Success in the Kitchen
As a workout enthusiast, your main goal is to get your body in the absolute best shape possible.
While hitting the gym and going for a run will obviously test your body's strength and fitness level, the kind of food that you eat is equally important to the entire process.
In fact, we argue that it’s the most important.
Eating a healthy, well-balanced snack or meal before you start getting sweaty is one of the best ways to prep yourself for an intense workout.
In this epic, multi-entry guide, we’ll show you 99 different recipes for pre-workout snacks that you can easily make no matter your skills in the kitchen.
Why Pre-Workout Nutrition is Important
Fitness freaks and body-builders everywhere always seem to put a great deal of focus on post-workout meals, but what you put into your body before you start working out deserves just as much attention.
Filling your body with proper nutrition prior to working out will allow you to see considerable gains throughout your entire body, and this is something that’s absolutely necessary if your main goal is to build up your precious muscles.
Additionally, eating a nutritious snack before even touching a dumbbell will give your body the energy it needs to keep moving in order to set a new PR.
The 3 Macros for Well-Balanced Snacks
There are a number of different factors to consider when making pre-workout snacks, but the three main things to keep in mind are the 3 macronutrients — protein, fat, and carbs.
These three components are the most effective and powerful when it comes to getting your body in the best shape possible for an intense workout, as protein aids in its recovery, fat gives you more endurance, and carbs provide your body with the energy it so desperately needs.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of how each of those macros actually works:
- Muscle damage is something that you’ll likely come across at one point or another during intense workouts, and this is where protein becomes extremely important. Protein is made up of amino acids, and these are the things that essentially make up the entirety of your muscles.
- Eating snacks that are loaded with protein before working out will help your body recover more efficiently after a long, intense session at the gym, and that alone is reason enough to add more of this to your diet. However, that’s not the only benefit that it has to offer.
- A protein-filled pre-workout snack will also promote better muscle growth, stronger body mass, and better overall performance from your muscles.
- Endurance is absolutely necessary if you want to get the most out of your next workout, and while glycogen is the component that will help your body the most for quick, high-intensity exercises, pure fat is what your body really needs if you want to keep moving longer when doing exercises that are more moderate or low when it comes to their intensity.
- It’s important to know the difference between good fats and bad fats. The good fats — including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated ones — improve your body’s regulation of oxygen, immune system strength, and the overall health of your cardiovascular system. On the other hand, saturated and trans fat will result in unwanted raised levels of your cholesterol.
- Just like a car that needs gas to keep on moving, your body needs its own fuel to do the same thing. Carbs act as the fuel that keeps your body going along, and they’re so critically important due to the way they handle oxygen.
- Carbs are much more efficient with their oxygen use compared to any other type of kilocalorie, and they enable your body to work harder and longer during even the most intense of workout sessions.
- The amount of glycogen that your body stores is dependent on how many carbs your body takes in, and the conversion of glycogen to glucose is what your muscles primarily use as their energy source. This means that the length and intensity of which you can exercise is controlled quite a bit by your glycogen levels, and in order to boost these up, you need to ensure that you have a healthy balance of carbs in your diet.
How much protein, fat, and carbs should you have in your pre-workout snacks?
Now that you know all about the 3 macronutrients and what they do, it’s time to decide how many of these you should consume in order to meet your fitness goals.
Everybody reading this likely has a different/unique goal for their body, and as such, it’s difficult to say just how many macros you should be consuming depending on what sort of results you want to see.
Macro dieting is not something that’s one-size-fits-all, but even with this being the case, there is a general rule of thumb that you can follow in order to get yourself on the right track.
Initially, you’ll want to start out with the following setup:
See how your body reacts to having a balanced spread with carbohydrates at 50% and both protein and fat comprising 25% of your meal.
Once you’ve worked with a setup like this for a while, consider seeking the advice of a nutritionist so you can pinpoint exactly what your overall diet and pre-workout snacks should consist of in order to help you get the best results and athletic performance possible.
Also, pay attention to how your body reacts to different types of foods and each of the three macronutrients. Some people work better with higher protein diets whereas others will feel better while consuming more carbs.
Don’t Forget to Watch the Clock
In addition to watching the amount of macros you have with your pre-workout snacks, it’s just as important to keep track of what time you actually eat them.
Although a pre-workout snack is obviously something you’ll want to eat before you go to the gym or embark on a long run, this doesn’t mean that you should start eating just 5 minutes before you start breaking a sweat.
This is a very common mistake that’s made by a lot of people when they first start out with the whole pre-workout snack game, and it’s one that we want to help you avoid.
When you eat any sort of food, your stomach needs an ample amount of time to properly digest everything. Eating immediately before you workout means that you’ll be putting physical demand on your body while it’s simultaneously trying to digest the food you just ate, and this can result in lackluster performance and/or discomfort.
What we suggest doing is to eat your pre-workout snack around 1 to 3 hours before you plan on being physically active. The exact time you choose will vary depending on how quickly your body is able to fully digest food, and this is something that you can experiment and play around with in order to find the time that works perfectly for you and your body.
Now, some snacks to get you started (many more to follow)
Perfect Green Smoothie
Photo: Food Heaven Made Easy
Smoothies have often been one of the most popular go-to solutions for pre and post-workout snacks, and The Perfect Green Smoothie is one of the best out there for giving yourself a serious energy boost.
Made with green spinach, almond milk, non-fat Greek yogurt, tofu, strawberries, and chia seeds, this smoothie is packed to the gills with protein, probiotics, and more.
Diet Type(s): Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Workout Type(s): Cardio
2 cups of baby spinach
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1, 6-ounce container of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup of organic tofu
1 cup of frozen strawberries
2 Tablespoons of chia seeds
Blend all the ingredients together and enjoy!
Share the smoothie with someone, or save the other half for later in the day!
Almond, Date, and Hemp Energy Bars
Photo: Lemons and Basil
Energy bars are another staple of the pre-workout diet plan, and while there are a lot of different ways to make them, one of our personal favorites is the Almond Date And Hemp Energy Bars.
These bars are packed with a ton of nuts and fruit, and as a result of this, they provide your body with omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber that will give you the boost of energy you need without any of those nasty preservatives or artificial flavors.
Diet Type(s): Gluten Free, Paleo, Vegan
Workout Type(s): High Intensity Interval Training
1 cup Medjool dates (approx 11-12)
1 cup dried cranberries
¾ cup almonds (I used dry roasted & unsalted)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp flax seeds
2 Tbsp hemp hearts
2 Tbsp honey
- If your dates still have their pits, be sure to remove them!
- Pulse dates and almonds in food processor until chopped medium fine.
- Add cranberries, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp hearts, and honey. Pulse 6 to 8 times or until ingredients are well blended.
- Line an 8×8 dish with plastic wrap or parchment paper.
- Place ingredients into dish and spread evenly while pressing down firmly to form a flat even top.
- You may need to wet the back of your spatula or use parchment paper to press down as the mixture may be sticky.
- Refrigerate 1-2 hours before cutting to get cleaner cuts. Once cut, I wrapped each of mine individually so they were ready to grab and take with me for a great energy snack!
- Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Avocado Toast With Cottage Cheese and Tomatoes
Photo: The Lemon Bowl
If you’re looking for a super quick and easy way to give yourself a little boost throughout the day that isn’t a sugary candy bar, this next recipe might be the perfect fit.
All you need is whole grain bread, low fat cottage cheese, an avocado, tomato, and salt and pepper. Create some thin bread slices on a cutting board and add 1/4 cup of cottage cheese to each one. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top of this, and then top the cottage cheese with your slices of tomato and avocado. Season this with one more spritz of salt and pepper, and you’re all set and ready to go!
Diet Type(s): Vegetarian
Workout Type(s): Yoga, Cardio
8 slices hearty whole grain bread
2 cups cottage cheese, low fat
1 ripe California avocado sliced
1 tomato sliced
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
- Lay bread slices out on a large cutting board and top each one with ¼ cup of cottage cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Top cottage cheese with avocado and tomato slices then season with another pinch of salt and pepper.
- Cut bread slices in half and serve.