What to Eat Before a Workout: Best 5 Simple Tips

Sneakers? Check. Headphones? Check. Inspiring playlist? Check. There are a few things you wouldn’t want to start a workout without — and the right fuel should be one of them.

A pre-workout meal or snack can help you power through whatever reps, sets, and routines you have planned.

So how can you decide what to eat before a workout?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the best foods to eat before a workout.

“For some, working out on an empty stomach is fine,” says Tiffany Ma, RDN, a registered dietitian based in Brooklyn, NY. “But generally, most people report feeling better and less fatigued when they eat before a workout.”

Here’s how to pick the best pre-workout snack for your next sweat sesh.

1. Focus on Carbs

Carbs get a bad rap, but they’re an important energy source for your workouts.

Your body breaks down carbs into glucose, some of which is stored as glycogen — your body’s main source of energy during high-intensity workouts.

Including carbs in your pre-workout nutrition ensures that your body will have glycogen on reserve if you need it.

On the flip side, if your body doesn’t have enough glycogen, you may feel sluggish and tired during your workout.

Which carbs should you eat before a workout?

  • For longer-lasting energy, choose slow-digesting complex carbs (like fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains) rather than simple carbs (like white bread or candy), Ma says.
  • If you’re doing a shorter workout, simple carbs can provide immediate energy. “That way your body can take advantage of the glucose,” Ma says.
  • For longer workouts that require endurance, like running, focus on eating both complex and simple carbs to help you power through from start to finish.

Woman making zucchini noodles

2. Limit Fats Immediately Before Your Workout

Healthy fats are an important part of your overall nutrition plan, and they can provide energy during a workout.

But dietary fats take longer to digest, so avoid consuming them right before your workout or you may end up feeling sluggish instead.

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