What to Eat Before a Workout: Snack Ideas
There’s a lot of focus on what food you should consume after a workout, but did you know that what you eat before can be just as important? Food is fuel for your workout, and so getting the right combination of nutrients before you hit the gym can result in more energy, better focus and ultimately you hitting your goals more quickly.
Many experts recommend eating a complete, nutritious meal 2-3 hours before a workout. But we know this isn’t always possible. Whether you’re working out first thing in the morning or squeezing a quick gym class in on your lunch break, there are days where you won’t have time to prep and eat a well balanced meal.
Luckily, even a small snack half an hour before your session can help give you the energy boost you need. However, not all snacks are created equal. Eating something too sugary, such as a chocolate bar, before hitting the gym floor could ruin your workout if it causes your blood sugar to drop. Similarly, eating something too stodgy too close to your session could sit heavily in your stomach, making you feel sluggish.
So what should you be eating? This can vary, depending on your workout goals and the type of exercise you’re going to be doing. However, there are some key foods that you can’t go wrong with, due to the nutrients you need.
So, what nutrients do you need before a workout?
The main macronutrients you’re going to need before starting any kind of exercise are:
- Carbohydrates – these are going to be your body’s main source of energy to power through the exercise. During intense workouts, our bodies use our glycogen stores as fuel. Many athletes are known to ‘carb load’ in the week before a big bout of exercise (such as a half marathon), which involves eating a larger portion of carbs each day to ensure the stores are well-stocked.
- Protein – this is essential for muscle synthesis (the process whereby your muscles repair and grow after intense exercise). Protein is often associated with post-workout recovery, but getting the macronutrient into your body as soon as possible will help your muscles perform better during the workout, too.
Most pre-workout meals and snacks should be a healthy mix of proteins and carbs. Fats can be included into the mix for some low-intensity exercises, but really these are the two main macronutrients we should focus on.
But what snacks are the best, and do the ratios matter? Read on to find out.
Snack ideas for a weightlifting workout
If your goal is to build muscle, then ideally your snack should contain an equal amount of protein and carbohydrate. As mentioned, the protein is ideal for improving muscle synthesis, while carbs will give you the energy you need to push through those gruelling sets.
As building muscle often requires you to be eating more calories than usual, you don’t have to worry too much about whether your snack is adding too many calories on top of your meals. Since weight training improves your body’s resting metabolism, you’ll be burning calories long after the session is over anyway.
Some good ideas include:
- Lean chicken or turkey, with a small portion of brown rice or wholewheat pasta
- Egg whites on top of a slice of whole wheat bread
- A protein shake, with added oats or maybe a banana
- Oats topped with a handful of nuts, or a sliced up banana
Of course, a lot of these snacks involve some prep work beforehand. If you’re in a rush then protein ‘snack packs’ made up of chicken or nuts can be a great alternative.
Snack ideas for cardio or fat burning workouts
Many people don’t realise that the Supplements Needed for Cardio Workouts are actually very similar to those needed for weight training. However, if your goal with cardio workouts is to burn fat and ultimately lose weight, then you’ll need to treat your pre-workout meal slightly differently.
After all, there’s no point loading up with unnecessary calories right before a cardio workout where you’re going to try to burn them. Ultimately, this could impact that all-important calorie deficit.
When planning your snacks, it’s therefore more important to think about lower-calorie versions of snacks. You really just need enough energy to give you a little boost before you hit the treadmill or spin class. Some good ideas here are:
- An apple with some peanut butter
- Greek yoghurt with a handful of nuts
- A simple piece of fruit, such as a whole banana
- Crackers with a thin slice of lean meat
- A fruit smoothie
Snacks to avoid before hitting the gym
So now you know what you should be grabbing for your gym bag, but are there any foods you definitely shouldn’t be reaching for? The answer here is yes, unless you want to seriously disrupt your workout.
As mentioned, anything too sugary or processed needs to be avoided as it could lead to a crash. Similarly, anything deep fried or too fatty could be detrimental as it could make your stomach cramp, or cause uncomfortable bloating.
But there are also a lot of otherwise ‘healthy’ foods that you need to avoid too. Generally, the main culprit here is fibre. High-fibre foods are often digested quite quickly through the body, which can lead to gas during your workout. In worst-case scenarios, you could even end up having to cut your workout short to take a trip to the bathroom!
Snacks to leave until after your workout include:
- Green veg such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower
- White bread
Anything too spicy should also be avoided – after all, nobody needs heartburn ruining their training!
What about drinks?
One of the most important things to remember before your workout is that hydration is key. As we lose sweat during our workouts, it’s essential that we replace these lost fluids with water or a sports drink.
Our CBD-infused sports drinks are ideal for enjoying along with your pre-workout snack, and also for taking into the gym with you. You can enjoy all of the benefits of a normal sports drink – hydration, electrolytes and a dose of carbs – alongside the additional Recovery Benefits of CBD.
Whatever snack you opt for, make sure you’re washing it down with plenty of hydrating liquids to reap the full benefits. And don’t forget to keep sipping during your workout too.
With the right combination of food and water, you can head into the gym ready to smash your session. For more information on food and supplements to take in before, during and after your workout, visit our Blog.