Pre-Workout Snack Ideas: Workout Longer and Harder
Putting in your best work at the gym doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. Like a well-oiled car, you need fuel in order to perform at your best during every workout session. Eating nutritious meals is a major part of the equation, but pre-workout snacks can give you the energy boost you need to hit personal records during every set.
Eating a little something before a workout can do a lot of good for your exercise performance to encourage muscle growth. Here are some of the best pre-workout snacks you should always try to keep in your gym bag.
What Is the Importance of Pre-Workout Fueling?
If you’re someone who likes to work out first thing in the morning, then you probably notice that it can be hard to really put in your best effort, especially during the beginning and end of the session. This is because your body just doesn’t have the energy to function.
Exercise is a form of stress on your body, and strength training or cardio requires your body to expel a lot of energy to continue functioning. You get this energy from the foods you eat, so if you work out on an empty stomach, that’s essentially like trying to drive to work without any gas in your tank.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to eat before a workout, though, there’s a fine line here. You also don’t want to eat too soon before a workout because it might do more harm than good.
Eating within a few minutes of a workout can cause your body to digest the food during your session. Not only does it take a lot of energy to digest food that your body then can’t use during your workout, but it can also lead to stomach troubles or indigestion while training that will naturally make you feel less-than-great. In general, you want to eat at least an hour before a workout.
Not to mention, eating certain foods before a workout can also do more harm than good because they either don’t provide you with the right amount of energy or contain ingredients that can hinder your progress. Generally, you want to avoid foods high in fiber because they can accelerate the digestion process and possibly give you a stomach ache during your workout.
With there being such a fine line between good pre-workout snacks and bad pre-workout snacks, it can be hard to know what to choose. But here are some ideas that cover all of the bases.
What Are the Best Pre-Workout Snacks?
Here are some easy pre-workout snacks you can eat whenever and even keep in your gym bag before your next sweat session.
Yogurt is a high-protein snack that is not only great for pre-workout performance, but it’s also just a great inclusion in your daily diet, regardless. Yogurt is a low-calorie, low-fat, yet high-protein food that can be customized to your liking.
Throw in some fresh fruit for added vitamins, and top some granola for carbohydrates. You can also add some healthy fats with peanut butter or almond butter to enhance the flavor and satiety and max out the added energy.
Yogurt is also rich in important nutrients, like calcium for strong bones, phosphorus and magnesium for metabolic health, and probiotics for immune health. Overall, it’s a great snack to keep nearby to eat before a gym visit.
Dried fruit like dried mangoes, bananas, or apples are not only delicious – they are also fantastic sources of energy for a pre-workout snack. Dried fruits contain high amounts of natural sugars that are excellent energy sources to keep you motivated and awake during an intense workout session.
Dried fruit is also easy to transport with you as you don’t need to refrigerate it or add anything to it. You can just eat them as is. Not to mention, dried fruits contain higher amounts of phenols, or antioxidants, than fresh fruit. Antioxidants can fight inflammation and muscle soreness, making you feel more refreshed before getting into an intense session.
Carbohydrates are most frequently used by the body as a source of energy, especially because they are fast-acting and can turn into energy as soon as they are ingested. For that reason, eating a carb-heavy snack before a workout is essential. Rice cakes are a great choice because they are low in calories compared to whole wheat bread, but they are just as versatile and satiating.
You can add your favorite nut butter to the top of rice cakes, or you can even dip them into greek yogurt for added protein. You can add some fresh fruit or dried fruit, top with some honey, and more to make for a delicious pre-workout snack that will also make you perform at your best.
Avocado toast is a lot more than just a delicious breakfast. Avocado toast has the perfect amount of carbs and healthy fats to make for an amazing pre-workout snack. The bread is full of carbs to give you the energy you need to perform well, and we suggest using whole-grain bread for added nutrients and fewer calories.
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats that can not only work to make you feel more full but it can also give you added energy in addition to the carbs. Avocados are also high in vitamins C, E, K, and B6, which are important for multiple different processes throughout the body.
Not to mention, avocados are easy to digest, meaning they won’t impede your performance during your next training session. These make them an ideal source for a quick dose of pre-workout energy.
While cottage cheese is divisive because of its texture, it’s hard to deny its benefits. For one, it is an excellent source of protein and a necessary macronutrient for muscle recovery and growth. But it’s also low in fiber, so it won’t feel too dense for your gym session.
If the texture of cottage cheese throws you off, put it in a blender for a couple of seconds to give it more of a cream cheese consistency. You can then incorporate this into an egg scramble for a super protein-heavy breakfast or even spread it over bread or rice cakes.
What Are Some Post-Workout Snacks?
What you eat before a workout is important, but what you eat after a workout is just as necessary to replenish the energy you expelled during your routine.
A grain bowl made with brown rice or quinoa is a low-calorie, high-fiber way to replenish lost energy during your workout. Plus, you can add a protein like tofu, chicken, steak, or eggs to make the bowl more filling. Not to mention, grain bowls are endlessly customizable, so you can always add vegetables, sauces, and more.
Fruit smoothies are a great solution to add extra calories without feeling too satiating, making this the perfect option for people bulking on a calorie surplus. Bananas can add important potassium to your diet, blueberries can add antioxidants, and strawberries can add some fiber. Either way, you can’t go wrong with any fruit you choose.
Make this even better as a post-workout snack by adding some whey protein or protein powder of your choice. This makes it more filling but also helps your muscles recover after an intense workout.
Veggies and Hummus
For a low-fat and low-calorie snack after a sweat session, you really can’t go wrong with some veggies and hummus. Vegetables are loaded with vitamins and fiber to keep you full, while hummus is a good source of protein and healthy fats for muscle growth and energy. It also just tastes great.
You can always swap out the veggies for crackers to amp up your carb intake and eat more calories if you’re in a surplus.
Electrolytes aren’t much of a meal, but they’re still an important addition to your body after a workout. They maintain electrical neutrality in cells and also conduct action potentials in nerves and muscles. Basically, electrolytes maintain fluid balance and promote the proper functioning of your muscles and cells.
Sodium, potassium, and chloride are some of the main electrolytes that you can get from many foods. You can also get electrolyte supplements or add some salt to your water in order to stimulate thirst and get some needed hydration with each sip.
Sweet Potato Fries
Did someone say fries? Believe it or not, sweet potatoes in pretty much any form can make for an excellent post-workout snack. This is because sweet potatoes are highly nutritious carbs that are lower in calories than rice. This means you can eat more sweet potato fries for the same amount of calories as other carbohydrates.
Sweet potatoes promote gut health, support healthy vision, and might even support brain function. But they’re also just good sources of energy to replenish your hunger after even the toughest workouts.
What you do during a workout doesn’t matter if you're not properly fueling outside of the gym. And the foods you eat before a workout can determine the outcome of your exercise before you even start your first rep.
The goal is to try to eat at least an hour before you work out, and carb-heavy snacks that are low in fiber tend to be the best, as they won’t affect digestion during the gym session. Things like dried fruit, yogurt bowls, rice cakes, avocado toast, and cottage cheese are among the best options to get a boost without affecting performance.
And after your workout, you want to go with protein-heavy foods and electrolytes to replenish lost fluids and aid in muscle growth. Fruit smoothies with protein powder or sweet potatoes are some great options.
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Avocado Nutrition Facts & Benefits: 5 Reasons to Eat The Fruit! | NASM
Electrolytes - StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf.
Sweet Potatoes: Six Health Benefits | Community Cancer Center