Gina Crome by Gina Crome

Eating regularly throughout the day is essential for providing your body with appropriate fuel. But individual nutritional requirements can be quite different depending on your daily activities and exercise routines. Nutritional demands also differ based on workout duration and intensity (Mayo Clinic, 2010). One of the critical times to pay attention to your nutritional needs is prior to your workout. Inappropriate fuel for your exercise routine can result in the breakdown of muscle tissue and may even make you more prone to injury. This is especially true if you are a morning exerciser when blood sugar levels are typically at their lowest.

Ideal Pre-Workout Snacks

A pre-workout snack should include a good balance of carbohydrates for quick energy coupled with small amounts of protein to help build and repair muscle tissue and regulate the release of glucose in the blood. And by keeping these meals low in fat and fiber, you can help avoid common digestive problems such as cramping and nausea (Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition, 2009). A pre-workout snack could include:

String cheese

Pair these mozarrella sticks with crackers for a great pre-workout snack.

Banana with peanut butter

Fuel up for your workout with one banana and 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter.


Give our delicious Blueberry Butter Smoothie a try!

Turkey sandwich

Prepare your turkey sandwich with low-fat cheese and pair it with a piece of fruit.

Ants on a log

These peanut butter-filled celery stalks covered with raisins are a fun way to fuel your body!

Chicken sandwich

If you're going to add mayo, go with light mayo! You can also pair the sandwich with fat-free yogurt.

Ensuring your body has the optimal nutrients at the right time may help to enhance workouts and minimize recovery time. And although there are standard nutritional goals, you will need to take into consideration your individual needs, time of day, and workout intensity to see what helps you personally feel and perform your best. It may be helpful to take note of how you feel during and after workouts in a food journal so that modifications can be easily made moving forward.

Healthy Should Be Enjoyable

Let’s face it, if something doesn’t taste good, we are unlikely to eat it—even if it is for the sake of good health. Therefore, your ideal pre-workout snack should be something you enjoy. The Healthy Living section of the ACE website offers a number of delicious recipes to help you get started. For example, during the week when you’re pressed for time, you may opt for this quick breakfast parfait made with non-fat yogurt (or cottage cheese) topped with in-season fresh fruit for an easy pre-workout combination of carbohydrates and protein. For the weekend warrior with a bit more time, blueberry-ricotta pancakes may just hit the spot. They are super light, tasty and once again offer an optimal nutrient profile to help power you through your routine.

Our Most Basic Nutrient

Another critical nutrient that is often overlooked is water. Before, during and after workouts, water is key to helping us avoid dehydration, which can negatively impact both athletic performance as well as recovery.

Hydration requirements vary individually, but general guidelines include the following:

-Ensure you drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours prior to your exercise.
-During your workout session, continue drinking 7 to 10 ounces of fluid for every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise.
-Follow up with 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost during your routine.

Healthy snacks with just the right balance of nutrients that you enjoy eating coupled with proper hydration levels can really help enhance your performance, minimize abdominal discomfort and keep you on your game—even through the most challenging workouts.


Mayo Clinic (2010). Eating and Exercise: 5 Tips To Maximize Your Workouts.

Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition (2009). Eating Before Exercise: Nutrition Fact SheetEating Before.