Editor’s Note: This post is authored by Brittany Brockner, RYT, a Dietetic Intern at College of Saint Elizabeth.

Proper nutrition before you exercise can help you get the most out of your workout. It can help improve your performance and increase your muscle gain through providing sufficient energy to repair and build muscle.

For optimal pre-workout nutrition, strive to eat 30 minutes to 2 hours before your workout3. Because everybody’s tolerance with pre-workout food is different, you may need to experiment to see what timeframe works best for your body and specific activity.

A general rule is to consume 1.0g/kg 1 hour prior to exercise4. For a 150-lb athlete, this would translate to 272 kcals. Pairing carbohydrates with protein provides a balanced snack to best support strength building. Here are a few quick and healthy pre-workout snack ideas:


Fruit with nut butter

Fruit contains healthy, simple carbohydrates that help “fuel” your muscles. The harder your workout, the more carbohydrates you’ll need to keep you going strong. This is because carbohydrates provide glycogen, which is stored in muscle to fuel you through every last rep!


Greek yogurt with nuts or seeds

This snack is packed with protein and light enough to comfortably settle in your stomach. Greek yogurt is a great way to get an energy boost right before your workout without gastrointestinal discomfort.


Pretzels and hummus

This snack provides a quick source of energy with no prep time. You’ll also get sodium, iron, and protein!1

Overall, your pre-workout snack should focus on complex carbohydrates, be moderate in protein, and low in fat. Carbohydrates provide the energy you need for your best performance. Pairing carbohydrates with protein creates a balanced snack that provides your body with sufficient pool of amino acids to make it easier for your body to build and repair muscle. The benefits of protein intake are more profound after your workout. Make sure to consume protein 1-2 hours after your workout to maximize protein muscle synthesis2.

  1. Bede PN. 16 Healthy (and Yummy) Prerun Meals and Snacks. Runner’s World website. https://www.runnersworld.com/run-longer/16-healthy-and-yummy-prerun-meals-and-snacks. Published April 9, 2013. Accessed March 1, 2018.
  2. Cataldo D, Blair M. Protein Intake for Optimal Muscle Maintenance. American College of Sports Medicine. 2015. https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/brochures/protein-intake-for-optimal-muscle-maintenance.pdf. Accessed March 1, 2018.
  3. Mohr C. Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. https://www.eatright.org/fitness/exercise/exercise-nutrition/timing-your-pre-and-post-workout-nutrition. Published February 13, 2017. Accessed March 1, 2018.
  4. Citation: Coleman EJ. Carbohydrate and Exercise. In: Dunform M. Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Profesionals. 4th edition. Chicago, IL: American Dietetic Association; 2006.
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