What to Eat Clean Pre-Workout

Jan 16, 2019

If you work out and exercise regularly, you likely already know how important the foods you eat right before and directly after your workout can make a difference not only how well the workout goes but also on your overall health. Getting the right kind of protein and carbs into your body before you hit the gym can make all the difference between an efficient, successful workout and one where you’re just going through the motions. For pre-workout nutrition, you generally want to focus on foods that are high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber. Fat and fiber slow down digestion and can cause gastrointestinal upset during your workouts, which means that carbs are your main fuel source for activity and for your brain. Here are eight meals and snacks that’ll pave the way for a great workout, whether you train in the gym or are getting some cardio in on a morning run!

Plain Greek yogurt with berries and granola

Berries and granola provide quick-digesting carbs, and the Greek yogurt provides plenty of protein to prevent muscle breakdown. Be sure to look for granola that contains nuts, seeds, and wholesome carbs (like oats, amaranth, quinoa, and/or millet), and try to find carb sources that are sweetened with coconut oil, dried figs, and/or vanilla; you want to keep sugar to a medium.

High protein oatmeal and blueberries

If you’re always running late, find a recipe or a box of some delicious blueberry-almond overnight oats! Almond butter, chia seeds, and oats provide sustained energy for longer, more effective workouts, and again, plain yogurt packs a serious protein punch. Add in some protein powder (vanilla or unflavored) for an extra healthy kick: just one scoop adds enough amino acids to help keep your muscles workout-ready.

Fruit smoothie

When made with the right blend of ingredients, smoothies are a delicious way to get in plenty of fruit and protein pre-workout. Fruit provides simple sugars that are easy to digest; they’re your body’s preferred source of energy for really high-intensity workouts. Try whirling together banana, peanut butter, oats, flaxseeds, and almond milk for a protein-packed drink, or go with half an avocado, frozen blueberries, banana, and almond milk for a slightly sweeter take.

Banana with peanut butter & honey

Bananas are essentially mother nature’s power bar: they’re loaded with simple carbs for fuel and potassium, which helps your body maintain optimal nerve and muscle function. Top one off with a serving of peanut butter, or any other nut butter you like; you can also even turn this into a quick sandwich, but be sure to use whole grain bread if you do. For a little extra sweetness, drizzle on some honey: it’ll release slow, steady levels of glucose into your bloodstream, which is great for those grueling endurance workouts! Your body can start using it as fuel if it doesn’t have enough readily available carbs.

Low-fat cottage cheese & dried fruit

Cottage cheese is a power-packed breakfast (or snack!) that contains healthy amounts of casein and whey protein. Casein is a slow-digesting protein that fuels your muscles for hours, helping them grow and recover, and whey is a bodybuilding essential that helps bulk muscle and burn fat. Add dried apricots to a serving of cottage cheese: the combo of protein and carbs is low in fat and fiber, which can sometimes cause belly bloat before a workout.

Avocado toast with hard boiled egg

Avocado toast never lets us down! If you’re feeling extra-hungry before your workout, try adding a hard-boiled or fried egg on top for an extra protein punch and then spice it up with some salt and pepper. There are a lot of ways to get fancy here, but we’re big fans of this classic combo before a morning stint at the gym.

Whole-grain waffle with cinnamon & maple syrup

It may sound too good to be true, but whole grain toaster waffles taste great and are super easy to grab on-the-go. The whole grains in the waffle provide long-lasting energy for a vigorous workout, and pure maple syrup provides quick-acting fuel as well as zinc, manganese, and 67 other beneficial plant compounds with antioxidant properties. If you don’t have time to toast up a waffle, sub in an apple instead, but don’t forget the cinnamon and maple for great taste!

Chicken, rice, and veggies

If you’re looking for a heartier pre-workout meal, go with chicken, rice, and simple vegetables. This is actually a classic pre-workout meal: by combining a great source of lean protein and complex carbohydrates, the dish can provide plenty of amino acids to promote anabolism (muscle growth) and a slow-releasing source of energy. Consume a meal like this around 2-3 hours before a workout so you give yourself enough time to fully digest and avoid stomach cramping.

For more health tips and eating clean recipes, visit our other blogs!

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