Pre-Workout Meals: What to Eat Before a Workout

Pre-Workout Meals: What to Eat Before a Workout

By Protein Chefs

5 Min Read

Your pre-workout meal can have a huge impact on your athletic performance. Your body needs a source of fuel to keep you going strong. No matter how often you work out, you will not see the results you want without the right foods.

There is nothing wrong with protein shakes and supplements. These products can give you a good source of protein and energy when you are on the go. However, your body needs more than supplements. That’s why it is important to eat before a workout.

Yet, working out on a full stomach is a good way to get abdominal cramps. That means your pre-workout meal timing will also affect your performance. Eating one to three hours before your workout is usually your best bet, but this can vary.

A pre-workout meal plan should cater to your specific needs. Your dietary style, athletic goals, and biology all change what the best pre-workout food is for you.

You have a lot to think about. So, we compiled this guide to give you some pre-workout meal ideas. We will discuss various pre-workout foods that can fit a diverse range of needs, goals, and bodies.

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What Makes Good Pre-Workout Food?

Pre-workout food is all about macronutrients. Macronutrients are proteins, fats, and carbs. Healthy fats and carbs fuel your body for a longer amount of time. Protein helps prevent muscle soreness and encourages faster recovery.

Everyone needs macronutrients in their pre-workout food. Women, men, and non-binary people can all benefit from healthy fats and protein. However, your biological sex does change some of your nutrient requirements and how your body processes energy. 

For example, studies have shown that people born male mainly derive energy from carbs while people born female mainly derive energy from fat. For this reason, your biological sex may help you decide whether your pre-workout food should be more fat-forward or carb-forward.

Age, weight, and composition will also affect the nutrients you need. People over 50 need fewer calories because their metabolisms are slowing down. Even if weight loss or gain is not your goal, your weight and height may affect your recommended caloric intake.

You may also want to prioritize morning pre-workout food. Generally, people eat less before noon so you probably have less fuel in your body leading up to a morning workout.

This guide offers meal plan ideas but does not replace professional consultation from a nutritionist or doctor. If you want a tailored analysis of your body’s individual needs, please seek professional advice.

Pre-Workout Meals

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The Best Pre-Workout Food for Muscle Gain

If your goal is to gain muscle mass, the best food to eat pre-workout would be lean protein and whole grains. A pre-workout meal for muscle gain is best consumed closer to your workout time. Prepping a small meal in advance lets you quickly grab your fuel within your ideal window.

Try eating a snack or small, easy-to-digest meal no more than one hour and no less than 30 minutes before your workout. This way, your muscles have easy access to protein and energy without a full stomach that gives you cramps.

Boosting your body’s muscle protein synthesis (MPS) with a pre-workout snack will also discourage muscle breakdown. As you recover, your body will absorb more protein and use less protein from your muscle tissue to repair microtears.

Some ideas for this plan include:

  • Egg whites on whole-grain bread
  • Whey protein powder in a shake or small bowl of oatmeal
  • Unsweetened Greek yogurt with bananas and honey
  • Lean turkey bacon with a whole wheat bagel
  • High-protein trail mix
  • Protein bars
  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Hard-boiled eggs

The Best Pre-Workout Food for Weight Loss

A good pre-workout meal for weight loss will give you the energy levels you need to exercise without extraneous calories. Avoid high-fat foods, but do not cut fat entirely out of your diet. Instead, avoid sugar. Studies show that artificial sweeteners are more of a health risk than fat.

Never skip food for pre-workout routines. Weight loss exercise plans usually involve a lot of cardio and without good pre-workout food, you are putting yourself at risk of exhaustion. Furthermore, it will encourage your body to store extra fat and have the opposite effect.

Opt for good, natural pre-workout food with limited amounts of added sugar. Try packing in some healthy, complex carbohydrates at least an hour before your workout. Complex carbs will help you last longer in a cardio-forward workout.

Here are some ideas to help you build the best pre-workout meal plan for weight loss:

  • Veggie sticks or multigrain crackers with hummus
  • ½ cup of brown rice with lean whitefish
  • Quinoa with raisins 
  • Whole-fruit smoothies made with lactose-free milk (choosing lactose-free helps you cut down on sugar)
  • Unsweetened yogurt with granola and berries
  • Beef jerky (in moderation due to its sodium content)
  • A sandwich or wrap with unprocessed meat and minimal condiments
  • Oven-baked sweet potato fries instead of white potato fries

Vegetarian and Vegan Pre-Workout Meal Ideas

Your workout meal does not need meat to be healthy. In fact, most people can benefit from occasional plant-based meals even if they do not commit to veganism or vegetarianism. 

Whether you are living off a plant-based diet or challenging yourself to a “Meatless Monday,” there is plenty of healthy vegan pre-workout food available. Admittedly, new vegans and people who only occasionally eat vegan food may find it challenging to get the right amount of protein.

For this reason, you must put extra care into your pre-workout vegan meal. Like anyone else, consider your goals and body while you select plant-based foods that meet your needs. A pre-workout vegetarian meal is much easier. Eggs and yogurt are usually in a vegetarian diet.

Still, any meatless pre-workout meal, vegetarian or vegan, needs to emphasize plant proteins. Be mindful about getting complete proteins especially if you are a vegan who wants to gain muscle. 

High or complete protein plants include:

  • Rice and beans
  • Hummus
  • Edamame 
  • Tempeh
  • Nuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Ezekiel bread
  • Buckwheat

Fuel Your Workout with Custom Meal Plans from Protein Chefs

Pre-workout, post-workout, and regular meals should all have your body’s best interests in mind. Nutrition is vital to any workout plan. If you Ignore it, your progress will slow down and you will feel more tired than you need to be after each workout. 

Counting nutrients can feel like a chore, but it gets easier with the right plan. Protein Chefs offers a diverse range of high-protein meals for all kinds of people. Choose the best plan for you and start seeing results with the perfect combination of exercise and diet.

Featured image credit: ponce_photography

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