If you've ever wondered what you should eat before a workout, you're not alone. There's a lot of confusion about what foods are best to eat before a workout, and when the best time to eat them is. Your body needs fuel to function, so giving it the proper nutrition and calories it needs can help you exercise at your best. 

Carb Smart

bread, toast, wheat, cereal, sweet, sandwich
Christin Urso

While a lot of pop culture news focus on protein protein protein for athletes, carbs are actually a smart choice for fueling a workout. By contributing to glycogen storages, high-carbohydrate diets are preferable, especially for endurance activities. 

As you workout, your body accesses different forms of energy. During the first 10 minutes or so, muscles rely on their own stores of glycogen for glucose. If the workout continues for longer than 20 minutes, the body starts to use less glucose and more fat for fuel (but the body still continues to use glucose, as well). Glycogen stores are depleted after about two hours of vigorous exercise.

If your body doesn't have enough glycogen to use for energy, it will start using protein. Protein is important for building muscle after a workout, so you want to ensure the body has enough carbs to burn first. 

bread, sweet
Christin Urso

If you work out longer than two hours, it's wise to consume an easy-to-break-down snack, like an electrolyte beverage, gel energy chews, or fruit snacks. This is a rare instance where a quick-to-digest sugar spike is exactly what you're looking for.

If your workout is under two hours, gels and sports drinks might not be necessary, and you can probably fuel your workout by eating a carb-rich snack before hand. Go for easy-to-digest grain products, fruits, and non-bulky starchy vegetables

More Protein Truths

Marisa Palace

Contrary to what many people believe, a super high-protein, low-carb diet isn't necessary for most athletes. In fact, extreme athletes only require 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, up only slightly from 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight required for most people

Average protein intake in the United States is much higher than what is required for a lot of people, so you don't need to worry about consuming extra protein for exercise, especially pre-workout (a wiser time to up the protein intake is after you workout).


sweet, dairy product
Meg Brownley

To keep your workout game strong and avoid fatigue during exercise, aim to maintain steady blood sugarlevels for as long as possible to give your body a steady glucose supply. This means eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day when you are hungry. When pre-workout time comes, try to eat your snack within an hour or two of your planned workout time.

Everyone digests foods at different rates, so listen to your body and eat with enough time for the food to settle and digest a bit so you don't get a stomach ache or cramp.

For most people, eating a pre-workout snack between 30-120 minutes before exercise works well. Eating carb-rich food within 60 minutes of finishing your workout can also help you recover and maintain steady blood sugar levels.

What to Eat

waffle, syrup, blueberry, sweet, pastry
Deborah Orret

An optimal pre-workout meal or snack is carb-rich, easy-to-digest, and hydrating. For ease of digestion, look for carbohydrate-rich foods that are lower in fat, protein, and fiber.

#SpoonTip: Bulky, fiber-rich foods and foods high in healthful fats are important for athletes, just not optimal to consume right before exercise

Pair any of the snacks below with a glass of water, and get ready to hit your workout hard. Exact amounts aren't included on purpose, because like I said, every person and workout has different needs, so listen to your hunger and fullness cues to determine how much to eat. Aim to satisfy hunger, but avoid feeling overly full or stuffed to avoid cramping.

Some Tasty Snack Ideas:

-Bread with nut butter and jelly

-Grapes and Graham Crackers

-A bowl of melon with some yogurt 

-Banana and a Dollop of Peanut Butter


-A Baked Potato

-Apples, Crackers, and Peanut Butter


-A bowl of cereal with milk of choice

-A bowl of oatmeal with fruit

-Baked sweet potato wedges with nut butter

-Baked potato wedges with hummus

-A parfait with yogurt and fruit

-Roasted Chickpeas

-A fruit smoothie

-A granola bar (look for ones made without high-fructose corn syrup, or make your own)

-Rice cakes with a little nut butter and/or jelly

-Baked tortilla chips


-A tortilla with banana and peanut butter

-A latte

-Toaster Waffles

-A sports drink (if you have no appetite and need fuel for an extended workout)

A solid snack can help you charge through your workouts and accomplish your fitness and athletic goals. Experiment with carb-rich foods and snack timing to figure out what works best for you.