Navigating the world of pre-workout snacks can be confusing. How much should you eat before you start exercising, and when? We’ve done the research to help you snack smart and fuel your workouts the right way:
Snack or meal?
A common question is how long you should eat before your workout. According to Self magazine, the optimal time to eat is between 30 minutes and three hours before you start exercising. If your workout is more than an hour and a half away, considering eating a light meal. If you have less than an hour to spare before your workout, then eat a small yet filling snack. Going into your workout on an achy empty stomach can cause you to become lightheaded and dizzy while exercising.
The triad: Carbs, protein and a fat
According to Shape magazine’s interview with nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, a pre-workout meal should optimally include carbs, protein and a little healthy fat, and should be between 300 and 400 calories. If you’re eating a small snack and not a meal, make the snack centered around a light serving of carbs. Carbs and healthy fat gives you energy, while protein support muscle growth, performance and recovery, according to Healthline.
Here are some pre-workout meal and snack ideas:
Turkey burger on a whole-grain bun: Turkey is a lean meat that provides lots of protein. Pair it with a whole-grain bun and a few slices of avocado.
Grilled chicken breast with rice: Season grilled chicken with black pepper, thyme and lemon juice, or with red pepper flakes for a little kick. Pair the chicken with a small portion of long-grain rice mixed with slivered almonds.
Apples and peanut butter sandwich: This meal is great if you’re craving something sweet. Spread whole-grain bread with peanut butter – or almond butter if you prefer – and then top with apple slices. Sprinkle apple slices with cinnamon to complete your sandwich.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal mixed with nuts and dried or fresh fruit is a tasty and quick pre-workout meal.
- Pita chips and hummus.
- Hard-boiled egg and toast.
- Glass of almond milk and crackers.
- Greek yogurt topped with nuts.
- Fruit-and-veggie smoothie with protein powder.
Don’t forget that post-workout snack
It’s important to fuel up before your workout, but also to replenish your body post-exercising. As POPSUGAR notes, eating after a workout helps you refill your glycogen levels and repair your muscles. The site advises eating something between 15 minutes and an hour after your workout ends. If you had a long, grueling workout you should eat more than if you just did a relatively light and quick exercise session. Aim for a mix of protein and carbs – some post-workout snack ideas are a banana or apple slices spread with peanut butter, a protein shake, tuna and crackers or cottage cheese.
Exercising is an important part of maintaining good health, but for workouts to have the optimal effect on your body, it’s important to eat the right fuel before and after. Follow the guidelines above for the energy and support you need to get the most out of your workouts.
To make fueling up for your workouts more convenient, you can prepare your pre- and post-workout meals and snacks ahead of time and store them in meal prep containers in your refrigerator.