What to Eat Before a Workout

What you choose to eat before working out has a lot to do with your goals and the type of workout you will be performing.  There are 3 macronutrients to focus on: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. 

To begin with, protein is the building block of muscle and helps with maintenance and repair of muscle fibers.  Muscles play an important role in the regulation of blood sugar.  After a meal is consumed and carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (sugar), muscles help dispose of the glucose to keep blood sugar levels from spiking. 

1. PROTEIN: It is important to incorporate lean (not too fatty) proteins into our pre-workout snack.  Eggs, nuts, fish, chicken, turkey, lentils, and beans are all examples of lean proteins. 

2. COMPLEX CARBS: Then, there are carbohydrates that provide energy to the body, which is essential during a workout.  Complex carbs will increase stamina during a workout and simple carbs will provide a quick burst of energy.  Whole grain bread, brown rice, oats, whole grain pasta, and sweet potatoes are all examples of complex carbs.  White bread and sweets are examples of simple carbs, but ditch those and opt for nature’s simple carb- fresh fruit! 

3. FATS: Finally, fats are what keep us feeling full and satisfied so we do not keep returning to the fridge or pantry for more food.  Do not be scared of healthy fats such as nuts, avocados, and olive oil; however, eat them sparingly before a workout and focus on protein and carbs pre-workout.  Fats take a long time to break down in the body, that is why it keeps us feeling full longer.  Due to this, fats may not be broken down and absorbed pre-workout, so it’s best to consume these satiating macronutrients post-workout.   

Understanding how protein, carbohydrates, and fats affect our bodies allows us to make healthy pre-workout snack choices.  It is best to choose a combination of protein and carbs, either simple or complex depending on the duration and intensity of your workout. 

For instance, a larger portion of a complex carb paired with a protein would be well suited to a long run.  Conversely, fruit and protein would be better for a short, high intensity workout. 

While fats do not need to be avoided altogether, they should be kept to a minimum and paired with protein and carbohydrates. 

PRE WORKOUT FOOD IDEAS:  Eggs on whole grain toast; homemade turkey meatballs; turkey on whole grain toast, a small amount of peanut butter (protein and fat) on a banana or apple; sliced fruit on a brown rice cake; shredded chicken on a sweet potato… the possibilities are endless.  

Let me know how you plan to nourish your body before a workout!     

This easy oatmeal recipe is a great breakfast/ pre workout meal full of complex carbs and the right amount of fats (and cinnamon to balance your blood sugar!)


  • Organic old fashioned rolled oats
  • Cinnamon
  • Maple Syrup 
  • Toasted pecans 



Written by Morgan Neely, RN, B.S. Nutrition Sciences