What should you eat before a workout?

What you eat before a workout can be important to how you feel during and after your workout.

woman eating breakfast in the kitchen

I have found it is different for everyone especially depending on the type of exercise you are going to perform.

When I get up for a quick run or steady state cardio I don’t require a lot of food. When I wake up for an early morning workout, I typically have something to drink and knock it out. However, if I am going to do some strength training or a longer run, I opt for oatmeal, banana or peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

When should you eat before a workout?

When and what should you eat before a workout? Those are questions that a lot of people ask and wonder about.

Eat within 30 minutes of waking up so you can jump-start your metabolism having at least 20 grams of protein has been suggested that you will burn more calories during the day.  

It depends on when you are working out.

If it is first thing in the morning, it might be something small. If it is in the afternoon or evening, you probably could eat more to help fuel your body. Some options include:

  • A peanut butter and banana or peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Oatmeal with fruit
  • Apple and peanut or almond butter

Notice that each of these suggestions include some protein as well as carbohydrates. Carbs are the fuel. Protein is what rebuilds and repairs your muscles.

What types of food should you eat before a workout?

Your body and stomach may react differently to foods and drinks. I stay away from fatty foods cause I know my stomach can’t take it.

I do my best to eat a combination of protein, carbs and fiber when it is something that is a little strenuous to my body.

Oatmeal and berries

One of my favorite pre-workout meals is oatmeal topped with strawberries or blueberries. It is a warm bowl of goodness.

The complex carbs in oatmeal are broken down in your system slowly, which means more sustained energy. You can up the nutrition by adding a scoop of protein powder. Fruit like blueberries, raspberries or cherries contain antioxidants.

Toast with peanut or almond butter and bananas

Runners love bananas follow a race. Do you know why?

Bananas are packed with simple carbs, natural sugars and potassium. That electrolyte helps prevent muscle cramps and can be lost through sweat. Peanut or almond butter has healthy fat, and the toast is all about blood-sugar-steadying complex carbs.

Chicken, rice and vegetables

eat before a workout including protein, carbs and vegetables

Chicken, rice and vegetables blend protein and complex carbs. Plus, the fiber in the veggies helps with digestion.   

Protein smoothie

Protein powder is a must — but after that, go for what you like best. Almond milk or ice, mixed berries, bananas, peanut butter, avocado, even some leafy greens are all fair game.

You’ll get fast-digesting carbs, plus those healthy fats and protein.

Find what works for you

There is no one size fits all for pre-workout meals and that is OK. What to eat right before a workout means what’s right for you.

Also, pay attention to timing. If you’re going for a bigger pre-workout meal, aim for eating two or three hours before working out. But if you’re short on time, make your portion more of a snack and eat 30-45 minutes before your session. Then, notice how the timing affects you. Maybe you’re the 30-minutes-until-treadmill kind of eater, or it could be that your belly feels better with more digestion time.

What do you eat before you workout?

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