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Tuesday Training: What To Eat Before a Workout


Tuesday Training: What To Eat Before a Workout


What should you eat before you workout?


I get this question a lot and while there is no one size fits all answer, I will give some general recommendations to help you discover the best pre-workout nutrition for you.


If you are looking for a personalized plan, it’s always best to see a nutritionist.


But first I want to clear up one common misconception: what you eat right before a workout does NOT fuel your workout or your muscles. There isn’t enough time to turn your pre-workout food into glycogen. Glycogen is your muscles main fuel supply. It takes about 24 hours to refill your glycogen stores so your body must rely on existing glycogen and fat stores to fuel your workout. That means what you consume the previous day matters for your workout. If you are regularly consuming proteins, healthy, natural fats, and good carbohydrates like vegetables and fruit, you will have plenty of glycogen stored for your body to use for fuel.


The purpose of the pre-workout meal or snack is to ward off hunger and to stabilize blood sugar levels NOT to fuel your workout.


Before I cover what to eat, let’s talk about when and how much you should eat first.



When you should eat your pre-workout meal will vary for everyone because everyone tolerates food a little differently before physical activity. Some can eat right before a workout and feel great, while others feel like they would get sick unless they have an empty stomach. Most people tend to feel the best when they eat 15 minutes to an hour and a half before a workout.


How much?

How much you need to eat before your workout will depend on what type of activity you are doing. Are you going to be mountain biking or running for a long time? Or are you going to be running sprints for a short time? Or maybe you going on a hike, walk or leisurely bike ride.


You always want optimum performance, so you should eat enough to feel good and have enough energy for your workout, but not so much that you feel sick or bloated. The less time before your workout starts, the less you should consume.


Most people do well with smaller pre-workout meals or snacks. If you are doing lower intensity activity (walking, light bike riding, etc), you probably won’t need a pre-workout meal at all. On the flip side, the longer and harder your workout, the more you will probably want to eat.


The best way to find out what that means for you is to experiment and write down your results. Make sure to write down how much you ate, how much time you ate before your workout, what you ate, and how you felt during your workout.



Choose foods that are easily digestible because you want your energy to go into crushing your workout not digesting food. Most people perform and feel the best with a mix of protein, fat, and a small amount of nutrient dense, low glycemic carbs. Always remember to be properly hydrated before going into a workout. Water and coconut water are great options.


Good pre-workout paleo snack options:

  • hard boiled eggs
  • celery sticks with almond or sun butter
  • handful of coconut flakes
  • coconut water
  • half of an avocado or guacamole
  • beef jerky
  • chicken
  • handful of nuts
  • tuna
  • high quality deli meat


Next week, we will discuss post workout nutrition and I promise, it’s not as vague as pre-workout nutrition! 


Do you eat a snack or meal before your workouts? What kinds of foods have given you the best results for your goals?


Original photo courtesy of Shutterfly.

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  1. Avatar

    You solved my problem. I was searching that which is the best meal or snack before I went for workout.

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    You are so right, what we eat the day before makes the biggest difference! If I ate junk, I won’t have much energy and the WOD will be a struggle. I’ve experimented a lot. I work out early- get the kids off to school and am at the gym by 6:30, so I’ve found smoothies work best for me. Homemade unsweetened almond milk, a high quality protein powder, fruit (usually a banana)and ice. I can sip at it while I pack lunches, deal with the dogs, drive to the bus. Do you have a better suggestion to get some protein in the smoothie other than whey powder? The one I get is organic with no sweeteners and pretty good as that type of thing goes, but it’s still more processed than I’d like.

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    Usually a dried apricot. Or a half handfull of sultanas. 🙂

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    An apple sliced up and spread with almond butter. I box so I need a lot of energy for very high intensity workouts but I also have a mid-afternoon slump so this gives me the energy to make it to the end of my work day and through my workout. I always need to leave 2hrs after eating otherwise I feel a bit sick.

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    what exactly would you consider a “high-quality deli meat?”

    • Primally Inspired

      Hi Mary! Personally, I consider high quality deli meats those that don’t have added junk in them like artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives and that don’t come from factory feedlots.

      The best organic brand that’s the easiest to find is Applegate Farms deli meat. All the deli meats are natural, organic and come from pastured (grass-fed) animals that were not treated with hormones or antibiotics.

      Hope that helps!

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    Pre-work out: Either nothing if its not a high intensity sport or if it is I like to have something that is easy to digest to help fuel my body rather than my body having to take energy into digesting my food so I like using one of the amazing grass flavors, a handful of fruit/or a piece of fruit, and fill it up to the 1 cup line with water

    —my favorite amazing grass product would be the energy one especially for when I go surfing it has some natural caffeine in it from green tea and yerba matte this blended with frozen pineapple has given me the best results in performance and having fun in the water!

    Post work out: would definitely be a high quality protein source with veggies and coconut water perfect combo to help with recovery and muscle growth!

  7. Avatar

    I’m surprised bananas aren’t on your list. I literally need to eat one before my runs.

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