Expert Contributor

So you cut out of work late and need to grab something to eat on the way to the gym. Or maybe you had a few hours at home and a full fridge before you left. Which handful of food do you grab to make your sweat count for the most? Whether you’re pinched on time or you planned ahead, knowing what to feed your body is just as important as digging deep at the gym.


Each time you work out, blood rushes to heavily-used muscles, ferrying in much-needed nutrients for repair. If you understand what your body is looking for during training, you’ll know what to give it before. The payoff of a workout is determined partly by what you’ve given your body to build with. Preparing for each session with fine-tuned snacks means you burn fat, gain muscle, and get better performance—and you do it fast.

Pre-Workout Snacks

So what do you nibble on? Something loaded with carbohydrates—about 70% of the energy in your snack should be carb-based. The thing is, carbs aren’t created equal. Some hit the bloodstream in a rush, others in a slow drip. If you eat fast-hitting carbs like simple sugars or candy, your body anticipates the flood and sends insulin to calm things down, removing sugar from the blood into the liver, muscles, and then fat storage.

This spikes your blood sugar then bottoms it out fast, making you feel lethargic while your appetite and mood run wild. You want a steadier supply of energy throughout, so choose low-glycemic carbs like oatmeal, veggies, and dairy (the Glycemic Index ranks foods by how quickly their carbs raise your blood sugar).


Especially as you get closer to workout time, go light on protein, fat, and fiber. Too much, and they’ll stall food in your stomach, where the energy will be unavailable for those muscle contractions once training starts. Also, having the food held up may affect people with sensitive stomachs.

How many carbs do you need to stockpile for your routine? A rough guideline is to take in half a gram of carbohydrate for every pound of your body weight. Of course, this will change depending on how long and how hard you plan to exert yourself. As the workout approaches, just remember to swap in quickly-digestible drinks instead of solids to kickstart nutrient absorption.

1-2 hours before: Flax bread with almond butter and bee pollen, fresh granola, or fruit (blueberries, bananas, peaches, and pears are all good) in oatmeal.

30 minutes before: Coconut water, fresh fruit and vegetable juice, or a smoothie. Need a recipe for a smoothie? Click here for 50 smoothie recipes all with 5 ingredients or less!

Developing healthy key habits before you even step foot in the gym, will increase the results during and after your workout. Don’t be afraid to have a little snack to energize your exercise program, just make sure you get the proper percentage of good carbohydrates for your body weight. Are there any snacks you can’t live without prior to a workout?