It doesn't matter if you work out in the morning, during your lunch break or at night: pre-workout snacks are always important. They help ensure that your body has everything it needs to fuel itself during whatever activity you're doing, whether it's climbing the StairMaster, running on the treadmill, spinning on a bike, pumping iron or playing a tennis match.
But there's a lot of confusing information out there about what the best kinds of snacks are—should they be high in carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats or some combination of nutrients? Here's what you need to know about eating before your workout, as well as the top five snacks that'll keep you going.
Aim for carbs and protein
The best pre-workout snacks have a relatively high amount of carbs, a moderate amount of protein and limited amounts of fat. While protein is important for building muscles and repairing them after exercise, carbs are essential to give you the energy to work those muscles in the first place. Your best bet is to choose a snack with both complex and simple carbs so that the energy released during your workout is slow and steady throughout your regimen. It's also important that the carbs are easily digestible.
Consider the timing
You shouldn't eat your snack on the way to the gym down the street or as you head out the door for your run. You'll get the maximum amount of energy by eating 30 to 60 minutes before your workout, so planning is important.
Adjust the size
A small snack is enough to get you through a 45-minute workout, but if you're planning a two-hour run or a particularly long cardio and weight-training session, you should adjust the size of your snack accordingly. This will ensure that you have enough fuel to last the entire time.
Try these 5 options
- Whole-wheat toast with nut or seed butter, banana and cinnamon. A slice of whole-wheat toast with your choice of something like peanut, almond or sunflower seed butter topped with slices of banana and a sprinkling of cinnamon is a great pre-workout snack. It gives you simple and complex carbs, is easy to digest, increases your potassium levels (which drop when you sweat) and stabilizes your blood sugar.
- Apple slices and yogurt peanut butter dip. Mix nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt with peanut or almond butter to make a dip that's perfect for apple slices. Consider adding grapes or raisins for an extra kick of energy.
- Heart-healthy cereal. Pour yourself a serving of whole-grain cereal mixed with uncooked oatmeal, slivered almonds and chopped dates. Add low-fat milk or almond milk and you're good to go.
- Half of a lean protein sandwich on whole-wheat bread. Make yourself a sandwich with chicken, turkey or lean roast beef on whole-wheat bread for a great mix of carbs and protein. Veggies like lettuce, tomato or spinach will add nutrients.
- Smoothie. The best thing about smoothies is that they're portable and easy to customize. Blend sliced fruit, Greek yogurt and some granola or oats for a thicker consistency, and consider add-ins like protein powder, kale or peanut butter.