Whether you’re doing intense cardio, yoga or weight training, all forms of exercise require energy. Even if you find your workout is “fine” without fueling up in advance, having the right type of energy readily available to your body can enhance your workout.
But what should you eat or drink before your workout? And when should you do it?
Snacking is part of a pre-workout fueling strategy and eating a carb-rich snack close to exercise time is beneficial for performance, especially when there’s not enough time for a meal beforehand. It should feel light on the stomach and shouldn’t weigh you down.
Although some people do like to work out in a “fasting” state, a 150-200 calorie pre-workout snack can help increase the effort you feel like you can exert. Though snack timing can vary, it’s best to eat a pre-workout snack about 30 minutes before workout.
Read on to find the top performance-enhancing munchies recommended by nutrition and fitness pros and how to include them in your pre-workout routine
Banana Beetroot Smoothie
Try this recipe for a banana beet smoothie about 30 minutes before an intense 45- to 60-minute workout by blending together:
8 ounces of cold water
1 small steamed beetroot (or half-tablespoon of beetroot powder)
1 tablespoon of nut butter
Half a banana
Pinch of sea salt
Beetroots contain nitrates, which help increase energizing oxygen to muscles; banana has carbs for energy; nut butter has protein for muscle repair; water is hydrating; and sea salt contains the electrolyte sodium, which is lost in sweat.
Yogurt’s a great food choice before working out, but rather than just eating it plain, try this honey matcha yogurt 30 minutes before a workout by stirring together:
6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon of matcha green tea powder
1 teaspoon of honey
Yogurt and honey have carbs for energy. Yogurt also has protein for muscle repair and probiotics to keep the digest tract feeling good through a workout. And matcha contains caffeine to help energize a workout.
A good rule of thumb before a workout: When in doubt, grab a banana 20 to 30 minutes before exercise. They’re easy to digest and generally won’t trigger bloating or digestive upset. Keeping the gut happy is one of the primary objectives of a pre-workout food, so you won’t inhibit performance.
Also bananas have a relatively low glycemic index, which means they provide slow-burning fuel; they’re packed with potassium, which supports heart function and muscle contractions, prevents muscle cramps and helps maintain muscle mass; and they contain vitamin B-6, which supports mental clarity and helps regulate blood sugar levels for sustained, level energy.
For a quick snack before a class, grab a bar 30 minutes to two hours beforehand, but make sure you pick one that has good, natural ingredients and isn’t loaded with sugar.
While eating too much fiber before exercising may cause discomfort for high-performance classes, it may be beneficial for those practicing lighter-intensity activity.
Dairy & Fruit
Sometimes food duos pack a greater punch than single foods. One of those dynamic duos is dairy and fruit. You could pair a piece of in-season fruit for a good dose of carbohydrates, with a single piece of string cheese that provides some protein to help bring oxygen to your muscles.
Or you could try Greek yogurt and a banana before working with weights or doing a yoga class.
Toast With Maple Syrup
Toast isn’t just for breakfast. Glamming it up a bit can be ideal for a pre-workout snack about an hour before endurance workouts like running, swimming or cycling. How about trying a piece of whole-wheat toast with cinnamon and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.
Compared to white bread, whole-wheat bread takes longer to digest and won’t spike your blood sugar because it has more fibre and protein, that means it will slowly release carbs into the bloodstream and the pure maple syrup provides quick-acting fuel from carbs that should last for at least 60 minutes into your workout.
Dates & Almonds With A Dusting Of Sea Salt
Got 30 to 60 minutes before your workout?
Dates provide a good dose of simple carbohydrates and potassium. Because potassium is an electrolyte lost when sweating, potassium-rich foods can play a role in proper hydration while potentially preventing post-workout cramping.
The almonds provide some protein and crunch, which will help keep you full throughout the workout, and the salt brings out the natural sweetness of the dates while helping to replace salt you may lose in sweat.
A jolt of caffeine can boost your workout performance! So, have a pre-workout latte with milk 60 minutes before your workout. It also helps with what’s called ‘rating of perceived exertion (RPE),which basically means caffeine can help you do more because you feel better working harder.
Since that caffeine is coupled with the milk in a latte, it’s especially beneficial as a pre-workout snack for either aerobic or power/resistance workouts. The milk contains carbohydrate and protein, including leucine, an amino acid that directly stimulates muscle protein synthesis.
Tart Cherry Juice
Move over, sports drinks! Drink a glass of tart cherry juice 90 minutes prior to exercise. It keeps you hydrated, maximizing exercise intensity and endurance and helps you get the most out of your workout.
It also contains potent phytonutrients that help to protect muscles against damage.
Iced Green Tea
Iced green tea is a beverage with benefits! Of course, it helps hydrate, but it also contains caffeine, which has been shown to help improve performance, increase strength and power, reduce feelings of fatigue and potentially stimulate fat burning.
Green tea will work for exercisers of all levels who want an exercise boost and to make their workout seem a little easier.