What to eat before a workout

The food you consume before a workout plays a crucial role in providing the necessary energy and nutrients to optimize your performance and support your body’s needs. Choosing the right pre-workout meal or snack can help you feel energized, prevent fatigue, and enhance recovery. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore what to eat before working out with Chloe to maximise your training sessions and achieve your fitness goals.

Carbohydrates for Energy:

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy, making them essential before a workout. Opt for complex carbohydrates that release energy steadily, providing sustained fuel. 

Some great pre-workout carbohydrate options include:

Whole grains: Opt for brown over white where possible – Oats, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, or whole grain pasta, buckwheat noodles

Fruits: Bananas, apples, berries, or pears. 

Root vegetables: Roasted or baked sweet potatoes provide a nutrient-dense carbohydrate source.  Other alternatives include butternut squash, beetroot or swede.  

Recipe idea: Tray bake of roasted veggies topped with a fillet of salmon. 

Protein for Muscle Support:

Including a moderate amount of protein in your pre-workout meal or snack helps support muscle repair and growth. Protein can also help prevent muscle breakdown during intense workouts. 

Consider the following pre-workout protein sources:

Greek yogurt: High in protein and easily digestible.

Eggs: A great source of complete protein containing all essential amino acids. 

Lean meats: Chicken, turkey, or fish (grilled, baked, or roasted).

Plant-based options: Tofu, tempeh, lentils, or beans.

Recipe idea: Scrambled eggs on smashed avocado with a side of rocket & watercress. 

Healthy Fats for Sustained Energy:

Considerations for Exercising during Intermittent Fasting:

While carbohydrates are the primary fuel source, incorporating healthy fats can provide sustained energy during longer workouts. Choose sources rich in unsaturated fats, such as:

Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, or flaxseeds.

Avocado: Add slices to whole grain toast or include in a smoothie.

Nut butter: Spread some almond or peanut butter on a slice of whole grain bread or enjoy it with fruit.

Recipe idea: Chia pudding with frozen berries and almond nut butter. 

Hydration is Vital

Don’t forget to hydrate before your workout. Proper hydration helps maintain optimal performance and prevents dehydration. Drink water throughout the day leading up to your workout, and if exercising for an extended period or in intense heat, consider a sports drink with electrolytes or get my homemade one here: https://www.melaniefloodnutrition.com/recipe-by-meal/drinks-28atn-5sbld-gl3mg-4pr3j

Get 10% off my favourite electrolyte brand – excellent ingredients and in a handy travel sized bottle to take to events or on holiday – add MFLD10 at checkout: https://naturaldispensary.co.uk/products/Elete_Electrolyte_120ml-8755-0.html

Timing is Key: 

The timing of your pre-workout meal or snack is crucial to ensure proper digestion, maximize energy availability and avoid discomfort during exercise. Ideally, aim to eat a balanced meal containing carbohydrates, protein, and fats about 2-3 hours before your workout to allow for proper digestion. However, if your workout is within an hour, opt for a smaller snack that is easily digestible, such as a banana with a handful of nuts or a protein shake or an energy ball.

Here are some guidelines to help you determine when to eat before working out:

  • 2-3 Hours Before Exercise: Ideally, aim to consume a balanced meal containing carbohydrates, protein, and fats about 2-3 hours before your workout. This timeframe allows for proper digestion and ensures that the nutrients are available as a source of energy during exercise. This option is particularly suitable for longer, more intense workouts.

Example: If your workout is scheduled for 6 PM, have your meal around 3-4 PM.

Meal idea: Sweet potato with mixed beans and salad

  • 1-2 Hours Before Exercise: If you have less time available before your workout, you can opt for a smaller, easily digestible meal or snack about 1-2 hours before exercising. This option provides some fuel without the risk of feeling overly full or experiencing digestive discomfort.

Example: If your workout is scheduled for 6 PM, have a light meal or snack around 4-5 PM.

Meal idea: overnight oats with chopped pear and hemp seeds

  • 30 Minutes to 1 Hour Before Exercise: If you have limited time before your workout or prefer exercising on an empty stomach, you can have a small, easily digestible snack about 30 minutes to 1 hour before your session. This option provides a quick source of energy without interfering with your workout.

Example: If your workout is scheduled for 6 PM, have a small snack around 5:30 PM.

Food idea: protein smoothie with added banana

  • Postponed Eating: Some people may prefer exercising in a fasted state, meaning they do not eat anything immediately before their workout. Fasted workouts can be suitable for low-to-moderate intensity activities, but it’s essential to listen to your body and gauge your energy levels. If you feel excessively fatigued or lack energy during the workout, consider having a small snack to support your performance.

Remember, everyone’s digestion and tolerance to food before exercise can vary. It’s important to experiment with different timing options and pay attention to how your body responds. Additionally, stay hydrated by drinking water leading up to your workout, regardless of the timing of your last meal or snack.


Fuelling your body with the right nutrients before a workout is crucial for optimizing performance, enhancing endurance, and promoting recovery. Aim for a balanced meal or snack that includes complex carbohydrates, quality protein, and healthy fats. Experiment with different food combinations to find what works best for you and your body’s unique needs. Remember, proper hydration is equally important, so don’t forget to drink water throughout the day. With the right pre-workout nutrition, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle your workouts and reach your fitness goals.

If you want to find out more about working one to one with me or joining a group programme, please go to my website

Written by Melanie Flood (Our in-house Nutritionist)

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