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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Nicole RDN

What to Eat Before​ a Workout

Ever have the feeling when you're exercising and get a stomach ache? Or you don't have enough energy to make it through the workout. Let's clear up these issue's and talk about proper nutrition before exercise!

Carbohydrates are your best friend when it comes to fueling up for an exercise. Carbohydrates restore your liver and muscle glycogen. Glycogen is stored glucose in the liver and muscles and is the primary energy source for muscles during exercising. Especially in the morning, your body has been fasting overnight, you will need carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stores. Glycogen stores in the body are limited and if stores are not replenished the muscles will not have enough energy to preform. The benefits of having carbohydrates before exercising will prevent hunger, and give you a boost of energy. Being hungry while working out can impair your performance.

Low-Glycemic vs. High Glycemic Carbohydrates

The glycemic index is a chart that measures how carbohydrates affect blood sugar. A study found that low glycemic carbohydrates improved the performance in cyclists compared to cyclists that consumed high glycemic carbohydrates (1). Low glycemic carbohydrates are the best fuel before an exercise because they provide a slow and sustained release of sugar to the blood. Low glycemic foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. High-glycemic carbohydrates digest quickly and may leave you feeling hungry in the middle of a workout. High glycemic carbohydrates are white bread, pastries, and baked goods.

The photo below provides more examples of low and high glycemic foods. (2)

Fat and Protein

Eating fat and protein right before can lower your ability to perform well. Fat and Protein digest slow in your body. While you're exercising, blood flow will leave your stomach and will go to the muscles which leads to digestion discomfort, indigestion, acid reflux, and heartburn.

Timing is Key

Below is a detailed schedule of when and what to eat before exercising. Ideally, 3-4 hours before working out have a full balanced meal, and 1 hour before have a small snack. However, if its a morning workout you may not have time to have a meal. Suggestions are given below if you have to eat right before the workout!

3-4 Hours

A balanced meal can be eaten 3-4 hours before a workout including lean protein, low fat, and low glycemic carbohydrates. This gives your body enough time to digestion the protein and fat and leaves you feeling comfortable while exercising.

1 to 1:30 Hour

1 hour before an exercise, eat a carbohydrate snack with a small amount of protein, low in fiber and fat.

30 to 45 Minutes

30 to 45 minutes before exercising stick to only low fiber carbohydrates. Low fiber carbohydrate will digest quickly avoiding digestion discomfort.

Examples of Pre-workout Meals

Work Out Starts in 3-4 hours

  • Whole wheat sandwich with turkey and a side salad.

  • Egg omelet with a slice of whole wheat toast, sliced avocado and side of fruit.

  • Brown rice bowl with chicken and roasted veggies.

Workout Starts in 1 to 1:30 Hour

  • Protein shake with 1 scoop protein powder, milk, banana, and berries.

  • Oatmeal top with milk, berries, and nut butter.

  • Greek yogurt 2% with banana and berries.

  • 1 piece whole wheat bread with nut butter and banana slices

Workout Starts in 30 to 45 minutes

  • A piece of fruit such as banana, orange, or apple

  • Granola bar


To maximize your performance during your workout it's important to fuel your body with appropriate nutrition.

Low glycemic carbohydrate gives your body energy during short term exercises.

Pre-workout meals can be eaten 30 minutes to 4 hours before the exercise, however the timing of when you eat changes what you should eat. 30 minutes before a workout should be easily digestible cabers like a piece of fruit.

Nutrition plays a significant role in exercise. Practice this nutrition advise to provide yourself the most effective workout and recovery!

If you have more question please feel free to reach out!


1. Thomas DE , Brotherhood JR, Brand JC. Carbohydrate feedings before exercise: effects of glycemic index. Int Sport Med 1991; 12:180-186

2. Chef Terry, 2016, Weight Loss Hacks From The Slow Carb Diet and Glycemic Index, Source:

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