I get a lot of questions from people inquiring about good foods to eat pre-workout.
As many of you know, eating food before any type of exercise, whether it be weight training or interval-cardio training, is vital in order for you to have an effective workout. Short-changing your body before a workout is much like driving your car with the gas light on – you can only drive for so long before you stall. The type of “gas” we’re looking to fuel your body with includes low-glycemic carbohydrates, protein, with little or no added fats, as these only slow the digestion process down.
If you’re unsure of what carb/protein combo you should be consuming before a workout, here are a few suggestions. (Keep in mind that if you’re working out within 30 minutes of eating, a liquid meal such as a protein shake is also a viable option.)
Also note: these are foods that take time to prepare. The key to successful weight management is preparation. That sounds TOTALLY BORING, I know. I wish I could give you a list of foods that are all pre-packaged, throw in your gym bag ready. On occasion, you can do this with a high quality protein bar (low carbs), but honestly, leave those for an emergency.
Below are some great pre-workout choices and after that is a list of other healthy snacks…
- Half of a Turkey Sandwich on Sprouted Grain Bread
The turkey provides you with a solid source of protein to assist muscles in the rebuilding process, while the sprouted grain bread provides you with a slow releasing carbohydrate to keep muscles fueled.
- A Bowl of Oatmeal and Egg Whites
The slow carbs in the oatmeal will provide your body with the carbohydrates it needs before a workout while preventing an insulin spike. The rapidly-digested protein in the egg whites will provide your muscles with essential amino acids.
- A Chicken Wrap
This is another great pre-workout meal because it has both the protein (found in the chicken) and the carbohydrates (found in the wrap) your body needs before it exerts itself. More so, this is a great option because it’s a snack that you can eat on the go – just slice up some chicken from the night before, throw it on a whole wheat tortilla with some veggies, and bring it along with you to snack on before you hit the gym!
- Greek yogurt, Walnuts, and Berries
Try mixing a cup of low-fat Greek yogurt with six walnut-halves, and half a cup of berries. The essential proteins in the Greek yogurt, Omega-3s in the walnuts, and low glycemic carbs in the berries will be sure to keep you feeling great throughout the duration of your workout.
- Low-fat Cottage cheese and Fruit
Much like the Greek yogurt snack mentioned above, this pre-workout grub is great to take with you on the go. Also much like the Greek yogurt snack, the protein in the cottage cheese mixed with the low glycemic carbs found in the fruit will fuel your body for a great workout.
- Quinoa and Tuna
If you’re looking for more of a ‘meal-type’ pre-workout food, try one cup of cooked quinoa mixed with a can of tuna. (If this is too dry, you can try topping it with some salsa to give it some extra oomph!) Remember spices are your friend, so spice it up.
- Sweet Potato and White Fish
This meal option is super low in fat which makes it ideal. Sweet potatoes are also high in beta-carotene and will provide sustained energy, while the low-fat white fish is full of protein.
- Protein Shake or Fruit Smoothie
As mentioned at the beginning, if you’re eating less than 30 minutes prior to working out, something liquid might be easier to digest. A great option is a simple protein shake. If this is too bland, you can try blending your protein powder in with some berries, milk, and raw oats to make a fruit smoothie.
Here’s a list of snacks that are about 100 calories. I suggest these at another time of day. Many people really get stumped when making good snack choices, so I thought this would be helpful:
Low-fat cottage cheese (4 oz): 80 calories
Skim milk latte (8 oz): 85 calories
Air-popped popcorn (3 cups or 1 oz): 95 calories
Graham crackers (8 small rectangles): 100 calories
Thin pretzel sticks (48 sticks or 1 oz): 100 calories
Celery (5 pieces) with peanut butter (1 Tbsp): 100 calories
An apple (small) with low-fat cheese (2 oz): 150 calories
Baby carrots (10) with hummus (1/4 cup): 150 calories
3 ounces low-fat cottage cheese and 3 whole-wheat crackers
1/4 cup fat-free ranch dressing with mixed raw veggies
6 Wheat Thins crackers with two teaspoons of peanut butter (or any nut butter)
2 large graham cracker squares with 1 teaspoon peanut butter
5-ounce tossed salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and 1/4 cup fat-free dressing
Half a “finger” of string cheese with 4 whole-wheat crackers
Half an apple with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter
An orange and a few dry-roasted nuts
10 cashew nuts
Half a small avocado
3 ounces cooked whole-grain noodles with 1 fresh tomato and 1/2 ounce hard cheese
4 mini rice cakes with 2 tablespoons low-fat cottage cheese
Keep in mind that once you’re training, the way your jeans fit is 80% diet related. That being said, anyone can see how essential fueling your body with the right nutrients is, especially before a workout.
If you’re looking for more cool ideas for healthy eating and GREAT recipes, check out my pal Dave Ruel’s Metabolic cookbook, he’s got you covered.