Why You Should Eat Before Your Workout
Just like it helps to have an exercise plan in mind before you hit the gym, being prepared with the right pre-workout snack will keep you on track with your fitness regimen. Not sure what to eat to fuel up? The rules of eating before exercise can be confusing, so we asked nutrition pros for their go-to recommendations. From healthy carbs for an energy boost to protein for staying power, these expert-approved eats will help you maximize your workout.
Steel-Cut Oats With Berries
“If you workout in the morning, this is a great pre-workout breakfast," says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, and author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies. “The steel-cut oats are loaded with carbohydrates which are slowly digested to keep you full during your workout and the berries provide extra carbs as well as antioxidants to fight against workout-induced stressors on the body,” she says.
“High quality complex carbohydrates are the best source of energy prior to a workout,” says Palinski-Wade – which is why she points to bananas as an excellent, grab-and-go option. “Not only does a banana contain carbohydrates to fuel your workout, but it’s also rich in potassium which can help to prevent muscle cramps during exercise,” she adds.
Apple Slices and Peanut Butter
This is an all-star pick for gym-goers because it's easy, convenient, and suitable any time. “For pre-workout snacks, my recommendations usually depend on what the workout entails, because for some types of exercises, like yoga, you don't need to eat a lot beforehand,” says Jessica Levinson, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Nutritioulicious. “For the most part, I recommend a combo of protein and carbs, like apple slices dipped in peanut butter.”
Pistachios and Blueberries
For a power-packed protein-and-carb combo, Levinson recommends a handful of pistachios and blueberries. The blueberries are packed with anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent soreness related to exercise-induced muscle damage, according to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Not just any fruit smoothie will do, however; stay away from sugary additives (like syrups) and be sure to include some protein. “Smoothies are a great way to not only boost your carbohydrate intake, but to make sure you start off your workout well-hydrated,” says Palinski-Wade. “My favorite is this simple Berry Pomegranate smoothie that is easy to make and includes a good source of carbohydrates from the fruit as well as lean protein from the cottage cheese.”
Coffee and Milk
Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RDN, CDN, Everyday Health columnist and author of Read It Before You Eat It, prefers to sip her pre-workout snack, opting for coffee with milk before she exercises – and not just a typical splash you're used to adding. “I use about a cup of milk with my cup of joe,” she says. “The protein and carbs in the milk provide sustained energy, the caffeine in coffee provides a kick, and it's a healthy, satisfying way to hydrate.”