Working out on an empty stomach is never going to be a good idea. Although there may be some evidence for increased fat burning if you skip a meal beforehand it is also very likely you will end up with fatigue and light headedness – not great for maximum reps. The best way to fuel up for a workout is to be smart about what you eat, because grease loaded chips aren’t going to be much better than an empty stomach. There are two important components that need to be included in a pre workout snack and those are carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates increase muscle endurance and delay fatigue whilst protein stops your muscles from breaking down and digests quickly enough to be useful for your workout. We have listed our favourite pre workout snacks that will give you the energy and nutrients you need.
Oats are low glycemic and will give you slow releasing energy to last your entire workout. They are high in carbohydrates and really versatile. Try steel cut oats for maximum nutritional benefits and explore different ways of using them. Having regular oatmeal is just fine, but overnight oats are a fun twist and don’t forget to get creative with the toppings. Nut butters add extra protein but watch the fat content, whilst berries have fantastic antioxidants that will aid your body during stressors that occur in a workout.
Bananas are nature’s power bar so if you don’t like them you need to train yourself to close your eyes and choke it down anyway. Nah we are just kidding, but seriously they are perfect as a quick, easy snack before a workout. Alongside their carbohydrates bananas contain large amounts of potassium, which will prevent muscle cramping – always a plus during high intensity exercising.
Blueberries have amazing anti-inflammatory properties so if you get sore muscles due to damage induced during a workout then a handful of blueberries can help prevent that. Blend them into a smoothie with some protein powder to get the balance right or crush them into a sandwich with nut butter to make a healthier pb and j. This recipe from ElsasWholesomeLife is a great smoothie that will definitely hit the spot. Photo credit: ElsasWholesomeLife
4. Egg Whites
Although we wouldn’t usually tell you to skip the yolks in an omelette there is good reason to leave them out before a workout. Egg yolks are full of fats which while nutritious, are also slow to digest and will only leave you feeling full and uncomfortable during your workout. Egg whites on the other hand are pure protein and definitely light enough for a pre workout snack. Add some green vegetables and make a quick omelette or scramble them and top some toast for a carbohydrate combo.
Try adding a shot of coffee to your pre workout protein shake (chocolate whey would make a great mocha) and feel how the stimulant affects your performance. If your workout involves any kind of fast paced activities then coffee will definitely give you a boost in both speed and endurance. Even if you don’t feel like adding coffee to your protein shake then a standard cappuccino will still give you a lesser protein hit from foamy milk so if you are really pressed for time then a quick stop at your local coffee shop will do the trick.
6. Chia Seeds
Considering how tiny they are, chia seeds pack a surprisingly nutritious punch. They are full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids as well as B vitamins and fibre so with only a few tablespoons you get the perfect pre-workout snack. DeliciouslyElla has a lovely recipe that uses coconut yoghurt and date syrup to make a tasty portable snack with complete proteins throughout. Photo credit: DeliciouslyElla
7. Apples and Almond Butter
I expect you understand the formula by now – mix your favourite carbs with your tastiest protein. Apples and almond butter is a great paring because they balance nutritionally, but are also a delicious sweet and savoury combo. Peanut butter can often be more processed than almond butter, although they both contain magnesium, monounsaturated fats and protein, so try and find organic almond butter for the most health benefits.
Perhaps not such a great snack food, but definitely one to add to a pre workout meal if you have a bit more time, quinoa is a complete protein and contains carbohydrates as well so it ticks both boxes. It is low on the glycemic index so will release energy throughout your exercise routine without giving you the bloat that wheat has a tendency to. Quinoa comes in a few different shapes and sizes, including quinoa flakes, puffed quinoa and the dried stuff most easily found, so be a bit inventive and add them to a few different recipes.
9. Green Smoothie
Fruit is great directly before a workout because it contains a lot of simple carbohydrates that will give you an instant blood sugar spike. Adding in greens is just a healthy extra that should be in every smoothie. This recipe from AverieCooks includes a huge amount of high carbohydrate fruit such as mango and banana and enough of it to easily cover the taste of spinach. Choose milk such as soy or hemp to keep the protein level fairly high for the ideal balanced snack. Photo credit: AverieCooks
10. Coconut Water
Coconut water seems to be having its moment as a health food right now and with just cause. Chugging it down before a workout can top off your potassium levels to fight muscle cramping and its vital carbohydrates will fuel your workout whilst providing much needed hydration. Swap your current sugary sports drink for coconut water and drink it through your workout for an optimal session.