You’re a fit dude. You skip the bad stuff, always do #legsday, and hit the heavy bag hard. But if you want your body to continue performing like a Lamborghini, then you’ve gotta put in the high-octane fuel—that means eating the right foods before your workouts.
Think about it: A sports car still functions with regular old unleaded gas—but it won’t run as optimally or as long. Likewise, “would you expect to get to your destination if the tank was on empty?” says Jordan Mazur, R.D., coordinator of nutrition and team dietitian for the San Francisco 49ers.
And while fasted cardio has always been a diet trend among people hoping to lose weight, “going into your workout fueled and ready to go will maximize the work you do when you train,” Mazur explains.
For your pre-workout nutrition, you want to focus on foods that are high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber. “Fat and fiber slow down digestion and can cause gastrointestinal upset during your workouts,” Mazur says. “Carbs are your main fuel source for activity and, just as important, it’s the primary fuel source for your brain. Additionally, the more substantial the meal is, the more time you want to allow for digestion, so it’s not sitting in your stomach.”
Here are 10 meals and snacks that’ll pave the way for gains, whether you train in the gym or on the road.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!
- What to eat before a workout to lose weight and build muscle
- Here is what Ms. Platt recommends:
- What to Eat Right before a Workout
- Discover How Adding a Banana to Your Workout Routine Benefits You
- Wait, why bananas before a workout?
- So do I…just eat a plain banana and call it a day?
- What not to eat before a workout
- Good foods to eat before a workout
- Best post-workout meal for weight loss
- Banana and peanut butter
- Important workout do’s and don’ts
What to eat before a workout to lose weight and build muscle
Share on PinterestPeople should consume complex carbohydrates, such as beans, 2-3 hours before working out.
Carbohydrates are an essential energy source.
Consuming the right amount of carbohydrates before a workout will ensure that the body has enough energy to perform well.
This is true for people engaging in cardiovascular and resistance exercises, among other kinds.
However, different types of carbohydrates will have a different impact:
- Simple carbohydrates: These are sugars that provide a rapid rise in energy. A common source of these carbohydrates is white bread.
- Complex carbohydrates: These include fiber or starch. They provide a slower, more long-term source of energy. Whole-grain foods are a good source of complex carbohydrates.
Which type of carbohydrate is better in a pre-workout meal?
Complex carbohydrates have a number of advantages, for example:
- Simple carbohydrates are short-term sources of energy. If a pre-workout meal includes too many simple carbohydrates, a person may feel a drop in energy before they finish their workout. Complex carbohydrates provide energy more consistently over a more extended period.
- Complex carbohydrates are components of foods that tend to be rich in nutrients, such as beans. Simple carbohydrates are typically components of foods that have little or no nutritional value, such as chocolate bars and cakes.
- Foods that contain complex carbohydrates have lower glycemic index scores than those that contain simple carbohydrates. A type of food with a low glycemic index score is unlikely to cause blood glucose levels to spike and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The body digests complex carbohydrates more slowly than simple carbohydrates.
To increase energy ahead of a workout, a person should consume complex carbohydrates 2–3 hours in advance, and any simple carbohydrates 30–60 minutes in advance.
Complex carbohydrate foods
Below are some examples of healthful foods that contain complex carbohydrates:
- broccoli, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables
- whole-grain pasta
- brown rice
- whole-grain bread
Fruits provide the best source of simple carbohydrates before a workout. Bananas are a popular choice, as they contain potassium as well as simple carbohydrates.
Your body is your vehicle, so you have to keep your engine running when you work out. That means fueling up your body by eating the right foods and drinking the right fluids, in the right amounts at the right times.
The American College of Sports Medicine says, “Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time. Athletes should be well hydrated before exercise and drink enough fluid during and after exercise to balance fluid losses.”
“You don’t have to adhere to a rigid schedule and there are no hard-fast rules,” said Riska Platt, M.S., R.D., a nutrition consultant for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “But there are some things you should do before, during and after you work out.”
Here is what Ms. Platt recommends:
Before: Fuel Up!
Not fueling up before you work out is like “driving a car on empty,” said Platt, an American Heart Association volunteer. You also won’t have enough energy to maximize your workout and you limit your ability to burn calories.
Ideally, fuel up two hours before you exercise by:
- Hydrating with water.
- Eating healthy carbohydrates such as whole-grain cereals (with low-fat or skim milk), whole-wheat toast, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, whole grain pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
- Avoiding saturated fats and even a lot of healthy protein — because these types of fuels digest slower in your stomach and take away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles.
If you only have 5-10 minutes before you exercise, eat a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana.
“The key is to consume easily digested carbohydrates, so you don’t feel sluggish,” Platt said.
During: Make a Pit Stop.
Whether you’re a professional athlete who trains for several hours or you have a low to moderate routine, keep your body hydrated with small, frequent sips of water.
Platt notes that you don’t need to eat during a workout that’s an hour or less. But, for longer, high-intensity vigorous workouts, she recommends eating 50-100 calories every half hour of carbohydrates such as low-fat yogurt, raisins, or banana.
After: Refuel Your Tank.
After your workout, Ms. Platt recommends refueling with:
- Fluids. Drink water, of course. Blend your water with 100% juice such as orange juice which provides fluids, carbohydrates.
- Carbohydrates. You burn a lot of carbohydrates — the main fuel for your muscles — when you exercise. In the 20-60 minutes after your workout, your muscles can store carbohydrates and protein as energy and help in recovery.
- Protein. Eat things with protein to help repair and grow your muscles.
It’s important to realize that these are general guidelines. We have different digestive systems and “a lot depends on what kind of workout you’re doing,” Platt said.
So do what works best for you. Know that what you put in your body (nutrition) is as important as you what you do with your body (exercise). Both are crucial to keeping your engine performing at its best.
What to Eat Right before a Workout
Best meals before gym time? Check out our top five picks.
Gym bag packed, water bottle ready, both shoes found (score!) … but are you forgetting something? When it comes to working out, eating before you go can keep your blood sugar steady. That means plenty of energy for cardio and strength training.
Nutrition tip: Mix protein, healthy fats and a bit of good carbs. And sure, throw in some healthy desserts after (you’ve earned it!). Here are our top picks for what to eat right before a workout.
1. Whole grain toast, peanut or almond butter and banana slices
There’s a reason that runners love their post-race bananas — the fruit is packed with simple carbs, natural sugars and, best of all, potassium. That electrolyte helps prevent muscle cramps and can be lost through sweat. Peanut or almond butter has healthy fat, and the toast is all about blood-sugar-steadying complex carbs.
2. Chicken thighs, rice and steamed vegetables
Looking for the best meal before gym time? Consider this classic, which blends protein and complex carbs. Plus, the fiber in the veggies helps with digestion. Choosing chicken thighs over breasts is a personal preference, but dark meat has more of the good fat you need to keep from getting hangry during your workout.
3. Oatmeal, protein powder and blueberries
The complex carbs in oatmeal are broken down in your system slowly, which means more sustained energy. Up the nutrition by adding a scoop of protein powder. Fruit like blueberries, raspberries or cherries contain antioxidants — super helpful substances that help to prevent cell damage. Also: delicious.
4. Scrambled eggs, veggies and avocado
Go ahead, use the whole egg. They’re packed with high-quality protein and, if you’re including the yolk, you’ll get all eight essential amino acids. Those boost muscle building and recovery. Avocado gives you that healthy fat fix, and the veggies are nutrient-rich powerhouses, no matter which you pick.
5. Protein smoothie
Protein powder is a must — but after that, go for what you like best. Milk or almond milk, mixed berries, bananas, peanut butter, avocado, even some leafy greens are all fair game. You’ll get fast-digesting carbs, plus those healthy fats and protein.
Find what works for you
Maybe your bestie is the protein shake queen, but you try it and … blech. That’s okay. Like exercise, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to pre-workout options. What to eat right before a workout means what’s right for you.
Also, pay attention to timing. If you’re going for a bigger pre-workout meal, aim for eating two or three hours before working out. But if you’re short on time, make your portion more of a snack and eat about 45 minutes before gym time. Then, notice how the timing affects you. Maybe you’re the 30-minutes-until-treadmill kind of eater, or it could be that your belly feels better with more digestion time.
Play around with food combos and timing, and you’ll be sure to find your best go-to meal before hitting the gym.
Discover How Adding a Banana to Your Workout Routine Benefits You
Bananas are one of the best foods you can eat within an hour before or after your workout.
Not only can you eat a banana before a work out, you can mix it with your protein shake. Adding bananas to your protein shake also won’t affect the value of the protein, and they provide a mild flavor that blends well with protein powders. Adding a banana to your protein shake, will increase its carbohydrate content, which is beneficial before or after workouts. Bananas also contain beneficial nutrients such as potassium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium and folate.
You can add a banana to any Performance Inspired Nutrition Protein; Performance Whey, Mass Gainer or Ripped Whey.
Now that you are ready to add bananas to your daily protein shake, lets get started with some delicious banana protein shakes!
Banana Vanilla Protein Shake
WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup of milk
1 ripe medium banana
1/2 cup to 1 cup crushed ice depending on how think you like your shakes
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Mass Gainer Protein
5 drops liquid Stevia
dash of ground cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg
Banana Oatmeal Smoothie
What You Need
2 ripe bananas
2 cups Ice
1/3 cup plain Yogurt
1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
1/3 cup raw almonds
1 Scope of Vanilla Bean Performance Whey Protein
1 tbsp honey
Chunky Monkey Protein shake
What You Need
3/4 of a frozen banana
4-5 ice cubes
1/2 scoop Dark Chocolate Dream Ripped Whey Protein
1-2 Tbsp PB2
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Have your own Banana Protein Shake Recipe? Feel free to comment your recipe below. We’d love to try it!
Bananas contain a good amount of potassium, an electrolyte, which ensures proper contraction of muscles during the exercise. A medium sized banana is filled with 25 grams of carbohydrates and dietary fibers.
- Manu Arora says:
Thanks for sharing these Banana Recipe..
When you think of workout snacks, one word typically comes to mind: protein, protein, protein. People load up on whey powders, munch on nuts or grass-fed beef jerky, or stash some protein bars in their gym bag. Protein is the watchword, friends.
But we’ve all been wrong about our pre-workout nutritional needs this entire time. Because today I learned that the best snack to eat before exercising for energy, endurance, and recovery has nothing to do with anything protein-related at all. Apparently, we should all be eating a banana before we work out.
Wait, why bananas before a workout?
The TL;DR version: the banana’s nutritional profile is just what the RD ordered for a snack that provides the energy required to get through those tough, sweaty workouts.
“A medium banana is nutrient rich, providing 24 grams of carbohydrates—14 of which are sugar and three of which are fiber,” says Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. “The fiber in bananas, along with the gram of protein, keeps the rest of the carbohydrate from being absorbed too rapidly, but there isn’t so much that the food will sit in your stomach,” she says.
That may sound like a lot of carbs at once, but Jones says you need that digestible fuel right before you exercise. “The energy you absorb into the blood stream—ingested as both fructose and starch—is able to either get to muscle cells or maintain blood sugar levels, depending on how much carbohydrate the person already had stored in the muscles,” she says. The banana is the perfect balance: that fast-acting carb count gives immediate energy, and the fiber makes it more sustainable for that whole workout.
Need more reason to love bananas? They’re a form of natural sugar, which is pretty good for you:
“On top of that, bananas provide potassium, vitamin B6, and even some vitamin C,” Jones says. The potassium is an electrolyte, which can help replenish depleted levels lost through sweat. Plus, “potassium is an important nutrient for regulating fluid balance,” she adds. “Those who regularly endure moderate to intense exercise for several hours are those most likely to lose small amounts of potassium in sweat and benefit from extra ingestion of the nutrient via foods such as bananas, potatoes, nuts and seeds, greens and legumes,” Jones says.
“The balance of sodium and potassium in the body is most important for heart health via regulation of blood volume and muscle contractions as well,” she says. Bananas also provide some antioxidants and other beneficial compounds such as phenolics, carotenoids, and phytosterols to support your heart and lower inflammation that can come immediately after strenuous exercise.
So do I…just eat a plain banana and call it a day?
Yes, you can absolutely just throw a banana in your gym bag and be done with it. But if you’re looking for a slightly more interesting pre-workout snack, Jones has some easy ideas:
- Go classic and pair your banana with nut butter (almond, peanut, macadamia, and cashew are all fair game), and add some cacao nibs for antioxidants and sweetness.
- Jones also loves making banana “nice cream” mixed with cocoa powder and honey. Grab a scoop or two before you leave for the gym and you’re good to go.
- Make a peanut butter banana smoothie for a portable pre-workout snack you can sip on.
- Slice some banana into some cooked oats and top with chia seeds and a dash of maple syrup.
So yes, a banana before a workout is secretly the best thing you can do for your exercise routine. Besides, you know, actually having one that you love in the first place.
It’s not just a great workout snack—a banana before bed is a pretty good idea, too. And as healthy as it sounds, a salad before you exercise is not a good idea.
You’re all geared up for a workout session – happy thoughts, perfect playlist, stylish workout clothes – but you forgot about one of the most important things: pre-workout fuel. Most of us are so focused on the workout itself that we don’t consider how a meal, or lack thereof, can affect our bodies during a workout.
While we could all guess that loading up on junk food, sweets or alcohol right before a workout isn’t ideal, there are some more surprising culprits on our what not to eat before a workout list. . You’ll learn that even if a food is actually “healthy” and ideal for weight loss or gaining muscle mass, it could be detrimental to your workout and leave you feeling worse than before.
What not to eat before a workout
Let’s address why pre-workout food matters so much. Exercise requires a large volume of blood to be pumped to your working muscles. That means that the blood flow to your stomachs is reduced during exercise, especially during intense exercise like 8fit HIIT workouts. Likewise, your stomach demands energy to digest food which drains the power from the rest of your body. Don’t get us wrong, when your belly starts to rumble before a workout don’t ignore it, but you also don’t want these two functions to compete thus forcing your body to work harder than it should.
Start your transformation todayGet your meal plan
Before we start listing the foods that are pre-workout-friendly, let’s look at which foods are best to avoid. As we just mentioned, our tummies shouldn’t work too hard when breaking a sweat. Foods that’ll require a lot of effort from your stomach (i.e. complex carbs and other high-fiber) are best kept for after a workout — or are best consumed two or more hours before a workout. These foods include:
Greens are usually a great addition to any meal, but the greens’ fiber breakdown time can cause discomfort during exercise.
Legumes like lentils, black beans, and chickpeas have both fiber and the carbohydrate “raffinose” — a combination that can induce bloating and discomfort.
Just like legumes, they contain fiber but also hard-to-digest sulfur.
Whole grain bread
Usually an exemplary choice at mealtime, the complex carbs in whole grains are a lot for the body to process.
High in fat, seeds should be combined with other macros (carbs and protein) to avoid stomach discomfort. Avoid them before a workout if possible.
Good foods to eat before a workout
Now that you know what foods are best not to consume before a workout, let’s focus on some healthy pre-workout foods that’ll make you feel good and help you achieve your goals.
As you get closer to your workout time, carbs with a little bit of protein should be your main focus. If you only have one to two hours before your workout, keep your snack light (preferably under 200 calories, more if your goal is to gain weight or muscle). This mixed carb-protein snack will help you feel satisfied, energized and may also help reduce muscle soreness post-workout.
Snacks are always best consumed two to three hours before working out, but these foods are still ok to eat up to 30 minutes before a workout, is long as they digest quickly and easily. The less time you have, the lighter your food should be. Here are some healthy pre-workout snacks so you can fuel your body effectively:
They’re a great source of natural sugars, simple carbohydrates, and potassium. The natural sugars and simple carbs are broken down quickly, boosting your glycogen stores and increasing blood sugar levels. Go ahead and consume a banana around 30 minutes to one hour before your workout.
Consuming a fruit smoothie before exercising is a healthy pre-workout meal option that can provide you with a good source of fast-acting glucose. They’re super quick to make, just use your favorite sliced fruit and some Greek yogurt for protein and a thicker consistency. It’s best to make it yourself, but if you’re picking one up, just check the label to make sure it’s got wholesome ingredients and no added sugar.
Dairy with protein like Greek yogurt, quark or cottage cheese is great combined with naturally sweetened fruit before a workout. This healthy snack is easy on your stomach, and when paired with a small amount of nuts, will keep blood sugar levels from dropping mid-workout. Just remember not to consume too much of this snack — especially the nuts, because they take longer to digest.
Enjoying sliced apple with a bit of nut butter 30 minutes before exercising won’t harm your workout. It’s perfect f you’re craving something sweet because it has fiber to prevent that sugar crash mid-squat session, and it’s a surefire way to ensure you’re stocking up on necessary vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
They’re usually fat-free, which makes them quick-digesting, healthy pre-workout snack. Just make sure your rice cakes don’t have added sugar, then spread on a thin layer of some nut butter or hummus for a touch of protein.
Best post-workout meal for weight loss
Now that you’re all set on what to eat before working out, let’s have a look at some ideal post-workout meals that will promote weight loss should that be your goal. Go ahead and read Coach Jennifer’s article on what to eat after a workout so you know when a post-workout meal is necessary and when it’s not. If you fall into the category of needing a post-workout snack, here are some of our recommended combinations:
Banana and peanut butter
Try eating a banana covered in some peanut butter after a tough workout. Make sure you use peanut butter without additives like sugar, artificial flavorings or salt. As we already mentioned, bananas provide you with potassium, carbohydrates and (bonus!) magnesium, which play an are an important role in your body’s recovery. As for the nut butter, that stuff is full of essential proteins and healthy fat.
Baked sweet potato and egg
An egg and sweet potato scramble is a perfect post-workout meal for weight loss. Sweet potato and egg combined have a high biological value — meaning your body is able to absorb a high proportion of the nutrients and protein from the meal.
Cottage cheese with vegetable sticks
If you’re in the mood for a savory snack, plain cottage cheese is very high in protein and great paired with veggies like carrot, celery or cucumber. Cottage cheese also contains a lot of leucine, an amino acid that promotes muscle protein synthesis after a workout. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. This, in turn, results in more weight loss.
Quinoa is a great plant-based source of protein and is one of the best post-workout meal for weight loss. If you want an added kick of protein, mix in some beans and chickpeas. Make extra to enjoy for lunch the next day.
Omelettes or frittatas
Last up is protein-packed egg omelettes or frittatas with savory vegetables. We love our Mini Sweet Potato and Spinach Frittatas because you can make a large batch ahead of time and have them ready as a post-workout snack all week long. The eggs and sweet potato fill you up, and the nitrate in the spinach has been shown to enhance muscle fiber composition.
Important workout do’s and don’ts
Here are some final pointers so you always get the most out of your workouts.
Do fuel with healthy pre-workout snacks to keep you energized.
Don’t overeat or eat complex foods before a workout because they’ll leave you feeling sluggish.
Do get enough sleep the night before a workout because it’ll help you recover faster.
Don’t deprive yourself of sleep because if you do, your mind will give up before your body.
Do nap if you need it — 15 minutes should be enough to feel rejuvenated.
Don’t nap more than 30 minutes because it could make you more tired than before.
Do do some dynamic stretching to warm up and activate the right muscles.
Don’t do static stretches (i.e. holding positions for an extended period of time) as they can decrease your strength and lead to injuries.
Do fuel up on the supplements you usually take to reach your goals.
Don’t take a supplement you’ve never tried before as it might affect you mid-workout.
Do hydrate by drinking water to replenish the fluids you may have lost during a workout.
Don’t drink alcohol because it leads to dehydration and can affect your motor skills and coordination.
Remember, you can really set yourself up for success by fueling your body properly, hydrating with lots of water, and making sure that your body is well-rested. It won’t just allow your body to perform better, it will put you in a more positive mindset to tackle your workouts with and will motivate you to give it your all. Sign up for 8fit and start your customized workout plan today.
- A new study compared bananas to water and a sugary sports drink in terms of athletes’ post-exercise recovery
- It found that bananas matched the sports drink when it came to replacing nutrients and preventing post-workout inflammation
- Here’s how to incorporate bananas into your gym routine
Skip the Gatorade and pain pills. A banana may offer your body all it needs to perform and bounce back after a punishing workout, according to a new study published in PLOS One.
The study team recruited 20 trained cyclists and compared bananas to water and a sugary sports drink in terms of the athletes’ post-exercise recovery. They found that bananas matched the sports drink when it came to replacing nutrients and preventing post-workout inflammation. (Add this to the reasons we already love bananas.)
It’s worth nothing that the study was small in scale, and that Nieman’s research received funding from the Dole Nutrition Institute, which is part of the same company that sells Dole bananas. Dole had no role in the study’s design, execution, or findings.
“Back in 2012, we published a study that showed the sugars in banana support performance just as well as a sports drink,” says David Nieman, Dr.P.H., first author of the current study and director of Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab on the North Carolina Research Campus. “We also found that bananas contain 18 unique metabolites that appeared in the blood of athletes who ate them, but we didn’t know what those metabolites were doing.”
Nieman says his current study found some of those banana metabolites “knock down” a gene that promotes pain and inflammation after exercise. “This COX2 gene is the same gene that aspirin and ibuprofen work on,” he explains.
While ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the most popular OTC drugs used by athletes, Nieman says these pills can cause cell damage that promotes inflammation after exercise.
“For this reason, we tell athletes not to take them,” he says. “To our pleasant surprise, we found something natural in bananas is working like but without the risks.” (Here’s why popping too much ibuprofen can mess with your muscle gains.)
Along with providing a natural defense against post-workout soreness and inflammation, Nieman says bananas also appear to help athletes bounce back faster after exercise.
“There’s no question that sports drinks work, but when you look at bananas, the sugar profile is almost the same,” he explains. “But bananas also have other nutrients — vitamin C and B6 and fiber and these unique metabolites — that you don’t get with a sports drink.”
If you’re wondering how to use bananas the next time your train, Nieman recommends eating half a banana before or midway through an intense workout to aid performance. Eat the other half after you’re finished training to prevent inflammation and next-day soreness. Also, skip the sports drinks and enjoy your banana with plain water, he adds. (By the way, here’s the correct way to peel a banana.)
You could also pop a small handful of blueberries.
“We’re starting to look at blueberries, because we think with bananas they might work even better,” Nieman says. “The future of sports nutrition is going to be fruit phytochemicals.”
Markham Heid Markham Heid is an experienced health reporter and writer, has contributed to outlets like TIME, Men’s Health, and Everyday Health, and has received reporting awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Maryland, Delaware, and D.C.