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6 Best Pre-workout Snacks and Food

When it comes to optimizing your workouts, nutrition plays a pivotal role. Not only can a pre-workout snack or meal fuel your body for maximum performance, but it also aids in fitness recovery, provides important nutrition, and contributes to injury prevention. We’re passionate about helping you alleviate aches and pains with physical therapy and education about how proper nutrition can help you avoid and recover from injuries. Recovering from injuries properly often starts with the food you’re consuming to give your body the energy it needs to effectively recover. Knowing the right types of food and when to consume them can help you before an intense workout session or bout of physical activity.

Before beginning any new diet, exercise, or stretching routine, you should consult with a qualified healthcare professional.

Take a look at some of the best pre-workout snacks and food you should consider consuming before your workout. These nutritionally rich options can help ensure that your body has the nutrients and energy needed to excel in your training and maximize the performance and recovery from exercise and physical activity.

The Importance of Pre-Workout Nutrition

Pre-workout nutrition is important for several reasons including the impact it has on your ability to sustain your performance, the prevention of muscle breakdown, promotion of building muscle, and its ability to help prevent potential injuries.

Sustain Your Performance

As you’re working out, your body uses energy, and nutrition plays an important role in not only getting your workout started off on the right foot, but your ability to sustain the performance for the entire duration.

Prevent Muscle Breakdown and Promote Muscle Building Process

The right nutrients can help prevent muscle catabolism (breakdown) while promoting anabolic (muscle-building) processes. This is important no matter what your fitness goals are or the kind of workout you’re doing.

Helps Prevent Injuries

Adequate pre-workout nutrition can also play an integral role in injury prevention, as a well-fueled body is better prepared to handle physical stress and recover more efficiently. Understanding the reasons behind the effectiveness of certain foods in fueling your body can enable you to adopt a more intuitive approach to pre-exercise eating. This knowledge ensures that you consume the necessary nutrients to sustain your energy levels during even the most challenging workouts.

Key Components of an Effective Pre-Workout Snack or Meal

There is no shortage of food that you can consume for a pre-workout snack or meal, but they might not all be as effective or be the right tool for the job. Plenty of foods have a caloric value that feels substantial enough to get you through your workout, but foods can vary significantly in the nutritional value they provide. In addition, it’s important to remember that food you consume before a workout needs to mesh well with what your body requires, whether it will enable you to perform for a sustained period of time, and the benefits it can have on your body’s ability to begin recovering quickly. There are several key building blocks that can make up a strong pre-workout snack or meal that can guide you to make an effective decision on what to eat before your next workout. In a workout, the body uses three primary fuel sources to give you the energy you need throughout a workout: Carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Your body consumes them in their respective order.

Carbohydrates

As the primary fuel source for high-intensity workouts, carbohydrates are essential. When we eat carbs, they are broken down into glucose, entering our muscle cells and providing the energy needed for short bursts of activity.

Fats

While not as quickly converted into energy as carbs, healthy fats are an important energy source for longer, less intense workouts, like long walks. They also support cell growth and hormone production, which are vital for overall health and performance.

Proteins

Consuming protein before a workout can aid in muscle repair and growth. Amino acids from proteins act as the building blocks of muscle tissue, facilitating fitness recovery and physical therapy outcomes.

How Much Food Should You Consume Before a Workout?

Selecting the right size snack before your workout often depends on the type of exercise you’ll be performing, but there are some helpful guides you can follow. You should strive to consume 20-30g of protein (roughly .4g/kg BW) and 15-30g of carbohydrates (roughly .3-4g/kg bodyweight). For more intensive exercises, you could consume up to 30-60g of carbohydrates. Here are a few examples of some healthy pre-workout snacks and meal combinations that you can consume before a workout to help you ensure you’re fueled up and ready to go for your next workout.

3-4 hours before:

  • 4oz ground turkey, 5oz medium sweet potato, 1/2 c. black beans, 5oz roasted broccoli
  • 4oz salmon, 1 c. wild rice, 1/2 avocado, 5oz green beans + 1 bread roll

2-3 hours before:

  • 2-3 eggs, 1/2 avocado, 1 banana, 1 English muffin
  • Ham Sandwich (2 slices bread, 3-4oz ham, lettuce, tomato, 1 tbsp mayo) + 1 banana

30 minutes – 1 hour before: Carbohydrate dominant (at least 30-60g)

  • 1/2 c. oatmeal, 1/2 banana, 1oz granola, honey drizzle
  • 1 banana or granola bar
  • 1 white bagel w. 3oz deli turkey

Top Pre-Workout Snacks and Foods

Pre-workout foods don’t need to be overly elaborate. There are plenty of natural, great-for-you foods that are ideal to eat before you workout. Remember, especially if you’re heading into an intense workout, you likely won’t want to eat a large meal before you exercise, as it could slow you down or even cause you to feel nauseous during physical activity. Instead, consider these great, simple choices as a pre-workout snack:

Bananas

Often referred to as “nature’s power bar,” bananas are rich in carbohydrates and potassium, which supports nerve and muscle function. Consuming a banana before a workout can help maintain energy levels and prevent muscle cramps.

Oats

Oats can be a good source of fiber but one of the things that make them attractive for a pre-workout snack is the fact that they release carbohydrates slowly. This means that you’ll have more energy throughout your workout and you won’t get the class sugar-rush high and then drop-off fifteen minutes into your workout. You’ll have sustained energy throughout your training session. Oats also contain vitamin B, which helps convert carbohydrates into energy.

Greek Yogurt and Mixed Berries

The combination of Greek yogurt and berries delivers a blend of protein and carbohydrates. The protein aids in muscle repair, while the carbohydrates keep your energy levels steady. Berries add antioxidants, which can help reduce workout-induced inflammation, aiding in fitness recovery.

Whole Grain Bread

A slice of whole grain bread is a good source of complex carbohydrates. Topping it with jam or honey adds more fuel for your workout. For those engaging in longer or more intense sessions, adding a slice of low-fat cheese or a boiled egg can provide the added protein needed for muscle repair.

Smoothies

Smoothies are an excellent way to consume a concentrated dose of nutrients pre-workout. Combining fruits, vegetables, superfoods to keep you full through your workout, and a protein source like whey or a plant-based alternative can create a balanced snack or meal replacement. Smoothies can also be a hydration source, contributing to optimal performance and recovery and giving you an opportunity to replenish fluids before, during, and after a workout.

Nuts and Seeds

For longer, less intense workouts, nuts and seeds provide a great source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They can help sustain energy levels without spiking your blood sugar. However, due to their high-fat content, they should be consumed in moderation and well before your workout to avoid digestive discomfort.

Timing Your Pre-Workout Nutrition

The timing of your pre-workout meal is just as important as what you eat. As a general rule, try to eat a complete meal containing carbs, fat, and protein, at least two hours before your workout. For snacks, 30-60 minutes beforehand is sufficient, ensuring you don’t feel sluggish or uncomfortable during your session.

Integrating Nutrition with Physical Therapy and Injury Prevention

Physical therapy, when aligned with proper nutrition, can help individuals optimize their performance, reduce the potential for injuries, and help to promote an effective recovery. Understanding the role nutrition plays in injury recovery and injury prevention is crucial for anyone looking to improve their physical health and performance. Proper pre-workout nutrition, combined with effective physical therapy from our trained PT professionals, can significantly impact your health outcomes. By fueling your body with the right food at the right time, you support your physical therapy goals, ensuring a faster and more efficient recovery process.

Fuel Your Wellness Journey with Proper Nutrition and Physical Therapy

Embarking on a fitness journey and improving your overall wellness requires attention to both your physical training and nutrition. The best pre-workout snacks and foods are those that provide a balanced mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to fuel your workouts and support recovery. By integrating effective nutrition principles with physical therapy, you can maximize your training results, prevent injuries, and ensure a healthier, more effective fitness journey. Remember, individual needs vary, and what works best for one person may not be ideal for another. It’s important to listen to your body and nutrition accordingly. For personalized advice, consult with a qualified healthcare professional who can guide you based on your specific fitness goals and needs who can create a tailored approach to wellness that works for you. Another important step to ensuring you’re successful on your wellness journey is to get treated for injuries, aches, and pains. Physical therapy can be an effective treatment option to help you alleviate pain, restore function, improve mobility, and educate you on the proper ways to perform movements and exercises to help you feel confident as you work to alleviate pain and get back to living a healthy lifestyle. Request an appointment at a nearby PT clinic to see how physical therapy can help you get back to doing the things you love most.

 

  1. Marcin, Ashley. “Catabolism vs. Anabolism: What’s the Difference?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 7 Mar. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/catabolism-vs-anabolism.
  2. “Bananas.” The Nutrition Source, 15 Aug. 2018, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/bananas/#:~:text=One%20serving%2C%20or%20one%20medium.
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