The Best Pre-Workout Snacks To Keep Going at the Gym

The best pre-workout snacks to keep going at the gym

Struggling to keep your body's engine firing during a big gym session? Maybe you need to switch up your pre-workout snacks.

WHEN IT COMES TO FUELLING up for a gym session, snack time matters. To get the most out of your workouts, you’ll want to reach for something satisfying and energising.

“The closer you get to a workout, the more you want to focus on quick-digestion (sources) to avoid cramping,” said Derek Lipton, R.D. Simple carbs might be your best bet, since protein, fat, and fibre all take more than an hour to pass through the stomach. If it’s more than an hour away from the time you’re starting your workout, Lipton says you can include some protein to help stabilise energy release, and maybe even a little fat if you can tolerate it, “but higher-fat and fibre foods should be eaten at least three hours before a workout.”

Exactly what you should eat will depend on how your body responds to different foods, says Jordyn Wallerius, R.D.N. “For example, while some pre-workout meals that include sweet potato and whole-grain bread with veggies will work well for some people, others may require a few extra grams of protein,” she says. “Some people may have good responses with low-fat milk, while others may need whole milk.”

Need some inspiration? Here are a few pre-workout snack options depending on how far ahead of your workout you’re fuelling.

Should you eat carbs before a workout?

Yes. Carbs are like bolts of energy that can power you through a workout. Data suggests that carbs can improve performance, just what the doctor ordered if a gym trip is right around the corner.

Not just any carbs will do. Fibre is solid (pardon the pun), but not ideal for a pre-workout snack as it sits in your stomach longer. We suggest simply carbs, like those in energy drinks, dry cereal, and the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Should you eat fat before a workout?

This is a valid question, especially among the Keto diet crowd. The answer, though, is no. High-fat consumption before a workout means more work for your body breaking it down. And that breakdown is more time consuming with fat (much like fibre). Worse, if you eat a bunch of fatty snacks and then workout right away, you run the risk of GI issues.

Should you eat protein before a workout?

Carbs are most important but a little protein is a good idea in a pre-workout snack. Some argue for packing the protein in right before or after a workout but the experts these days advocate for hitting protein targets over a larger scale of time, as in by the day, not hours or minutes.

How soon should you eat before a workout?

If you’re eating a well-rounded meal three or so hours before a workout, you’re probably in good shape. This all depends on workout intensity, of course. Keep in mind that when exercising, more blood is used by your muscles that would otherwise be used by your organs to breakdown food. Translation? Give your body enough time to process nutrients before your workout, at least a couple of hours.

If you are pushed for time, go with something lighter like crackers or a banana. If you have an hour or so, get some more protein and fat in there, per yogurt, cheese, or a protein bar.

How much should you eat before a workout?

Again, this is personal, but there are some general pre-workout intake amounts to consider:

  • Eat one gram of carbohydrate per kilogram in body weight one hour before working out.
  • Eat two grams of carbohydrate per kilogram in body weight two hours before working out.
  • Eat three grams of carbohydrate per kilogram in body weight three hours before working out.

Do you have to eat before a workout?

Of course not. Listen to your body. We’re trying to avoid hunger during your cross-fit routine or swimming session, but we don’t want to go overboard. And if you’re already on a diet, keep that in mind and opt for something lighter if you do decide to fill the fuel tank a bit before your workout.

If you do decide to go with a pre-workout snack, here are some more ideas:

Try these snacks if you’re eating less than 60-Minutes before your workout:

Simplicity is key if you’re running low on time. Here are a few quick options for when you need something, fast.

  • Banana with peanut butter
  • Cereal and milk
  • Packet of oatmeal made with milk
  • Chocolate milk and banana
  • Chocolate milk and granola bar
  • Half a bagel or frozen waffle
  • Handful of pretzels
  • Sports drink
  • Applesauce or dried fruit
  • Banana

Try these snacks if you’re eating more than 2-3 hours before your workout:

If you have a bit more time, you can get a little more creative with your pre-workout snack. You’ll also have more time to digest, so you can eat a bit more if you need more fuel.

  • Peanut butter banana honey sandwich: Spread 2 Tbsp of peanut butter on two slices of whole grain bread. Top with sliced banana and a drizzle of honey.
  • Fruit parfait: 1 cup of Greek yogurt, topped with 1 small handful of nuts, and 1 cup of berries. This combo offers protein from the yogurt, healthy fats, along with loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Fruit smoothie: Blend this to maximise your performance: 1 scoop chocolate whey protein (this one tastes incredible and uses no artificial sweeteners), 1 banana, 1 cup milk or water, 1 large handful spinach (trust me on this one), 1 Tbsp peanut butter, and ice, depending on the consistency you like
  • Cinnamon banana overnight oats: Combine 1/2 cup whole oats with 1 cup high-protein milk in a jar. Stash away in your fridge and let it soak overnight. Top with one sliced banana, 2 Tbsp of raisins, and cinnamon to taste.
  • 1/2 peanut butter and jelly sandwich with milk: Collison recommends Fairlife milk because it has more protein than regular cow’s milk.
  • Cottage cheese: Add fresh or canned pineapple and whole grain crackers.
  • Oatmeal pancakes topped with bananas and peanut butter: This suggestion from Avery Zenker, R.D., is easy to make. Combine a ½ banana, ½ cup oats, and ½ cup your choice of milk, and a dash of salt in a blender with an optional splash of vanilla and cinnamon. Blend until smooth, then cook like regular pancakes. Top with the other half of the banana and some peanut butter.
  • Balanced avocado toast: “Spread ¼ of a ripe avocado on a whole grain wrap, and top with four egg whites and a handful of greens,” suggested Michelle Routhenstein, R.D.
  • A quinoa salad with chickpeas and roasted beets: For this satiating snack, Zenker said to toss together quinoa, chickpeas, and roasted beets with lemon juice, olive oil, fresh herbs, and salt for an electrolyte boost. You can eat right away or prep this in advance and store for later consumption. “Beets contain nitrates, which can improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles, enhancing endurance and performance),” she says.
  • Grilled chicken salad with quinoa: You can also swap chickpeas for chicken. “If you have a few hours before your workout, have a balanced snack with chicken for your protein, quinoa for your fibre-rich complex carbohydrates and vegetables for antioxidants,” said Routhenstein.
  • Greek yogurt with granola: Combine a 1/2 cup yogurt with 1/2 cup granola and a handful of berries, Lipton says. Done!
  • PB&J: It’s a classic for a reason. Spread two to three tablespoons each of peanut butter and jelly on two pieces of bread, said Lipton.

This story originally appeared on Men’s Health U.S.

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