Cars and your body have one thing in common—they both only work as well as the fuel they are given. Set yourself up for success by eating the right foods before you exercise. Not only will your pre-workout snack impact your energy levels, but the wrong choice can leave you with distracting digestive distress.
Don’t think you can avoid the problem (and speed up weight loss) by not eating anything beforehand. Your body needs calories to power through workouts, and putting it in too much of a deficit will leave you feeling weak and unable to burn as many.
And, while fasted cardio has its merits, you’ll see better long-term progress if you ensure you’re well-fed before you work out.
12 Best Foods to Eat Before a Workout
Make the most of your time to exercise by pre-fueling with these healthy, nutrient-dense choices.
1. Dressed Up Apple Slices
This high-fiber fruit satisfies your sweet tooth without giving you a short term sugar rush. Pair apple slices with your favorite nut butter and top them with raisins or dried cranberries for a snack that fills you up without sitting too heavily in your stomach.
2. Eggs in Any Form
Considered by many to be “the perfect protein,” eggs provide all nine essential amino acids in one convenient package. You’ll get 70 calories and six grams of quality protein per egg, as well as critical vitamins and minerals like iron, vitamin D, choline, and more.
Enjoy them scrambled with sweet potato or sunny side up on whole-wheat toast. We also recommend keeping hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for an easy snack.
3. Plain Greek Yogurt
Yogurt before exercise can be a touchy subject. Spring for the pre-flavored, fruity favorites at the grocery store, and you’re getting more simple sugars than nutrients and risk suffering from fading energy mid-workout.
Unsweetened Greek yogurt, in contrast, packs a 17-gram protein punch per half cup and breaks down slowly, so it’s less likely to affect your stomach. Best of all, you can dress it up to your taste with fresh fruits, nuts, and even grains like oats and quinoa.
4. Bananas and Peanut Butter
Consider this humble fruit as mother nature’s energy bar. Beyond potassium, bananas are packed with carbohydrates to give your system a steady glucose supply throughout your workout.
Pair banana slices with peanut butter to benefit from a filling serving of protein, and place them on whole-wheat toast with a sprinkle of chia seeds for the workout days when you need something extra.
5. Cottage Cheese
This convenient snack doesn’t get enough attention. Cottage cheese contains casein and whey protein, both of which fuel you during workouts and help you develop muscle mass. You can treat this traditionally savory snack like yogurt by topping it with fresh berries or even dried, sliced apricots.
Just make sure you give yourself several hours after eating before you hit the gym, so you don’t experience any digestive issues from the dairy content.
6. Rice Cakes “Toast”
If you’re gluten-free, it can be tricky to take in enough carbohydrates to stay full for workouts. Welcome to the rice cake, which offers a convenient, tasty platform for all your favorite pre-workout toppings.
Slather on peanut butter and banana slices, spread with avocado and top with a fried egg, or even transform a few into tuna fish “sandwiches.” As rice cakes rarely go stale, you can keep them on hand for convenient snacking.
This deep red root vegetable is high in betalains, which aid muscle contractions, lower blood pressure, and even helps transfer oxygen to your muscles.
While beet juice gives you a boost of nutrients, you’ll better benefit from its fiber content if you eat beets whole. You can eat them baked, roasted, pickled, or even grated on top of your salad, sandwich, or pasta dish. Consider also blending beets into your post-workout smoothies.
Hummus makes for a versatile snack at any time, but it’s extra valuable as a pre-workout form of protein that won’t upset your stomach. Use it as a dip for celery, carrot sticks, or your favorite whole-wheat cracker.
There’s nothing humdrum about this complex carbohydrate—oatmeal offers one of the most convenient bases for a pre-workout meal, and you can dress it up in dozens of ways to keep things interesting.
While fresh fruit and peanut butter make for a tried-and-true option, you can also flavor your oats with innovative add-ins like cocoa powder or canned pumpkin. Consider adding a savory touch to this breakfast grain with cheddar cheese, soft boiled eggs, and plenty of fresh greens.
Embrace this healthy fat before you exercise for an easy snack that won’t leave you feeling heavy or queasy.
Consider spreading fresh avocado on multi-grain toast, snacking on some guacamole with crackers, or even baking an egg inside an avocado for some extra protein. Best of all, this recipe can be made in the morning and easily transported to eat once you’re ready to prep for the gym.
Run a summer race, and you’ll likely get offered watermelon along the course. That’s no coincidence—this sweet treat is 92% water, meaning that it hydrates as it fills you. Even better, research shows that L-citrulline, an amino acid found in watermelon, can increase blood flow so that your muscles are up to 40% less sore 24 hours after you exercise.
Consider bringing some along on your sweat session so you can take a break between circuits to have a quick snack. You can also freeze fresh chunks and blend them into smoothies for an ultra-refreshing post-workout drink.
Few foods can match the antioxidant content of berries, which makes them highly beneficial for exercise. Research shows that eating more high antioxidant foods can reduce the amount of post-workout muscle damage and inflammation you deal with.
You also benefit from the berries’ water content and carbohydrates, which give your body a ready fuel source to power your workout.
Meet Your Fitness Goals at Coast Women’s Gym in Newport Beach, CA
Now that you better know how to nutritionally prepare for exercise, it’s time to make it happen. Coast Women’s Gym is a boutique fitness studio for women in Corona Del Mar, CA. We offer state of the art equipment and expert guidance to help you achieve your own health goals.
Regardless of your fitness experience, we can work with you one-on-one or in group exercise classes to empower you to start making a change for the better.