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What to Eat Before Workout: Recommended Pre-Workout Foods

Everyone is becoming health conscious these days. To live a healthy lifestyle, workout is a must. In order to keep heart disease away, increase body stamina, get our body in desirable shape, and even defeating depression, doing exercise is a must. But for us who are just getting a grasp of workout, we often struggle when and what to eat before workout session.

We often hit the gym days in and days out but don’t see the desired results. It happens because we often neglect or don’t know when and what to eat before workout.

Therefore, this blog will assist you with the timing of your meal and what to eat before workout, whether you are trying to lose weight or gain some extra muscles.   

Table of Contents

Why is it Important to Eat Before Workout?

What to eat before workout derives from why is it important to eat before work out. When we go for a full-body, sweat streaming activity, it is compulsory to get our body energised with the right amount of nutrients at the right time before a workout. Having balanced food prior to your strenuous workout will help you to increase your body to run longer and recover faster.

Many of you work out in the morning, and often you just start doing it with 8 – 9 hours empty stomach. Working out without having food is not going to get you far or achieve your desired body. Moreover, when you exercise without any food to fuel your body, you may feel light-headed, weak, or sluggish.  

Why is it Important to Eat Before Workout

On the other hand, if you eat food just before a workout, it can make you feel nausea, muscle cramps, or lethargy. The closer you eat before a workout, the lighter should your food be. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you have a light snack packed with complex carbohydrates and low in fat and moderate in protein an hour before exercise. 

Research in the UK has found that eating before a workout can burn more carbohydrates during a workout. Here is what the co-lead researcher Dr. Javier Gonzalez said about the findings on breakfast and exercise correlation:

“We found that, compared to skipping breakfast, eating breakfast before exercise increases the speed at which we digest, absorb, and metabolize carbohydrate that we may eat after exercise.
-Dr. Javier Gonzalez

What are the Nutrients that Your Body Needs During Exercise?

The main purpose of what you eat before a workout is to get the necessary nutrients to fuel your workout. Therefore, your pre-work food has to be easily digestible so that the nutrients can fuel your body. Each of our body is different; that is why you should make a personal pre-workout nutrition plan. The plan must depend on:

  • The duration and level of exertion, 
  • The ability to replenish during the activity, 
  • Personal energy needs, 
  • Environmental circumstances, and 
  • The start time should all be considered when creating a thorough pre-workout nutrition plan

What Nutrients does Your Body

To determine how much nutrition your body will need can be found out over time by closely monitoring your body. Experiment and supply your body with different level of nutrition for a few weeks or month. Then watch your workout performance and find out the best pre-work nutrition plan for yourself. Also, keep in check the time, condition and amount of strenuous exercise you do each day. 

When selecting a pre-workout food, it is essential to reach for a macronutrient balanced meal. Macronutrients are food components that the body need in high amounts for proper function.

Carbohydrates aid your body’s ability to use glycogen to fuel short- and high-intensity exercises. Whereas fat aids in the fuelling of prolonged workouts. Protein helps you to recover faster after a heavy workout session. Therefore, our next step is to look in details at how these three nutrients help our body during a workout.


Carbohydrate is the most valuable source of energy in our body. Our body mainly uses carbohydrate in the form of glucose.  When carbohydrate filled foods are digested in our body, it is broken down into glucose. Our cells use glucose to provide us with energy during different activities. But when our body doesn’t require any energy, glycogen is the form our body stores glucose in the muscles and livers. Therefore, glycogen is a long chain of glucose molecules. 

There are two forms of carbohydrate, simple and complex. 

carbohydrates food

Simple carbohydrates

The simple carbohydrates get rapidly broken down by the body and converted to energy. Simple carbs can be found in foods like fruits, milk, and dairy products. One of the major sources of simple carbohydrate is white bread.

Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are long, complex chains of sugar or glucose molecules. It is found in foods like peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. 

Main Sources of Carbohydrate

Both simple and complex carbohydrates are changed into glucose (blood sugar) in the body and are used as energy. But if you have more simple carbohydrate before a workout, it may not last long and leave you drained out of energy by the end. Complex carbohydrates take longer to break down. As a result, it gives a slow and long boost of energy during exercise. It is ideal to have more complex carbohydrates before a workout.

During short and high-intensity exercise, the glycogen in our muscles is the main source of energy. If muscle and liver glycogen stores are insufficient, proper carbohydrate consumption before exercise can assist in stabilising blood glucose levels. As a result, it will provide the amount of energy that you need during work out. 

But when we do a longer session, the level of carbohydrate from our body varies due to different factors. These factors are: 

  • The intensity of the exercise 
  • The duration of the exercise, 
  • The state or type of training that the individual has engaged in, or both
  • The diet previously consumed

Carbohydrate has been found in numerous studies to increase glycogen storage and usage while also increasing carb oxidation during exercise.

Here are the main sources of carbohydrate that you can eat before a workout.

  • Banana
  • Oats
  • Whole grain bread
  • Broccoli, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Brown rice
  • Yoghurt


Protein is compulsory for muscle repair and growth. Proteins are long chains of amino acids. Our cells are partly made up of proteins along with other components. It helps to form cells and therefore helps our muscles to recover faster when we work out hard.

Protein can help you gain more muscle mass from a resistance workout Strenuous bouts of heavy exercise harm the muscles, whereas protein consumption increases the number of amino acids in the body. These work to slow deterioration, synthesise muscle proteins, and promote growth.


Researches have shown that protein is helpful during exercise. You can increase the protein synthesis of your muscles by having at least 20-30 gram protein before a workout. You can have it with or without carbohydrates. 

Here are the overall benefits of having protein before your exercise:

  • A better anabolic response, or muscle growth
  • Improved muscle recovery
  • Increased strength and lean body mass
  • Increased muscle performance

Main Sources of Protein

If you like to gain muscle mass, you can do so by having an adequate amount of protein in your diet. Moreover, you must eat protein foods in small portions during different meals. Research shows that taking around 1.6-1.8 grams of protein for every pound of your body weight helps build your muscles.

Here is the name of some best sources of protein:

  • Fish
  • Chicken or Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Yoghurt 
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Soy


Fats can be an important source of energy. Healthcare experts generally recommended against eating high-fat meals prior to exercise, as fats are digested slower than Carbohydrates in the body. It means that before a workout, the body may be unable to break down and absorb fats. But can be a source of energy when you are doing a moderate or low-intensity workout.

Fat food for Health

Studies have shown that fats can help athletes with their performance. Butthe studies researched how fat helped them with the performance when they were taken for a long period of time.

Therefore, fats are necessary for everyone’s diet, including athletes. Get your main fats out of the unsaturated oils you find in nuts, seeds, avocados, fatty fish and cold-pressed vegetable oils. Fats promote vitamin absorption, brain health and essential fatty acid concentrations

But if you have lunch at noon and go for exercise 3-4 hours later, you might easily have a serving of fats equivalent to a tablespoon of olive oil, 20 whole almonds, or 1/4 of an avocado at that meal.

Science-Based Workout: Build Muscle, Lose Fat & Get Fit
Reveal the secrets of building muscle and losing fat with a science-based workout plan and discover the most popular, effective exercises and workout tips.
Science-Based Workout: Build Muscle, Lose Fat & Get Fit
Reveal the secrets of building muscle and losing fat with a science-based workout plan and discover the most popular, effective exercises and workout tips.

When Do You Need To Eat Before Workout?

The timing of your meal is important before a workout. When you are exercising, your body needs to exert enough energy to push yourself or go the extra miles. Keeping your stomach completely empty for more than 4 hours before a workout can cause discomfort during the workout. Similarly, if you just ate a heavy meal before a workout, it can also cause discomfort. Therefore, your exercise will not be fruitful. 

Eat for a Workout food

In order to get the desirable result from your workout routine, try to have a full balanced meal 2-3 hours before your workout. The meal should have carbohydrates, protein and fat. When you are eating 2-3 hours prior to your workout, it is wise you eat a high carbohydrate, high protein and low-fat meal before exercising.

But there may be instances where you could not have a full meal in the last 2-3 hours. In those circumstances, you can still have a decent meal before a workout. But you have to ensure that the closer you eat before a workout session, the meal should be smaller in portion and also simpler.

Moreover, if you want to get the most out of your workout, try to have complex carbohydrates at least 45 minutes before you go to workout. You’ll want to eat foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in fats the nearer you get to your activity.

What to Eat Before Workout?

The meals that you will take will depend on the time of your workout. Hence, here are some meal recommendations according to different hours before the meal and workout. Choose one of the preferable meal times and have your meals according to it.

What to Eat Before Workout infographic

Meals 2-3 hours or More before Workout

During this time you can have a full meal. A mixed balance of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and a moderate amount of fat should be included in meals to encourage longer digestion and long-term energy. Some meals you can have are:

  • Chicken, vegetables and roasted sweet potatoes
  • A sandwich made of whole-grain bread, lean protein and a side salad
  • Pasta with marinara and grass-fed beef
  • Stir-fried vegetables and tofu
  • Protein shake with milk, fruit, and peanut butter
  • Egg omelet and whole grain toast spread with avocado and a cup of fruit.
  • Any kind of lean protein, brown rice and roasted vegetables

Meals 2 Hours or Less Before Workout:

If your workout session is in 2 hours, then you need to cut down meals of the size and opt for something lighter. Make sure it is high in complex carbohydrates, moderate protein, and low in fat.

  • Smoothie made of protein powder, milk, banana and mixed berries.
  • Whole-grain cereal and milk
  • Oatmeal, banana and chopped almonds in a cup.
  • Sandwich on whole-grain bread with natural almond butter and fruit preserves.
  • Honeyed Greek yoghurt with a granola bar.
  • Sandwich made with peanut butter and jelly.
  • With deli meat and cheese on whole-grain crackers.
  • A banana with a dollop of peanut butter
  • Waffle with protein and maple syrup.
  • Protein bar or trail mix granola bar.

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Meals an Hour or Less Before Workout:

Just before the workout, you can have foods high in simple carbohydrates and completely fatless. You also need to avoid fibrous food, which can cause stomach issues.

  • Greek yoghurt and fruit
  • Low-fat fruit smoothie
  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Fruit juice or sports drink
  • Low-fat muffins
  • Nutrition bar with protein and wholesome nutrient 
  • Any piece of fruit, such as a banana, orange or apple

Make sure you have plenty of water and replenish yourself before you hit the gym. Being hydrated is equally important as meals before a workout and the workout itself.

Science-Based Workout: Build Muscle, Lose Fat & Get Fit
Reveal the secrets of building muscle and losing fat with a science-based workout plan and discover the most popular, effective exercises and workout tips.
Science-Based Workout: Build Muscle, Lose Fat & Get Fit
Reveal the secrets of building muscle and losing fat with a science-based workout plan and discover the most popular, effective exercises and workout tips.

Ready to Hit the Gym?

There you go. Prepare yourself with the healthiest meal and enjoy it before you hit the gym. Now you will be able to achieve your desired body more effectively. To know more about what to eat before workout, building muscles and losing weight, you can join our fitness course. The course Science-Based Workout: Build Muscle, Lose Fat & Get Fit will help you get into shape and become healthy.

February 14, 2022

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