Your body benefits from getting an extra boost of nutrients when you exercise. Eating before a workout — whether it’s an energizing morning run, a stretchy yoga class, or strength training at the gym — can set you up to have an even better sweat session. But what’s a good pre-workout snack when you’re trying to make smart food choices?
We’ll break down the basics of what makes a good pre-workout snack, some simple tips to keep in mind when choosing a snack, plus six delicious ideas you can incorporate into your routine this week. Let’s jump in!
What Makes a Good Pre-Workout Snack?
Whether you want to improve athletic performance or need to upgrade your pre-workout snack game, there are a few essential things to keep in mind when choosing a pre-workout meal. We promise it’s easier than you think.
The best foods to nourish yourself before training will depend on what type of workout you’re doing. Different types of exercises require different macronutrient profiles, so you’ll want to adapt the number of carbohydrates (carbs), protein, and healthy fats in a snack to your activity level.
Be sure to include healthy carbohydrates as part of your pre-workout snacking. Your muscles use the glucose from carbohydrates as fuel, and glycogen is the way your body stores and uses glucose. If you’re engaging in high-intensity exercise or taking it easier with low-intensity movement, your body is still using glucose and depleting glycogen stores. If you don’t supply your body with enough carbs, you won’t have enough energy to power through your workout.
Like carbohydrates, eating a high-protein snack is crucial to giving your body what it needs, especially when paired with the right carbs. When you feed your body with the proper amount of carbohydrates and protein, you can look forward to increased performance, improved strength, muscle recovery, and muscle growth.
When you’re thinking about what you’ll have as a snack, think of carbs for quicker, short bursts of energy and use fat to power you through longer or lower intensity workouts. Remember, everyone is different, so what works for your best friend may not be the best choice for you and your body. You may have to experiment with hitting your snack stride, but it’ll be worth it. If you have any special dietary needs, check first with your doctor or a registered dietitian.
Setting Yourself Up for Workout Success
Here are a few final things to keep in mind when hunting for a good pre-workout snack:
- Hydration Matters: With all this talk about snacks, it’s easy to forget that proper hydration matters. You’ll want to make sure you’re adequately hydrated about an hour before your workout. And don’t forget to replace lost electrolytes when you’re through (coconut water is a great choice). Consider choosing snack options that naturally have more water in them, like fruit instead of trail mix, if you’re going to use food to increase hydration.
Consider Your Workout: Don’t forget to take your workout into account when choosing a snack. Is it a cardio day, or are you more focused on building muscle mass through strength training or taking an active rest day with some yin yoga? Think about increasing your carbohydrate intake for cardio, eating more protein for strength training, or a combo for something in between.
- Don’t Forget to Refuel: Hydration, timing, choosing a good pre-workout snack — it all matters. But your workout efforts could be wasted if you neglect your post-workout nutrition. The good news is that what you choose to snack on before a workout can be just as supportive for your body after you’ve broken a sweat. Carbs, protein, and healthy fats can help muscle recovery, build muscle, and rebuild glycogen stores. Yes, the perfect post-workout snack does exist.
6 Good Pre-Workout Snack Ideas
While we know there are loads of different snack combinations out there, we’ve rounded up a list of good pre-workout snack ideas we come back to again and again. (We think these just might be the best pre-workout snacks!) Another bonus? These sweet and savory nibbles also make excellent post-workout snacks when you need them. So without further adieu, here are six ideas you can enjoy this week.
1. Peanut Butter and Fruit
It’s hard to beat the simplicity and ease of peanut butter and a piece of fruit. Chock full of antioxidants and minerals (and super-quick to make), it’s also endlessly customizable. You can find a flavor combo for whatever you’re craving. For an extra fiber and carbohydrate boost, throw everything on a piece of whole-grain toast for a perfect on-the-go snack.
A few of our favorite pairings include:
- Bananas + almond butter + whole-grain bread + topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon
- Apples + pears + peanut butter
- Berries + macadamia nut butter + toasted whole wheat bread
We know you might not think of radishes and peanut butter when you’re looking for a good pre-workout snack, but trust us on this one. Next time you’re at the supermarket, pick up a bunch (or two) of mild radishes. Mix two parts peanut butter with your choice of butter (we prefer non-dairy versions) and follow with a sprinkle of flakey sea salt. This snack is especially ideal when you’re looking for a crunch reminiscent of apples but want to mix it up a bit.
2. Trail Mix
Trail mix is one of our favorite ways to snack before a workout, but not all trail mixes are created equal. Many of the typical store-bought varieties are filled with ingredients that are more likely to have you crash mid-workout rather than efficiently power through an activity.
The good news? Homemade trail mix is a cinch to make, and when you’re in control of the ingredients, you can make sure your trail mix is actually going to be a good pre-workout snack.
We like a combination of nuts, seeds, fruit, and then a few fun extras. Start by swapping low-quality dried fruit covered in sugar for the real thing. Consider making your own at home or look for high-quality dried fruit that doesn’t have any added ingredients.
Next, choose a flavorful combination of your favorite nuts. Almonds, cashews, pecans, and walnuts are all excellent choices. Add a handful or two of seeds (sunflower and pumpkin seeds are delightful!) and something fun like dark chocolate morsels or peanut butter chips.
3. Protein Shakes
Protein shakes are another easy and reliable standby, especially with a well-stocked pantry. Remember, it’s essential to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to get the most from your workout, whether it’s a gentle and low-key recovery day or you’re hitting it hard at the gym.
We love shifting our smoothie and protein shake ingredients with the season, so feel free to follow our lead or find a few flavor combinations you love and stick to those. Check out these flavor combos for some inspiration:
- Blueberry + banana
- Cherry vanilla
- Watermelon + mint
There’s no need to use whey protein, especially if you’re embracing a more plant-forward eating method. There are so many protein powders available today, everything from hemp to pea protein, sacha inchi, brown rice, and everything in between. Don’t forget to add a tablespoon or two of chia seeds to boost fiber and healthy fat.
4. Veggies and Dip
Like fruit and peanut butter, veggies and dip are a versatile and easy way to set yourself up for a solid workout. But instead of sticking just with veggies, we like to kick it up a notch in both the flavor and nutrition department. Nowadays chicken nuggets help us do just that. Made with 7 easy-to-understand ingredients, these plant-based nuggets offer 13 grams of protein per serving, making them the ideal snack for pre and post-workout.
One of our favorite quick and easy ways to enjoy them is as part of a fabulous veggie tray. Check out our fun in the sun tzatziki tray for some ideas on building the perfect pre-workout snack plate. Whip up a batch of hummus to go alongside the tzatziki dip for a Mediterranean-inspired bite of yum.
5. Homemade Energy Bars
Sometimes the only option you have for a good pre-workout snack turns out to be whatever granola or energy bars you have on hand. And while they might do the trick for the kids, they may not have enough of what you need to power through a workout — watching Peppa Pig just doesn’t require quite the same stuff as a pilates session.
Unfortunately, many of those energy bars adorning supermarket shelves don’t provide you with the nutrients you need to sustain yourself in any workout. And sometimes they’re made with ingredients you don’t feel good about.
Maybe it’s time to think about making homemade energy bars. They’re an excellent way to avoid iffy ingredients and make sure you get a good pre-workout snack when you need it. Plus, they can be much faster to whip up than you might think.
Check out this delicious recipe from Five Heart Home for delicious oatmeal peanut butter energy bars. Made entirely in a food processor, these energy bars are filled with heart-healthy nuts, omega-rich chia seeds, silky peanut butter, and a kiss of warming spices for a truly delicious snack bar the whole family can enjoy.
6. Mini Protein Bowls
More filling than a handful of trail mix, a mini protein bowl is a perfect way to support your body through longer workouts or whenever you need extra nutrients (it’s ideal as a post-workout meal too).
While there are many ways to build a good pre-workout snack bowl, we love starting with fiber-filled sweet potatoes to manage blood sugar and rice, which are good sources of complex carbohydrates. Take your bowl to the next level by choosing a high-quality protein source. Homemade chickpea patties or lentil meatballs are perfect if you have them on hand, but sometimes you need something in a hurry.
Nowadays original nuggets make building a quick pre-or post-workout snack bowl easy and fast. A serving provides plenty of plant-based protein to nourish your body and keep you full when you need it. For more protein bowl inspiration, check out our Chicken Teriyaki Comforta-bowl for a truly satisfying meal.
Fuel Your Workout With a Good Pre-Workout Snack
Every exercise session is an opportunity to nurture your amazing body. By providing it with the fuel it needs, you can maximize your workout results and feel energized when it counts. And choosing a good pre-workout snack is simple when you learn what works best for your body. So whether you’re embarking on a new workout plan, embracing gentle movement, or training for endurance and strength, Nowadays nuggets are a fantastic pre-workout snack.