Pre-Workout Meals: What & When To Eat Before A Workout
If you’ve ever found it difficult to concentrate during your workouts, you fatigued faster than usual or your workouts simply didn't go to plan, think about what you ate prior to training — these might be signs you aren’t giving your nutrition the attention it needs.
Pre-workout meals are an important part of any fitness routine. Eating the right foods before you train can help to fuel your workouts, accelerate your results and get you closer to reaching your health and fitness goals.
The best foods will depend on your training style and fitness goals — find out what you should eat before a workout so you can make healthy pre-workout meals to help you perform at your best!
Benefits of pre-workout meals
A pre-workout meal can help you to perform better and even recover faster, therefore having a huge impact on your results.
Fuelling your body with nutritious foods is important when you work out regularly because exercise uses a lot of energy. Between meals, your blood sugar is naturally lower and so are your energy levels — and your body sources that energy from food.
A pre-workout meal will keep you focused and energise you during and after your workout and can also help build and maintain muscle and support recovery.
What to eat before a workout
To get the most out of your workouts and recovery, you should focus on your macronutrient or “macro” intake. This means including carbohydrates and protein in your pre-workout meals.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel. Eating a pre-workout meal with carbohydrates triggers the release of the hormone insulin, and allows your body to use those carbohydrates for energy. If you are doing high-intensity training, your body relies on fast-absorbing carbohydrates to fuel fast-twitch muscle fibres. Without enough carbohydrates, it can be much harder to do these exercises.
Protein is used by your body to build, maintain and regulate cells. The amino acids found in protein are important for muscle synthesis, maintenance and repair, so eating protein-rich foods such as lean meats, legumes, fish and seafood can help to support your training.
Having a combination of both protein and carbohydrates in a pre-workout meal will provide the best results for muscle growth and repair.
Do you need a pre-workout meal?
Anyone following a balanced diet and who eats regularly throughout the day may not need a pre-workout meal. For example, if you exercise in the afternoon within an hour or two of lunch this may provide sufficient nutrients to keep you energised for your workout.
However, if you plan to exercise more than two hours after eating, you may need a small snack before your workout for an extra energy boost.
Without a pre-workout meal, you may find you become fatigued faster and find it harder to concentrate during your workout.
What are the best pre-workout meals?
The best pre-workout meals will depend on your health and fitness goals, as well as your individual nutritional requirements — if your goal is to develop muscle, your pre-workout meals may differ from someone with fat loss as a goal.
As a general recommendation, try to stick to a meal that is high in carbohydrates, low in fat, and that has moderate protein.
You should also aim to choose a pre-workout meal that includes foods your body can easily digest, as this will provide your body with energy faster and avoid food sitting in your stomach before it is metabolised.
When to eat a pre-workout meal
The timing of your pre-workout meal can affect how you feel during and after your workout. It can also influence your ability to train at your full potential.
Allow at least 20-30 minutes between finishing a pre-workout meal and starting your workout — including before low-intensity exercise. Eating or drinking a small meal within an hour of exercise can help boost your energy and reduce the risk of an upset stomach.
You can try these meal suggestions to help you get started.
Pre-workout meals for 2 to 4 hours before a workout:
- Two slices of wholemeal toast with nut butter and sliced banana
- A bowl of oatmeal with nuts and seeds
- An egg omelette
- A small portion of poached chicken with a side of rice and sweet potato.
Pre-workout snacks for 30 minutes to 1 hour before a workout:
- A protein smoothie
- A piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts
- One small tub of plain yoghurt with sliced banana
- A bliss ball (these Apricot Energy Bites are a tasty option!).
You can find more healthy pre-workout meal inspiration in the Sweat app.
What about pre-workout supplements?
While there are lots of ways to get essential vitamins and minerals from food and drink, some people find supplements help to improve their performance.
If you choose to include supplements in your pre-training routine, remember that they are designed to complement an already healthy lifestyle.
Start planning your pre-workout meals
Don't overlook pre-workout nutrition — how you fuel your body can have a huge impact on your results.
If you’re struggling to get started with pre-workout meals, try joining a fitness challenge — it’s a great way to learn how to fuel and support your body during workouts and continue the healthy habits you create long after the challenge finishes.
What are your favourite pre-workout meals? Let us know in the comments!
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.