likely to get hungry mid-workout.
It's better to eat a low-fat, nutritious snack before your workout so that you won't feel sluggish.
Protein provides 4 calories per gram, carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram and fat provides 9 calories per gram.
Should you eat carbs before a workout?
Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of fuel. Most people store enough carbohydrates in their muscles and liver to last for a few hours of intense exercise. But if you're an endurance athlete, or someone who trains a lot, you may need to eat more carbohydrates before training to ensure that your body has enough fuel during your workout.
Eating carbs before a workout can help you train at higher intensities for longer periods of time and recover faster between bouts of exercise (like sprints).
Should you eat fats before a workout?
Research has shown that consuming fat before exercise can improve performance and reduce muscle damage during exercise. However, not all fats are created equal, choose the ones that are good for you like omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats like avocados or nuts.
Should you eat protein before a workout?
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for building muscle and losing fat. It's also essential for a healthy metabolism and maintaining a strong immune system.
Protein helps build and maintain muscle tissue, which is key for weight loss because muscle burns more calories than fat does. Protein also plays an important role in helping your body recover after exercise.
When should you eat before a workout?
You should eat a pre-workout meal about 1 to 2 hours before you exercise. If you have a very large meal, it may take longer for your body to digest it, so you may need to give yourself more time or opt for a pre-workout snack.
When it comes to eating right before your workout, timing is everything: If you eat too soon before exercising, there's a greater chance that the food will sit in your stomach uncomfortably. On the other hand, if you don't eat enough or sufficiently ahead of time, as well as during and after exercise, you may end up feeling weak or light-headed from low blood sugar levels.
How much should you eat before a workout
Depending on how much time you have before your workout starts, should determine what your meal includes. Take a look at some of our suggestions:
If your workout starts within 2–3 hours or more:
- sandwich on whole-grain bread
- scrambled egg and whole-grain toast
- chicken, rice and vegetables
If your workout starts within 2 hours:
- protein smoothie including protein powder, milk or substitute and fruit
- porridge topped with fruits such as banana
- peanut butter on whole-grain bread
If your workout starts within an hour or less:
- Fruit with Greek yogurt
- Protein bar
- a piece of fruit or dried fruit
Pre-workout snack vs pre-workout meal
Whether you eat or drink something before a workout depends on when your training session will take place, as well as how long it takes for the body to digest different foods.
If you work out first thing before starting your day, and if you have one hour to eat breakfast, then it’s best for you to eat a more filling meal such as porridge.
However, if you don't have much time to get to your gym session, a light snack like fruit or protein bars will do.
Depending on your goals, workout routine and schedule, either a pre-workout snack or meal may be right for you.
The Best Pre-Workout Snacks
Protein bars are easy to carry and can give you a quick boost of energy before exercising to fuel your workout.
If you want to fuel your workout with a protein shake, drinking one before heading out to the gym is easy. Just pick one that packs all of the nutrients and energy you need in one bottle, no snacking required!
If you are an early riser and prefer to get your workout out of the way on a morning, porridge is the perfect pre-workout breakfast. If you don’t have much time to prep, grab a porridge pot; add water and it's ready in seconds!
As fruit smoothies contain natural sugars that give your body energy for high-intensity workouts, they make great pre-workout snacks. However, to reap the benefits of a smoothie as a workout food, you should drink it at least two hours before beginning any exercise session.
Greek yogurt is an excellent pre-workout snack because it contains casein and whey proteins, key sources of muscle fuel. In addition, Greek yogurt's easily digestible carbs keep you energised throughout your workout.
Eat a bowl of Greek yogurt at least one hour before your workout, and get an unsweetened variety. Add real fruit or natural sweeteners like honey for flavour!
Fitness buffs often snack on fruit before a workout because it contains vitamins and nutrients that help muscles function, as well as natural sugars the body uses for energy during exercise.
To reap the maximum benefits from your next workout, eat a banana or other fruit at least one hour before you work out.
Overnight oats with strawberries and walnuts
Cooking oatmeal takes time, but overnight oats let you get the benefits of slow-digesting carbs in a hurry. Just mix old-fashioned or steel cut oats with low-fat milk, sliced strawberries and walnuts, then eat it all chilled for breakfast!
Trail mixes usually consist of nuts, dried fruits, and seeds which provide an excellent source of protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
The combination of these nutrients makes trail mix an ideal food for endurance athletes who need a sustained energy source to get them through long workouts.
Rice Cakes with Peanut Butter
Combining rice cakes with peanut butter is a great way to get both complex carbohydrates and protein before a workout.
Rice cakes are a low-calorie food that is easy to digest while peanut butter provides slow-burning energy to help you through long workouts.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks on the go
Protein Bars- Easy to grab anytime of the day, with no preparation required.
Ready to drink Protein Shakes- Simply shake and drink, no need to mix or blend, easy to carry in a bottle with the macros already worked out for you.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks for Leg Day
Apple with peanut butter- Elevate your fruit snack with peanut butter for a delicious pre-workout fix!
Fruit smoothie- Mix together your favourite fruit and mix and match to create your perfect blend.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks for Crossfit
Banana- Pop into your gym bag and enjoy on the go, providing you the energy you need to complete your session.
Chocolate Milk- A childhood favourite, with a perfect mix of great taste and giving your body the carbs and protein you need.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks in the Evening
Protein Balls- Protein balls provide a large protein content, you can consume as little or many as you like and they are available in a range of delicious flavours.
Cereal with milk- This snack provides easy to digest carbohydrates, and can be adapted depending on your cereal choice and swapping out milk for other substitutes.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks in the Morning
Porridge- The perfect morning snack before your workout, add extras such as berries and honey for extra taste.
Overnight Oats- Easy to prepare the evening before ready to grab and enjoy on a morning.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks for Men
Hard Boiled eggs on toast- Mixing eggs with toast provides all the nutrients you need for a successful workout.
Homemade protein shake- Create your own protein shake with your choice of protein powder and ingredients, making your own protein shake means you can add as many scoops of protein as you require.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks for Women
Dried Fruit- A handful of dried fruit can provide you with all of the nutrients that you need to fuel your gym session.
Toast with Peanut Butter- Peanut butter, with its high protein content, is perfect for pre-workout fuel and bread, which is full of carbs, will keep you energised throughout your workout.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks for Bodybuilding
Honey Protein Porridge- Get a protein packed start to your workout with slow energy releasing Honey protein porridge.
Fruit and Protein Smoothie- Fill up with your favourite fruit and protein powder and blend, to create a delicious concoction.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks for Runners
Orange- This superfood will help you not only on your run, but the vitamin c will help you ward off any pain and stay hydrated.
Half an energy bar- The high carbohydrate content will give you energy to complete your run while not overloading on sugar.
Best Pre-Workout Snacks for Swimmers
Cheese stick and crackers- This light snack is easy for swimmers to eat between their busy schedules when rushing to get to the pool.
Fruit and yogurt- Pair your favourite fruit with yogurt for a tasty filling snack that won’t weigh you down in the pool.
Fuel Your Workout The Right Way
No matter your workout of choice, there’s always a range of pre-workout snacks that are super easy to pick up on the go such as protein bars and protein shakes.
- Consider your physique and training goals. Bulking you should eat higher calories and cutting you should eat lower calorie pre-workout snacks or meals.
- Consider the kind of exercise you're doing. Low intensity workouts don't require a ton of carbohydrates. Whereas high intensity, endurance training will require more carbohydrates.
- Consider your meal timing. If you're eating 20-30 minutes before exercise, pick a lower calorie lighter pre-workout snack.
- If you're eating a full pre-workout meal, make sure this is at least 90 minutes - 2 hours before you exercise.
- As well as pre-workout snacks consider pre-workout supplements to enhance your training and to get a better pump.