Updated December 11, 2020Whether you are exercising at home or the gym, you need certain tools to get the most out of your workout. This includes the right accessories, shoes, clothing, and, believe it or not, the right snacks. A pre-workout snack with the perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, fuels the body, aids in muscle recovery, and holds off hunger pains. To help you reach your goals, we put together 10 balanced snacks to maximize your workout.Low-Fat DairyCertain dairy foods, such as Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, are high in protein and low in fat, ideal for a pre-workout snack. One cup of cottage cheese has about 25 grams of protein, while Greek yogurt has about 17 grams of protein. Plus, both foods contain vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, selenium, vitamin B, and phosphorus, which promote strong bones and muscle recovery.Low-fat Greek yogurt can be paired with dried or fresh fruit. You can also spread cottage cheese on whole-wheat bread or crackers and top it with sliced avocado.Fruit SmoothiesFruits such as oranges, bananas, apples, and pears, are high in dietary fiber, which provides a healthy energy source to fuel the body and reduce hunger. Blending these fruits with high protein foods, such as Greek yogurt, almond milk, or peanut butter, creates a tasty, healthy protein shake.Whole GrainsCarbohydrates are needed to fuel the body. However, complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, such as steel-cut oats, brown rice, and quinoa, have a lower glycemic index. This means they won’t cause the blood sugar to spike and then quickly crash. Eating whole grains before your workout provides you with a longer, more consistent stream of energy than refined carbohydrates. This allows you to stay energized through long workout sessions. These foods also help you feel fuller longer.Whole grain bread, crackers, and rice cakes, make a perfect pre-workout snack when paired with protein, such as a hard-boiled egg or hummus. The USDA’s carbohydrate recommendations for athletes is 3 to 12 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. However, keep in mind that complex carbs, such as those made with whole grains, are more beneficial than simple carbs, such as those made with white flour. Complex carbohydrates provide a longer, more sustainable level of energy.Lean ProteinProtein is essential for building muscle tissue, blood, cartilage, and maintaining healthy bones. Eating protein before your workout can repair tears in muscle fiber caused by weightlifting. If your goal is to build muscle, a high protein snack encourages muscle growth and helps you reach your goals faster. Most adults should have about 0.8 grams of protein per day. However, the American College of Sports Medicine’s protein recommendations for athletes is 1.2 to 2 grams of protein each day.Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, and fish are a healthy protein source because they are low in fat. Fish, such as tuna and salmon, and nuts are also high in omega 3 fatty acids, which lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. If you don’t eat meat, legumes, beans, Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, soy milk, and leafy greens are great meatless protein sources. Eggs, whether scrambled or hard-boiled, contain all nine amino acids, making them a complete protein.BananasThe best pre-workout snacks combine both protein and carbohydrates. Bananas have both, making them an ideal grab-and-go, pre-workout food. A medium banana has 1.3 grams of protein and 27 grams of carbohydrates. Plus, they also contain potassium, which improves nerve function, and can reduce muscle cramps and spasms due to overuse.For a delicious pre-workout snack, pair a banana with peanut butter or almond butter. These spreads are high in omega 3 fatty acids, the heart-healthy fats. Or, try our strawberry banana baked oatmeal recipe.Sweet PotatoLike bananas, sweet potatoes are a good source of both carbs and protein. However, sweet potatoes contain antioxidants, such as vitamins C and A, improving immune function, eliminating toxins, and fighting inflammation. For those who are physically active, these properties can help reduce swelling and offer a faster recovery time.For a quick snack, mash or roast your sweet potato and spread it on whole-grain bread or crackers.Dried FruitLike fresh fruit, dried fruit is full of complex carbohydrates and fiber to help you feel full and energized during your workout. Many fruits also contain antioxidants called polyphenols. These antioxidants improve digestion, blood flow, and prevent cell damage caused by toxins in our air, water, and food. The natural sugars in dried fruit also replenish blood sugar levels, which can become low when exercising.Dried fruit is delicious on its own or with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.Trail MixNuts and seeds are a good source of protein, essential to muscle recovery and blood flow. Plus, they contain omega 3 fatty acids and heart-healthy fats, which lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.Pairing almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds with your favorite dried fruit creates a trail mix that is balanced and delicious. Portioning your trail mix into to-go bags makes this snack easily portable and ensures you eat the right amount.LegumesLike bananas, legumes, such as chickpeas, beans, and lentils, contain complex carbohydrates and high protein levels. Eating just a small amount of these foods before a workout can give you long-lasting, slow-releasing energy, reduce dizziness, and curb hunger.A tasty hummus made with chickpeas makes a great snack when paired with whole-grain crackers or in a sandwich made with whole wheat bread and lean meat.OatsIf you are working out in the morning, oatmeal can provide a long-lasting supply of energy. However, be sure to select minimally-processed oats, such as steel-cut. These oats contain more fiber and healthful benefits.Topping your oatmeal with fresh or dried fruit gives you even more dietary fiber. Plus, the natural sugars in the fruit increase your blood sugar to help you get going in the morning.How to Pick a Pre-Workout SnackSnacks that sustain your energy levels and help you get through a grueling workout are those with a balance of complex carbohydrates, protein, and heart-healthy fats. To help you put together the best pre-workout snacks, we outline how each of these nutrients impacts your workout.CarbohydratesSimple carbohydrates, such as those found in white sugar, hit the bloodstream quickly and cause an energy spike. However, these carbs also leave the body quickly, causing our energy to crash. Complex carbs work differently than simple ones. Carbohydrates found in whole grains provide a steady stream of sugar to the bloodstream because they digest slowly. These foods offer longer, more sustainable energy levels to help you get through an intense workout.ProteinProtein is vital for muscle repair and growth. Below, we highlight the best sources of protein for your pre-workout snack.Lean meats: Turkey, chicken, and fishDairy products: Eggs, cottage cheese, and yogurtPlant-based protein: Nuts, beans, legumes, seeds, and leafy greensFatsFat helps fuel the body and sustain energy levels throughout the day. However, not all fats are healthy. Saturated fats from foods such as cheese, butter, and red meat can cause sluggishness and lethargy, so it is best to avoid these foods before working out. However, unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), such as those found in avocados, fish, nuts, and olive oils, are good for your heart, fight inflammation, and reduce swelling.TimingEating a large meal before your workout can cause stomach bloating and pain. If you plan to eat a full meal, make sure you eat at least 2 to 3 hours before exercising. However, a light snack, like the ones we’ve outlined above, can be eating 45 to 60 minutes before working out. Be sure to choose small, easily digestible foods that contain both carbohydrates and protein.Frequently Asked QuestionsIs coffee a good pre-workout drink?Coffee is safe to drink before exercising. The benefits of caffeine include reduced fatigue and improved strength. It is best to drink coffee 90 minutes before working out—this gives the caffeine time to metabolize.Is it better to workout in the morning or at night?Working out in the morning burns more body fat and speeds up metabolism. As you progress throughout the day, the boost in your metabolism can aid in digestion. In contrast, working out late in the evening can increase endorphins that stimulate the mind and body, making it difficult to sleep.How many calories should a pre-workout snack have?A healthy, balanced pre-workout snack should have around 150 to 200 calories. To lose weight, try to eat snacks with 100 calories or less.Is a pre-workout snack necessary?If you don’t fuel your body with the right nutrients before exercising, you may not have the energy to get through the entire workout. You may also feel hungry during exercise, which can cause nausea and dizziness.What should you avoid eating before a workout?You should avoid eating simple carbohydrates, such as foods that contain processed white sugar, before your workout. This can cause energy levels to spike and drastically fall while exercising. High levels of saturated fats, such as those found in cheese and red meat, are also harder to digest and cause sluggishness.ConclusionA snack with the right balance of nutrients can get you through your workout and help you recover quickly. To build snacks suited to your taste, you can mix and match any of the ingredients on the list above. The perfect snack should fuel your body, but it should also be something you enjoy eating.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. 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