You’re ready to hit the gym. You have your water bottle, shoes, workout gear, gym bag, everything you need to have a great workout. But hold on a sec, are you sure you aren’t missing something?
You might be if you aren’t fueling up before you go.
Eating before your workout helps to keep your blood sugar from fluctuating. This means helps you get a better workout and get the most from your cardio or strength training. Aim for about 45 minutes before you hit the gym but if you are going for a larger pre-workout meal, stretch that to two or three hours.
When you are thinking about foods to eat before you work out, keep in mind that your best bet is a combination of healthy fats, protein, and quite a few carbs – yes, you read that right, carbs.
Here are the best ways to fuel up before your workout.
Best Energy-Boosting Foods to Eat Before Your Work Out
Whether you are heading into a yoga class or going for a run, you’ll need the energy to fuel your efforts. Of course, you don’t want to eat a full meal, but a healthy, protein-packed, energy-boosting snack will definitely give you what you need to power through your workout.
Try these energizing pre-workout foods:
- Sprouted grain toast with almond or peanut butter and a couple of banana slices
- Poached chicken with brown rice and vegetables
- Fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt, a small banana, handful or two of spinach, and some berries
- Oatmeal with raspberries or blueberries and protein powder
- Cinnamon granola with yogurt and berries
- Scrambled egg with mushrooms and spinach, topped with avocado
- Mashed avocado spread on sprouted grain toast and topped with boiled egg
- Apple slices (with skin) with almond or peanut butter
Protein gives you an energy boost that will help sustain you throughout your workout. Avoid caffeine though because while it may give you an energy boost in the beginning, it tends to lead to a crash, and you don’t want that to happen while you’re on the treadmill or doing bench presses. Let the food do the work it was meant to do.
Best Pre-Workout Foods for Weight Loss
If you are trying to drop some weight, exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body. In fact, many doctors now say that exercise is actually more important than diet – not to say that diet is not important for good health and weight loss, but exercise is essential.
If you are trying to lose weight you might be tempted to skip a meal or two. This is a really bad idea. Skipping meals can cause your blood sugar to become unstable, leading to weakness, dizziness, nausea, and poor performance.
Don’t skip meals. Go ahead and eat, just know what to eat. Just keep these tips in mind:
- Avoid eating too much fat
- Avoid sugar
- Avoid caffeine
- Choose protein like chicken, eggs, grain like quinoa, fish, or nut butters
- Choose healthy carbs
- Combine grain, fruit, and protein for a power packed pre-workout meal
Sprouted whole grains, fresh fruit and veggies, and lean meat should be your go-to for pre-workout noshing. Dried fruit and nuts or avocado toast are great for that 30 to an hour pre-workout window. If you have a little more time, you might choose some sweet potato or some chicken on a piece of sprouted grain bread.
Keep making those healthy, slimming food choices throughout the day and you’ll see your hard work at the gym pay off in no time.
Best Foods to Eat Before you Work out to Gain Muscle
If building muscle is your goal, you need to eat to support that. What you choose for your pre-workout nutrition has a significant impact on your outcome. Doctors and fitness experts agree that you don’t want to hit the gym when your tank is empty.
But choose wisely. Some foods like fiber and fat tend to cause your digestion to slow down, This can leave you feeling nauseous, weak, and tired during your workout.
Instead, opt for protein and carbs, lots of carbs.
Carbs give you energy. They are a great source of fuel for your active body, but it is also the brain’s primary fuel source. Stick with whole carbs and avoid the processed, refined carbs like white pasta, white bread, and white rice.
Instead, give these healthy whole carbs a try:
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Whole grain or sprouted grain bread and pasta
- Brown and wild rice
- Whole fruits
- Whole grains like quinoa
- Nuts and seeds
These carbs have the added benefit of an abundance of nutrients so they can fuel your workout and help you build the muscle you want, especially when you pair them with high protein choices like broiled chicken, baked fish, egg, and Greek yogurt (plain or low sugar).
Pre-Workout Foods for Women
Women have a different physical make up than men, which is a no-brainer. These differences mean that a woman’s nutritional needs are different from her male counterparts. What’s more, women typically go to the gym to maintain their figure, slim up, and get toned while men tend to go to build muscle. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, but for the most part, that is how it goes.
As for eating pre-workout, women are not as likely to indulge which is a mistake. Even if you are working on losing weight, eating before you work out can actually help you lose weight and lose it faster.
Look for foods that give you some carbs for fuel as well as some protein. This combination will keep you steady and energized throughout your workout.
Here are some of the best pre-workout foods for women:
- Plain Greek yogurt with chopped cherries (fresh or frozen) with a dash of vanilla
- Whole fruit smoothie with a cup or two of raw baby spinach
- Whole grain bagel topped with avocado, fruit, veggies, or a little cream cheese
- Berries (especially blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries) mixed with some ricotta, a touch of raw, unfiltered honey, and some whole, uncooked oatmeal or granola
- Carrots, raw or lightly steamed
- Broiled chicken with whole grain pasta or rice
- Chicken or veggies on a kale wrap
- Whole grain cereal with milk or unsweetened almond milk
- Banana, sliced on whole grain toast (almond or peanut butter optional)
- Low fat cottage cheese with fruit
You may have other foods that you reach for when you are going to work out, but these offer optimal nutrition that will keep you going. Try different foods and food combinations to find your favorites. You can also save time by preparing your food then freezing it so when you are ready you just pop it in the microwave, enjoy, and go.
Pre-Workout Foods for Men
For the most part, men have greater muscle mass, meaning that their pre-workout nutrition looks a little different than what a woman needs. You want about 70% of your pre-workout meal to be energy-boosting carbs. They keep the blood sugar stable, help increase muscle mass, and help you get the most out of your workout.
Be careful though because not all carbs are created equal. Refined carbs like sugary cereal or candy will drain your strength, kill your energy, and undermine all of your hard work. Opt instead for whole carbs that are low glycemic like sweet potatoes, veggies, and oatmeal.
That isn’t all though. Protein is also very important to a man who works out. It helps build muscle which is good if you are looking to bulk up or want to explore body building.
As for when to eat your pre-workout meal or snack, here is a good rule of thumb:
- 500 calories or more should be eaten about five or six hours before a workout
- 300 or fewer calories should be eaten forty-five minutes to an hour before a workout
If you are looking to build stamina and endurance, then increase your carbs. If you are body building or weightlifting, you need more protein.
Here are some great, balanced meals to prepare and enjoy before you work out:
- Steel cut oatmeal with milk or unsweetened vanilla almond milk, cut up fruit like dates, berries, banana, or figs, and some chopped nuts like walnuts
- Some sliced turkey with a little cheese on a kale wrap
- Veggie omelet (go easy on the cheese)
- Almond butter on celery sticks
- Mashed avocado with tomato on zucchini medallions
- Protein energy balls: Rolled oats, almond butter, raw, unfiltered honey, vanilla extract, protein powder.
- Nut mixture of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews and add dates
- Grilled chicken without the skin
Be Consistent for Best Results
Whether you’re a man or a woman, whatever your workout goals, your body needs fuel to function. If you really want to get the best out of your workout, pay attention to what you are putting into your body, not just pre-workout, but all through the day.
The right combination of foods can help keep you energized and focused instead of tired, hungry, so your workouts are more effective and your results more distinct. Remember, it won’t happen in a day, but if you keep at it, it will happen.
So, before you hit the gym, make sure that you are eating with your body needs in order to be strong and healthy – and to do what you want it to do. Make organic pre-workout meals a regular part of your workout routine.
You only get one body in your life, treat it well, take care of it, and it will serve you for a very long time.