Do I Need a Pre-Workout Snack?

It’s common to wonder whether you should eat before working out. Get the facts on whether you need a pre-workout snack.


Many athletes and active individuals consider pre-workout snacks an important part of maximizing exercise performance and improving body composition. Properly timed pre-workout meals provide energy, help improve endurance, and optimize the body’s ability to burn fat while building muscle.

Fueling the body with the right types of foods prior to exercise can help you get the most out of your workout session. However, much like determining which type of pre-workout snack is best, it also depends on individual needs based on activity level, intensity levels during workouts, type of sport being played or exercise being performed, duration of the workout routine and so forth.

To ensure you’re consuming an appropriate pre-workout meal in addition to proper hydration for your activity level and sweat rate, it’s important to understand how certain combinations of food will affect your performance and how long before a workout you should be eating or drinking a snack or beverage for optimal results.

Benefits of Eating a Pre-Workout Snack

Eating a pre-workout snack can help you maximize the benefits of your workout and improve the quality of your performance. A pre-workout snack can help you get the energy you need to push through a demanding workout, as well as provide essential nutrients and electrolytes to help you recover after a hard workout. Let’s take a look at the benefits of eating a pre-workout snack.

Improved Endurance and Performance

Eating a pre-workout snack before your workout can help you reach your fitness goals faster and more efficiently. When planning your meals around workouts, remember that the goal is to improve performance and endurance while staying energized during exercise. This means refueling the body with nutrients like carbs, protein, and fat so that it can make use of its fuel quickly and efficiently.

Carbohydrates will give you quick energy while protein provides important amino acids needed to repair and rebuild muscle after exercise, as well as satiate you longer. Healthy fats can serve as a slow-release energy source over a period of time during exertion — good sources include nuts, nut butters, and avocados.

Additionally, adding electrolytes like sodium to your meal 1 – 2 hours prior to activity helps retain fluids for an extended period of time so that dehydration does not become an issue during exercise. The ideal pre-workout snack should provide all these benefits in order to provide sustained energy without feeling artificially full or heavy before moving on to long term physical exertion.

Improved Blood Sugar Levels

Consuming a pre-workout snack helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels are the primary source of energy for physical activity and it is important to ensure that they remain steady during exercise. Eating something before a workout can provide the necessary fuel to not only perform, but also prevent physical exhaustion due to low blood sugar levels. This can be especially beneficial for those who have diabetes or conditions related to imbalanced blood sugar levels. Eating a snack before exercise also helps keep energy levels up while creating an optimal environment for improved exercise performance. Choosing a balanced snack with carbohydrates and protein, such as yogurt with granola or peanut butter on whole grain bread, also helps nutritionally support post-workout recovery by giving muscles needed fuel and promoting muscle growth.

Improved Recovery

Consuming a pre-workout snack can help to ensure that your body is receiving optimum nutrition before an intense exercise session. When you’re engaging in high-intensity activities, your body relies on carbohydrates for energy. Consuming a small snack before hitting the gym helps to supply your body with essential fuel, which can lead to improved performance and faster muscle recovery.

Eating a pre-workout snack also helps to minimize fatigue during long workouts and helps you reach peak physical performance levels. The key is to choose the right kind of snack. A piece of fruit or a handful of nuts are great options that provide quality carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein without loading up on empty calories from processed foods or added sugar. The goal should be to pick something that won’t cause GI distress during exercise, such as high-fiber foods or hardy proteins that take longer for the body to digest.

What to Eat Before a Workout

Eating a pre-workout snack can help fuel your body with the energy it needs to power through a tough workout and aid with muscle recovery afterwards. A pre-workout snack should contain a combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats for sustained energy and muscle building. Let’s delve into what to eat before a workout and why.


Carbohydrates are one of the most important nutrients to consider when looking for a pre-workout snack. Carbohydrates provide energy for your muscles to work at their best, and are especially important for longer bouts of exercise. Complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, fruit, and sweet potatoes, should be the primary focus as they will provide sustained energy throughout the workout. Simple carbohydrates like white bread and candy can be used in moderation if you need something quick just before a workout.

To make sure you’re getting enough energy from the carbohydrates you eat pre-workout, aim to pair them with some protein to help ensure they are digested properly. Think yogurt or nuts; peanut butter on whole-grain toast; hummus and veggies; or a piece of fruit with some cheese or nuts. Eating enough carbs pre-workout will help keep your muscles working efficiently and will power you through an effective sweat session every time!


Including a source of protein in your pre-workout snack is important because it will help to provide energy, delay fatigue, and help to prevent muscle loss. Eating a snack that includes both carbs and protein is especially beneficial. For example, yogurt with berries or apple slices with peanut butter are snacks that include both carbohydrates and protein to help fuel your workout.

Protein also helps you stay satisfied for longer after exercise. The American Council on Exercise recommends a ratio of about 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrates to protein in pre-workout snacks for optimal performance. Additionally, research indicates that consuming 15-20 grams of protein before exercise can stimulate muscle repair and optimize recovery following your workout.

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats are an important part of any pre-workout nutrition plan, as they provide a slow and steady release of energy to fuel your workout. Although fat is often avoided in many diet plans, it is essential for proper digestion, absorption of vitamins and minerals, healthy skin and hair, hormone production, and to regulate body temperature.

Try adding a few items rich in healthy fats to your pre-workout snack:
-Sunflower seeds
-Pumpkin seeds
-Olive oil
-Coconut oil
These foods can help you stay energized while providing essential nutrients to fuel your muscles during exercise. Fat also helps you feel fuller longer so having enough in your pre-workout snack can prevent you from feeling hungry mid workout.


Timing is an important factor in deciding whether or not you should have a pre-workout snack. Generally, it’s best to have a snack within 30 minutes before exercising if your goal is to maximize performance and reduce fatigue. Depending on when you had your last meal, a light snack can provide carbohydrates and proteins to give you an energy boost, which will help power your workout. You may also find that these pre-workout snacks improve mental sharpness during exercise or competition. When deciding on the size of the snack, aim for something small — around 100–200 calories — as larger meals can cause nausea during exercise. Note that timing isn’t always as straightforward as 30 minutes before exercise: some people find that eating too close to their workout can also lead to digestive discomfort so it’s best to experiment and see what works for your body.

Examples of Pre-Workout Snacks

Eating a pre-workout snack can give you the boost you need to perform at your best. It can also provide you with essential vitamins and minerals, as well as proteins and carbohydrates that can help to fuel your body during exercise. There are a variety of pre-workout snacks to choose from that are easy to make and can help you reach your fitness goals. Below are some examples of pre-workout snacks that you can easily prepare.

Overnight oats

An ideal pre-workout snack should contain carbohydrates, protein, and fiber to supply your body with the energy it needs to get through your workout. Overnight oats are an easy, tasty and nutritious way to fuel up before any type of exercise.

To prepare overnight oats, all you need is rolled oats, milk of choice (dairy or soy milk can be used) and any desired toppings. In a bowl, combine ½ cup of rolled oats with 1 cup of milk and any desired sweeteners or spices. For additional flavor or sweetness, consider adding fruit such as banana slices or blueberries. Then spoon this mixture into a mason jar or container of your choice and place it in the fridge for at least 4-8 hours (but typically overnight).

In the morning, simply open the jar and top off with fresh fruits like berries, nuts like almonds or walnuts and even dark chocolate chips for added sweetness. Alternatively you can add nut butter for added protein to get an extra boost before working out. Overnight oats are an ideal pre-workout snack as they provide slow-releasing energy that will sustain you throughout your fitness routine.

Protein shake

One of the most popular pre-workout snacks is a protein shake. Protein provides muscles with fuel, helps to aid in muscle recovery, and can help to keep energy levels up during an intense workout. Protein shakes are an ideal snack for those looking for a convenient, nutrient-dense source of protein that can be quickly consumed before a workout. They often contain a blend of proteins such as whey and casein which provide the essential amino acids to support muscles during exercise. Some proteins shakes also contain carbohydrates which can help to provide energy during high intensity exercise as well as electrolytes like sodium or potassium to help maintain hydration levels post-workout.

Fruit and nut bars

Fruit and nut bars are a convenient way to get energy when you’re on the go. Some brands are specifically crafted for active individuals, such as NuGo Slim and Premium Pro Crunch bars. These bars provide beneficial protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Look for bars with at least 4-5 grams of protein and 5-6 grams of fiber. Aim to consume one bar 30 minutes before your workout to maximize your body’s performance. You can also choose whole fruits, such as apples, oranges or bananas, combined with nuts like almonds or cashews for an excellent snack option both before and after your workout routine.


Ultimately, it is personal preference whether or not you should eat a snack before working out. Consider what your fitness goals are and the activity intensity with which you typically exercise to determine if snacking beforehand is beneficial or not. In general, it is recommended to wait until there is at least 4 hours between eating and exercising in order to minimize stomach discomfort. If you choose to snack prior to a workout, opt for easily digestible carbohydrates such as fruits, granola bars or a small serving of complex carbohydrates like oatmeal. Additionally, try not to consume excessive amounts of fat which may cause digestive issues. Remember that hydration plays a key role in health and performance so be sure to stay well-hydrated throughout the day!

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