Exercising is crucial to improving your health, but it’s also important to give your body proper nutrition. If you want to optimize your workout, fueling up with a pre-workout snack could be the key to giving your body the boost it needs to go the extra mile.
When should you snack before a workout?
It’s important to emphasize the word snack—it’s not a meal. Eat a fist-sized snack about three hours to thirty minutes before a workout. Don’t eat a snack less than thirty minutes before exercising to reduce the complications of stomach discomfort and digestion issues.
Activities like strength-training, HIIT, and long-distance running demand a lot of energy, so these are ideal situations to eat a pre-workout snack. However, you don’t need to snack before every workout routine. Activities like yoga and jogging aren’t as intense and don’t always require a pre-workout snack, so focus on proper hydration before, during, and after your workout.
Currently, there’s no evidence to suggest that the time of day strongly affects whether you should have a snack, so use your discretion to feel whether you need an energy boost.
Why should you eat a pre-workout snack?
Your diet is crucial to your athletic performance. If you give your body high-quality fuel, it can expend more energy—but it doesn’t end there. Eating protein before exercise can increase muscle protein synthesis, which is a key process to building muscle. Additionally, eating healthy fats can increase your endurance, and eating complex carbs can increase your glycogen stores and carb oxidation.
What should you eat?
Your ideal pre-workout snack depends on what exercises you do. Carbs and protein are the best macronutrients to consume before activity, and each plays a different role in helping your body. The ratio of macronutrients in your snack should vary by your body type, exercise type, and duration of your workout. Follow these guidelines to help you determine what kind of snack to eat before your workout.
The snack should be high in carbs, moderate in protein, and moderate-to-low in fat. Here are a few examples:
- A banana/apple with peanut butter
- A slice of whole-grain toast and peanut butter
- One serving of granola and Greek yogurt
Medium-to-high intensity strength-training
Eat a snack high in protein, moderate in carbs, and moderate in fat. Here are a few examples:
- A hard-boiled egg
- A slice of whole-grain bread with lean lunch meat
- A handful of almonds or pistachios
- One serving of beef, chicken, or turkey jerky
- One serving of cottage cheese
What should you avoid?
It’s easy to go to the grocery store and grab prepackaged granola bars and other promising-looking pre-workout snacks. If you can, avoid processed carbs and stick to whole grains. Processed carbs can have little-to-no nutritional benefit before exercising as they have unnecessary added sugars and fats. Additionally, avoid yogurts with added sugars and look for plain Greek yogurt. Be careful not to choose nuts covered with added sugar and salt. Plain nuts are the best route to go for maximum benefit.
Pre-workout snacks can have a wide variety of benefits that can help you exercise longer and more intensely to reach your fitness goals.