Nutrition

5 Easy Prep Meal Ideas to Energize You Before a Workout 

Energizing foods to help you get the most out of every workout!

By: Bianca Peyvan, MS, RDN

If you carved out time in your busy schedule to exercise, make sure you’re reaping all the benefits by fueling up with the best pre-workout foods! Adequate nutrition can make or break a workout — not eating enough (or not knowing what to eat before a workout) can leave you tired, lightheaded, or even nauseous, especially on your longer workout days. A pre-workout meal can make a world of difference in how you feel and perform.

Ahead you’ll find five delicious pre-workout meals to fuel your body before a workout, plus some things to consider when choosing your pre-workout fuel. 

Things to Keep in Mind When it Comes to Your Pre-Workout Meal 

When choosing a pre-workout meal, consider how much time you have between your meal and workout and what type of activity you will be doing. The recommended time to eat is between 30 minutes to three hours before a workout. And, generally speaking, the best pre-workout foods are rich in carbohydrates to keep your body fueled and energized during your exercise.

What to Eat Before a Workout

We’ve all had that mid-workout bellyache, and it’s not fun. Avoid high-fiber foods to prevent disrupting your workout with an upset stomach upset. Instead, opt for simple carbs when choosing your pre-workout foods! They’re easy to digest and provide you with a quick burst of energy. 

When it comes to what to eat before a workout, incorporating a moderate amount of fats into your meal (like avocado or nut butter) can help keep you satiated, but don’t go overboard! Eating too much dietary fat can leave you feeling lethargic. Fats are slow-digesting (one of the reasons they’re great for satiety), but if you eat too much fat too soon before a workout, your body won’t have enough time to break it down into usable energy.

We know protein is the holy grail of post-workout nutrition but does the same hold true when it comes to pre-workout foods? According to research, eating a moderate amount of protein pre-workout can improve performance and support the recovery process to aid muscle growth. However, this is very personal, and you will need to experiment and see what works best for your body.

Note On Pre-Workout Foods: There’s No One-Size-Fits-All 

Like most things, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to pre-workout snacking. It depends on a few factors, such as how long your workout will be and what works best for you and your body. 

If you plan to exercise for 60 minutes or more, research suggests a pre-workout meal can be beneficial. If your workout is on the shorter side and you’re either not hungry or don’t have time to grab a snack before a quick 15-minute sweat, that pre-workout snack may not be as important. At the end of the day, it comes down to what helps you feel your best and ready to crush your workout. 

With that said,  if you are looking to optimize your pre-workout meals, here are five easy-prep recipes to choose from based on your workout schedule that will fuel your workout.

5 Easy Prep Pre-Workout Foods To Keep You Energized 

Green Smoothie

If you’re working out first thing in the morning you probably want pre-workout foods that are light and won’t slow you down. A green smoothie with fresh fruit and greens such as banana, apple, spinach, and parsley will give you a quick burst of energy and should be consumed 30 minutes to one hour before. 

If you like protein in your smoothie, try consuming half before and half after your workout to avoid feeling too full. And, having your post-workout meal waiting means one less thing to worry about (and clean up)!

Banana With Nut Butter 

What to eat before a workout when you don’t have time for a complete meal? A small carb-rich snack like a small banana is a perfect way to get some quick energy. Simple sugars like those found in fruit are easy to digest and provide a rise in glucose, the body’s preferred source of energy. Adding nut butter (such as almond or peanut) will add some protein and healthy fat for a balanced snack.

Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are a great option for those who run late. They are an easy prep meal to whip up and provide sustained energy for longer workouts. Simply combine whole grain oats with your choice of milk or nut milk, some berries, and a drizzle of nut butter in a jar. Refrigerate overnight, and have it ready for your breakfast!

When you can’t be bothered with what to eat before a workout, try this yummy FitOn PRO recipe. It’s low in sugar, full of protein, and tastes like dessert!

2-Step Chocolate & Peanut Butter Overnight Oats.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • ½ cup oats, rolled
  • 1 cup almond milk, or milk of choice
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • ½ banana, mashed
  • 1 serving chocolate protein powder
  • 1-2 tsp cacao powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Step #1: In a jar or bowl, combine the oats, chia seeds, and almond milk or milk of choice. Stir to combine and place in the fridge to soak overnight.

Step #2: Once the oats have soaked, add the cacao powder, chocolate protein, peanut butter, and mashed banana. If the mixture is too thick, add some more milk.

Step #3: Top with fresh berries and granola to serve.

Vegetarian Omelet 

If you have more time to digest your pre-workout foods before a workout, a vegetarian omelet is an excellent choice. Eggs are a great source of protein and are full of amino acids to support muscle repair and recovery. 

For a more substantial pre-workout meal, combine your eggs with a piece of toast or a tortilla — this is a great choice before a strenuous strength workout! Fueling up with moderate carbs helps to replenish glycogen stores.

Energy Balls

And if you have almost no time and are wondering what to eat before a workout, grab an energy ball. This tasty and easy-to-digest snack contains a portable source of protein from nut butter and quick carbohydrates from dried fruit and honey. 

This would be a great snack before a cardio workout to help curb hunger when you simply don’t have enough time to eat a complete meal.

Final Thoughts: The Importance of Pre-Workout Foods!

Life is busy, but don’t forget about the importance of pre-workout foods! When you’re pressed for time and wondering what to eat before a workout, try these easy-prep recipes that are every bit as tasty as they are energizing.

Just remember: carbs mean energy, so eating them before a workout may help you push harder. Opting for simple carbs right before a workout or a more complete meal (carbs + protein + fat) well before a workout may also help give you that sustained energy, especially for those longer workouts. 

Tune in to your body and experiment to see what pre-workout meal works best for you.