What's the best pre-workout snack?
Looking for something to give you that extra spark to smash your training? Many people turn to pre-workout supplements – powders or tablets containing a mix of ingredients claiming to give you the energy to power through a workout.
Among the sometimes dubious blends that make up pre-workouts, the main energy-boosting nutrient in most is plain old caffeine – which on its own, is a perfectly good option for a burst of energy. In fact, it’s Luke’s go-to before a big strength workout.
There are plenty of energizing nutrients sitting in your pantry, so before you hit the supplements store, Advanced Sports Dietician Lisa Middleton is here to help us find the perfect energy source for every workout occasion.
The best pre-workout drink when you need instant energy: coffee
Luke Zocchi’s morning coffee is a fixture of his training routine. “I have tried pre-workout supplements and I didn’t like the feeling I got from them,” he says. “They made me too edgy, and I didn’t enjoy that, so I use coffee.”
Lisa tells us that when it comes to performance, caffeine can “alter the perception of effort or fatigue” – which means you may feel more able to push through. She adds: “Caffeine won’t help you burn fat by the bucketload, but it may give you an energy boost to help you work that little bit harder.”
You don’t need to go overboard with your coffee intake to see a benefit. “Smaller doses of caffeine before exercise have been found to have similar beneficial effects to higher doses,” Lisa explains. “This means performance does not increase further with increased caffeine intake.”
Pre-workouts don’t have to be complicated or come in pill form. Try a simple carb-plus-protein combo like our Italian Tuna Rice Cakes.
The best pre-workout snack when you’re lifting weights: rice cakes plus protein
High-intensity workout ahead? Add carbs to the menu. As Lisa says, carbs “provide fuel for muscles to work hard and for your brain to focus and get you through your session”. Rice cakes are a simple source – top them with a protein (such as salmon, cottage cheese, hummus) and you’ve got the perfect pre-workout snack. While protein is essential for post-workout recovery and muscle repair, when consumed before a workout it helps to fuel your muscles and keep your blood glucose levels stable.
Why not whip up some of our Italian Tuna Rice Cakes before you next hit the barbells with Bobby?
The best pre-workout snack when you forgot to eat: banana
When it’s an effort just to make it to the gym on time, keep calm and grab a banana.
On their own, in a smoothie or as part of a fruit, yogurt and granola mix, bananas are a pre-workout winner.
“A banana is the perfect portable pre-training snack,” says Lisa. “Just enough carbs to fill that space in your tummy and give you an energy boost for the session ahead.”
Since they are so easily digested, you’ll get that energy boost quickly, too.
A pre-workout snack like Luke’s Dried Fruit & Yogurt Parfait should ideally be eaten about an hour before training.
The best pre-workout snack when you’re mixing cardio & strength: yogurt with fruit and nuts
When you’re doing a combination of cardio and strength training, like a HIRT session with Luke, you want a pre-workout snack that gives you energy and protects your muscles.
Since yogurt is an easily digestible protein (as long as you don’t have any intolerances), it won’t leave you feeling too full to superset your weighted lunges with a round of jump squats. A cup of yogurt plus fruit for carbs, like Luke’s Dried Fruit & Yogurt Parfait, fits the bill nicely.
The best pre-workout snack for long-lasting energy: oats
An oat-based breakfast or snack makes for easy and effective workout fuel, especially if you’re in for a long or difficult session. They’re a good source of carbs and fiber, meaning they’ll fill you up and keep you going.
“Oats are low GI, which is great for sustained energy levels and satiating hunger – a small amount goes a long way,” says Lisa.
Eat a No-bake Oat & Cranberry Bar before your next Da Rulk workout will have those slow-release energy stores ready to draw on when you need them. (So… about halfway through Rulk’s warm-up?)
Sign up to unlock your full potential
All your tools in one place
Expert-training to fuel your fitness, nutrition and mindfulness.
Limitless ways to fuel your mind & body
Access to over 3,000 workouts, recipes, and meditations – all tailored to your goals.
Tech that keeps you moving
Download Centr on all your devices to level up and track your results live.