Energy Boost: Top 10 Pre-Workout Snacks

We’ve all been there, mired in that strange limbo before a workout and faced with the question: “Should I go work out… or should I eat something?” When you’re hungry and tired, the miles suddenly sound a lot less enticing than the couch and a meal.

But stay strong, my friend. Don’t let hunger and fatigue cloud your better judgment. You can get in your workout—and you can avoid having to do so in a state of mild starvation.

The next time you find yourself in a lackluster late-afternoon quagmire—or even before you begin an early morning run—reach for one of these quick pre-workout fixes and get at it!

Top 10 Pre-Workout Snacks

Energy gels and chews. Energy gels and chews (such as GU and Honey Stinger) made with ingredients that benefit endurance athletes are still one of the quickest, easiest, and most effective ways to boost your workout. Since most gels don’t contain any (or minimal) fat, fiber, or protein, they are easy to digest and are absorbed quickly into your bloodstream for quick and sustained energy.

A Spoonful of Honey. Containing both fructose and glucose as well as antioxidants and vitamins, honey is nature’s little energy boost.

Raisins. Easy to digest and packed with simple carbs, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, raisins deliver essential sugar, electrolytes, and calories for endurance athletes.

Dark Chocolate. With simple sugars and flavonoids—which help fight fatigue—dark chocolate (70% cocoa is ideal) provides a delightful and surprising pre-workout boost. But don’t go overboard: because chocolate is packed with fat and calories, two or three moderate bites will do the trick.

Yogurt. Yogurt contains protein, carbs, and sugar and is relatively easy on the stomach. Organic, plain yogurt is the best; add honey or fruit for flavor and extra energy.

Whole Wheat Bagel with Jam. Bagels are filling and packed with calories, so half of a bagel will be plenty. The complex carbs from the whole grain will provide sustained energy, while the jam (or honey) will give you some simple carbs for a quick boost. Avoid fat-laden spreads like butter or cream cheese, which will weigh you down and may upset your stomach.

A slice of Apple and a handful of Almonds or Walnuts. Yes, tree nuts are fatty, but they are filled with energy-boosting (and easy-on-the-stomach) essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and omega-6s. The apple slices will satisfy your sweet tooth and provide simple sugars for quick energy.

Rice with a Drizzle of Honey. Sounds strange, right? It’s actually quite tasty and provides energy through complex and simple carbs.

Bananas. Packed with calories, carbs, and potassium, bananas are the ultimate snack on-the-go.

Almond Butter on Whole Grain Bread. One slice of bread with a tablespoon of almond butter provides both complex and simple carbs as well as energy-giving essential fatty acids.

Rules of Thumb:

  • Keep your pre-workout snacks light, low in fat, and high in simple and complex sugars.
  • Keep portion sizes small. The closer you are to your workout, the smaller your portion should be.
  • Stick with what works for your body and avoid foods that upset your stomach.
  • Other foods to avoid:
    • spicy foods
    • broccoli or other gaseous foods
    • beans
    • high-fat foods
    • high-protein foods
    • carbonated drinks

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