pre workout energy foods

Pre Workout Energy Foods

Earlier this week I wrote about Post Workout Nutrition and got quite a bit of feedback from many who realized how important it is to have something even as simple as fruit within 60 minutes after their workouts. Now in this article I’d like to share with you my knowledge gained from studying advanced exercise nutrition for athletes.

How many times have you gone to do some exercise and have felt either tired or even nauseous just a few minutes into your workout? I think this is something experienced by everyone and although there are several factors which tie in to your energy (obviously sleep is a big one!), we’re going to look specifically at your nutrition pre-workout and even when to eat to get best results.

So what is the time span that is used when we are referring to pre workout nutrition? Well researchers in this field refer this as one to four hours before exercise begins.

What are the goals that we want to achieve pre exercise? The most important is to consume foods that provide glucose, prevent dehyration, delay fatigue and minimize gastrointestinal upset.

Let’s first address those who feel nauseous or get a bloated feeling when beginning to exercise. The fact is that we notice the most gastrointestinal discomfort when we eat too close before we workout. This problem is amplified if our foods are too rich in protein and/or fat. The reason is because fat and protein take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates.

What are simple carbohydrates? Examples would be cereal, white bread, white rice and fruit like bananas, mango and apple. Although fiber is critical to the health of our digestive system it is important to realize that carbohydrates that are high in fiber (considered complex carbohydrates which are usually those that contain whole grains) are also slower to digest.

So what does this all mean? Research has proven that pre-exercise simple carbohydrate meals are best because because they delay time to exhaustion and improve performance. Now this statement is especially important for those in long endurance sports and those who are focusing on cardio activity in the 45 minute plus range.

Pre Workout Energy Meal

If your goal is primarily to enhance performance in your sport or training then a killer example of a meal would be:
one glass orange juice
one 8oz gatorade drink (you can skip this if you are training with weights)
one small bagel with tablespoon of light cream cheese

This meal if taken 2 hours before exercise will supply approximately 100 grams of carbohydrate and has shown to help athletes training longer than an hour. Now you’ll notice the carbohydrates are quite high and this is specifically for endurance sports, but what about someone who is going in to train with weights?

Well obviously if your training is pretty quick paced and you’re doing a lot of supersets (one after another) then a good amount of carbs pre exercise is smart. Here are some other ideas to have 1 hour before exercising:

Trukey sandwich
English muffin with tablespoon of honey
2 Crackers with natural peanut butter
Corn Flakes with raisins and skim milk
Air popped popcorn

You can now be consciously aware of what you eat pre-workout and see how you feel during your workouts. If you’re feeling gastro discomfort you can try reducing the amount of protein/fat or just eat it a little earlier and then concentrate on something more simple carb focused closer to your workout.


Although this is not a pre-workout food it is important to state that scientists have found that athletes who consume approximately 2 cups of water 2-3 hours before exercising are less likely to get dehydrated once they have begun an endurance sport lasting for longer than an hour.

If dehydration is specifically of concern to you then science has shown that carbohydrate drinks like Gatorade which contain electrolytes (specifically sodium and potassium) will help prevent dehydration. This is obviously most important for marathon runners and individuals who participate in long distant cycling.

Pre Workout Supplementation:

While researching the topic of pre workout energy foods I had a lot of you guys tweet back and let me know that you also wanted to know about supplementation, so I thought I’d add that in here.

Here is what I’ve found from real experience with myself and my clients. Creatine pre-workout is one of the best supplements hands down. It can give you that little extra bit of energy you need to push your training to the next level. Although some consider the bloating as a side effect with creatine it can also be argued that the extra water retention can help with flushing out wastes from your muscles (including lactic acid build-up), so it can have some extra benefit.

Now some of the best creatine I’ve found includes: Fusion Bodybuilding’s Purple-K or for those wanting a full energy drink mix including creatine and NO then Gaspari Nutrition’s SuperPump250 is one of the hottest supplements in the market right now (and it tastes pretty damn good too!).

Other supplementation which is smart especially if you want to have a liquid form mini-meal is a whey protein shake. Obviously because this is high in protein you want to add some fruit such as a banana and make sure to have it at least an hour before your workout. The best selling top quality protein is Optimum 100% Whey Protein ( Protein Powder of the Year -5 years in a row)

Conclusion Pre Workout Energy Foods:

Everyone will need different amounts of time to have their pre-workout energy foods, but this article should help you develop a guideline which you can test and discover to see what works best for you. Experiment with the amount of protein and fat as well, some of you may find that high protein drinks an hour before your workout will work wonderfully and having that extra essential amino acids in your diet will help your muscles recover and grow.

Do you have any other Pre Workout Energy Foods you’d like to add? Please leave a message below…