If you’re looking to take your workouts to the next level, you might not need to change your actual workout at all. It might be the way that you fuel your workout that could use some adjustments. After all, our bodies run on fuel, so a solid pre-workout meal matters. A whole lot. Just like your car needs gas to function, your body needs food and hydrate to operate, and the right food and hydration can impact how well you perform throughout your day, but especially during your gym session. As Men’s Fitness tells it, according to Manuel Villacorta, R.D., author of Eating Free and Peruvian Power Foods, “if I don’t have my pre-exercise meal, my workout isn’t the same and it feels like a waste…if you fuel correctly, you’ll work out harder.” Anthony Bevilacqua, certified personal trainer, agrees. In an article for Muscle and Fitness, he argues, “Your pre-workout meal is just as important as your post-workout meal. You need to make sure you fuel your body before your workouts. Training fasted is not optimal for muscle gains. Without adequate fuel your workouts will not be as productive or intense as they should be.”
It makes sense; food can be packed with protein, healthy carbs, and vital nutrients, or it can be full of crap and preservatives. You take a guess which one will make your body feel better and feel stronger. So what should you eat? Here are 9 surprising pre-workout meal ideas and snacks that can help you step up your fitness game.
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Nuts make a great pre-workout snack because they fill you up and they provide healthy fats as well as protein. Plus they are easy to eat on the go, so you can keep them in your bag and pop a few on your way to the gym. Almonds are a great choice; just make sure you grab raw almonds, not roasted almonds or a nut mix, which can be loaded with excess sodium and fat.
2. Oatmeal with Berries
Oats are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin B, both of which are important for maintaining your energy level during a workout. Fiber makes you feel satisfied so you don’t get hungry halfway through your time at the gym, and vitamin B converts the carbohydrates in the oats into energy, which will fuel your activity. Plus, Dr. Louise Burke, head of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport and coauthor of The Complete Guide to Food for Sports Performance: Peak Nutrition for Your Sport, explains that oats “gradually release carbohydrates into your bloodstream…This steady stream keeps your energy levels consistent during your workout.”
3. Egg Whites
Lean protein is a great choice if you are really hungry but you know you’re about to go exercise. Scrambled egg whites, an omelet, or hard boiled eggs can provide the protein you need without making you feel sluggish or overly full, which egg yolks can often do.
4. Apple Slices with Peanut Butter
Peanut butter, or any variety of peanut butter (think almond butter, soy butter etc.) can provide protein when you need it most, and when you put a dollop of that butter on top of sliced apple you’re also getting a ton of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. A snack that keeps you healthy, keeps you full and gradually releases energy is the perfect pre-workout treat.
5. Rice and Beans
Beans are an excellent source of protein, they are low in fat and really good for your heart. Combined with the fiber and slow-releasing carbs of brown rice and whole grains and you’re set for a long and effective workout. And better yet, you’ll feel really good the entire time.
6. Fruit Smoothie
Before you run to the store to buy pre-packed fruit smoothies, listen up. Smoothies are a great source of healthy carbohydrates from fruits, as well as lean protein from the yogurt or milk you include, but they can also be packed with sugar if you aren’t careful. If possible blend your smoothies at home and include antioxidant rich fruits like berries as well as milk, yogurt or cottage cheese. You can even toss in some peanut butte for almond butter for added protein and health fat, and if you want to sneak some veggies in there, we won’t complain. The mix of nutrients, hydrating fruits and protein will provide a steady stream of energy throughout your workout.
7. Greek Yogurt
Calcium is important for strong bones and a strong body, and Greek yogurt typically has nearly double the protein as traditional yogurt. Plus, unlike most fruit-flavored yogurt, it’s not loaded with artificial flavors and sugar. Greek yogurt offers substantial vitamins and nutrients, and it will leave you feeling energized and powerful.
8. Multi-Grain Crackers with Hummus
Hummus (or really, chick peas, the base for hummus) is a perfect muscle-building food that is packed with protein, carbs and fiber. Put some on multi-grain or rice crackers for a quick snack that is delicious, satisfying and perfect for before a workout.
9. Avocado Toast
Everyone is talking about avocado toast, and for good reason—it’s damn delicious. It also happens to be really good for you. Multi-grain toast is packed with fiber and slow-release carbohydrates to help you sustain a workout. Avocado is a good source of healthy fats and protein, and for an extra dose of protein you can even top it off with a poached or fried egg. As ABC reports, nutritionist Lisa Goldberg loves to make avocado toast a part of her daily routine because “avocado has protein and healthy monounsaturated fat, and its also high in fiber so combined with the Ezekial toast it keeps me full for a good 3-4 hours. Plus it’s high in other nutrients like Vitamins B, C, E, K and potassium.”