Choosing quality pre-workout foods is important for several reasons. The right snack gives your body the protein, carbohydrates, and fiber it needs to keep up your strength, endurance, and blood sugar while you work out. Good nutrition helps prepare your muscles for strenuous activity and a quicker recovery.
Greek yogurt is loaded with protein, which is an essential component of pre-workout snacks. Getting enough protein before a workout helps prevent muscle breakdown and can help maximize results. Stick with plain yogurt but feel free to add your favorite seeds or grains and some fresh fruit to bring some carbohydrates to the mix.
Oatmeal is one of the best pre-workout foods, and a small portion can help you feel full but not heavy. The whole grain keeps blood sugar steady throughout your workout, while the carbohydrates help maintain energy levels and increase stamina. Add fresh fruit for a quicker-burning burst from natural sugars.
If you do not have a lot of time to prepare anything, one of the best pre-workout foods is probably already in your kitchen. Bananas have both simple and complex carbohydrates that provide long-acting energy and help keep blood sugar up during exercise. Eat one before a short exercise session or take one with you and have a bite or two throughout to keep you going.
Cottage Cheese and Fruit
When it comes to pre-workout foods, cottage cheese might not be one of the first things that come to mind, but it should be. Cottage cheese is packed with protein that can fuel your muscles for hours, preparing them for a workout and helping them recover after. Mix in some fresh or dried fruit for more flavor and texture plus a quick energy boost.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Who would have thought that this kid’s favorite would be one of the best pre-workout foods? Peanut butter and jelly is quick and easy to make and portable enough to take with you for a mid-workout pick-me-up. Choose whole-grain bread and all-natural peanut butter and jelly to avoid excessive added sugars.
Apples with Almond Butter
An apple with almond butter makes a quick and delicious snack containing fiber, protein, and carbohydrates, which set you up for a nice workout. If you have more time or want to add something extra, try topping the spread with raisins and chia seeds, or use peanut butter instead.
Avocado toast is one of the best pre-workout food, and it is so filling, that it could be considered a meal. Choose whole-grain bread full of complex carbohydrates. If you have time and you want something even more filling, top the avocado with a soft-boiled or fried egg for extra protein.
Rice Cakes with Peanut Butter
This is one of the easiest pre-workout foods and is portable enough to pack up in your gym bag until you need it. Preparation is simple, just spread peanut butter on a rice cake. If making ahead of time, sandwich the spread between two rice cakes for easy packing. If you want to elevate this snack, sprinkle raisins or chia seeds on top of the peanut butter.
Pre-workout foods for intense workouts should contain a lot of simple sugars your body can use for fast energy; fruit smoothies are one of the easiest options for healthy simple sugars. Try bananas, strawberries, or blueberries. Add some peanut butter and almond milk for a protein kick and top it off with your favorite seeds.
When to Eat
Consume any of these pre-workout foods three hours to half an hour before exercising. By the time you get started, your body will have digested the food and begun making use of the proteins and complex carbs. If you are eating something that consists mainly of simple sugars, like a banana or fruit smoothie, eat it closer to the 30-minute window. Not everyone digests at the same rate, so you may need to experiment with what works best for you.