What to Eat Before Your Workout in The Gym?

What to Eat Before Your Workout in The Gym?

Just imagine your body as a vehicle that keeps your engine running continuously when you are working out. That means fuelling your body by consuming of the right amount of food and drinking the best amount of fluids, especially in the right amounts at the right time.

An adequate amount of fluid and food must be consumed before, during, and after you do exercise. This will assist in maintaining blood glucose concentration while exercising, improving recovery time, and maximizing exercise performance. If you are an athlete, you need to be hydrated before exercising. Also, you must exercise and drink a good amount of fluid while and after exercising for balancing the fluid losses.

Most health experts constantly advice to follow a strict and rigid schedule, and there are no hard-fast rules. However, there are certain aspects you would have to do before, during, and after working out.

Having Knowledge About What You Eat Is Necessary

Fuelling your body with the correct nutrients just before exercising will provide you with a good amount of energy as well as strength. This will help you to perform better. Now each of the macronutrients will be having a specific role before doing a workout. The ratio based on which you need to consume will simply vary by the individual and the kind of exercise that you do.

Role of Macronutrient

Below will easily provide the breakdown of the role and necessity of macronutrients that you need –


Carbohydrates are considered as the easiest and fastest source of fuel for the body. It is the most preferred energy for the human brain. Most importantly, they are necessary for high endurance training and providing explosive strength, such that it helps you to be quick on your feet and push heavy types of objects. Just for that, you need a good amount of carbs.

Basically, it would be difficult to take part in intense lifting sessions and cardio when the carbs level of your body is low. Here the high output level will be based on the anaerobic pathways. Hence, this is a fancy method of saying that sources of fuel that won’t need any kind of oxygen for accessing.

Oxygen can be a major component in various metabolic pathways like abort, digest, and utilizing nutrients like fat, carbs, and proteins. Also, glucose is the major source of fuel that can be harnessed without using oxygen, thereby allowing one to access energy immediately.

By consuming carbs, you are using them for immediate energy (like glucose). Sometimes they get stored in your liver or muscles just like a reserve source of energy know as glucose (which is the storage form of glucose). This makes them one of the most desirable macronutrients for various anaerobic training. In addition, glucose would be used in aerobic (along with oxygen) training, especially at lower intensities. This makes it a great source of fuel.

There are two major kinds of carbs –

  1. Quick Carbs: Do you know quick carbs are created from simple sugars that are digested rapidly? These will provide you with faster energy. Some of the basic examples of quick carbs are sports drinks, juice, gels, honey, and other high sugar content drinks.
  2. Slow Carbs: They are available from more fibrous or starchy food that is slower to digest. This makes them a major source of long-lasting energy. Some of the major examples of slow carbs are beans, whole grains, pasta, potatoes, etc.

Now when the carbs are less in a diet, our body will begin to depend on other means for getting the required amount of glucose. These are like ketones and protein. But unluckily, such sources would be less efficient in supporting any kind of high-intensity training as carbs.


You can think of fat as one of the highly required sources of calories for training. Since it provides twice among calories in each gram of ones provided by protein and carbs, this means it provides more than half of the fuel for your body. Your body has the required method for storing huge amounts of fat as reserve fuel compared to the carbs that are often limited by the liver and muscle capacity. This will provide you with an endless supply of gas in the tank.

Now when the consumption of the oxygen is adequate, fat will provide the best source of long-lasting energy. This will provide and assist in powering long and slow duration exercises like flat road cycling, jogging, swimming, etc. You must keep in mind that each of the high intensity and aerobic exercises will not be using the entire fat. They would be some more of the fat that you can use as fuel at high levels, which supports more of such high-level training.

Just like the slow carbs, fat will take some time for digesting, making it available as a fuel. Most of the fat burned while training will be stored in the body as fat and not as dietary fat.


Like carbs and fat, protein is not considered as a desirable source of energy for training. Here, this is mainly due to the role protein plays in the whole health that is simply prioritized over fuel.

Proteins are considered as the builder macro that is involved in maintaining and construction of the cells of your body, which even includes the hormones, skin, and DNA. It will also include the muscle where the role of the protein comes into being. Here, the thought of adding a small amount of protein to your work-out would secure the lean mass and fuel one’s strength training. It can be and even make them more efficient.

When Do You Need to Eat?

One of the major limitations in deciding what to have before exercising is how you are planning on training and when was the last time you had a meal. Here irrespective of whether you are training at various times in a day or intense levels every day, there are certain specific workout meals you will not need.

Whether you have fastened your workout or not, it will create a huge impact on your whole nutrition goals. The same is with the ability to burn fat. If you consume a meal faster before training, this will lead to stomach issues as your digestive system is trying to be competing for the blood flow with the muscles.

Now it would take two to three hours before exercising for fully digest the meals and using that energy for training. Now if you have taken a meal one or two hours just before hitting the gym, then you will not require any additional pre-working out fuel options, only if you are feeling low in energy.

Sometimes, you might workout first thing in the morning, and this will result in not getting the proper time to digest food. In such cases, it is better to work out faster or even go for a faster source of energy, thirty to sixty minutes just before training. However, this is based on the person exercising and how one feels while training.

Macro Cycling

A single meal will not be able to outdo the whole diet. It is necessary to pay a good amount of attention to how you are feeding your body all day along especially for supporting your performance. Through a balanced and healthy diet, people can gain the required energy. However, there are others finding benefits in swinging with their calories, doing carb cycling, and being a better strategy with the micro intake.

Through the increased intake of macros, especially on days, you are using them more, you can easily efficiently intake calories. This will fuel your workouts better.

Pre & Post Exercising Eating Methods

For preparing your workout schedule, always make sure to replenish the glycogen stored as soon as you wake. Since you are in the fasted state, there needs to be a good amount of energy so that you do not exercise on empty stomach. Based on the food you are eating, try to provide yourself with a time frame of one to four hours for proper digestion of the pre-exercise food.

Do you have any early-morning events? Well, in that case, try to get up as much as early in the morning. This is for starting your eating plan. If you are not able to do so, then consume or drink an easily digestible carb source. This needs to be done at least 30 to 40 minutes before the event.

Keep in mind that the closer you are to beginning the event, the lesser you need to eat. If you really fail in fuelling up, then there are the chances of risking the unintended ketosis (this is the building up of the keto acids present in the blood). This will lead to increased muscle cramps, fatigue, and heart rate.

As soon as you complete the high-intensity or long workout, you need to go on the search for the best energy food. The one that can provide you with 15 to 30 grams of proteins. Try to make sure that you are consuming 1 to 1.5 grams of required carbohydrates per kg of the body weight each hour. This should continue for the next four to seven hours. Frankly, this will help in replenishing the glycogen that is stored and even promotes the muscle protein synthesis of your body.

What Food Do You Need to Eat?

Since glucose is the required energy source for most of the exercises you do, a pre-exercise meal needs to have foods high in carbs. Also, they need to be easily digested like fruit, pasta, bread, energy drinks, and bars. Keep in mind that the kind of carb you are selecting even matters.

If you are planning on attending any kind of endurance event, try to go with a carb that has a low glycemic index (GI). Most of the time, low-GI carbs will not raise the blood sugar level immediately. Rather they will help in maintaining the glucose level at a steady rate for a long period of time. Some of the major examples consist of oatmeal and whole grain.

Pre-Workout Meal Examples

Of course, the best pre-workout meals will be different for each person. A well balanced and good approach is great and works for the best. Based on when you are going to exercise, there are certain food options you might want to consider before hitting the gym.

  • Two to Three Hours Before Meals

If you have any kind of time window for consuming a full meal just before the workout, then it would be great. Here the meals must contain a mixed balance of starchy carb, lean protein, and certain small amounts of fat for promoting longer digestion and getting good energy. Some of the best meals consist of –

  • Pasta with grass-fed beef and marinara.
  • Chicken with roasted veggies and sweet potatoes.
  • Protein shake with fruit, milk, and peanut butter.
  • Stir-fried tofu along with veggies and rice.
  • Snacks Before Two Hours

Now as soon as you are getting closer to your exercise window, you would need to cut down on the volume of your food. Here you would be planning on using the same macro approach that you used for your meal. By adding a quicker source of carbs will assist in topping off the gas tank.

Some of the mini-meals you can try are –

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Greek yogurt along with granola and honey
  • Whole grain cracker with cheese and deli meat
  • Protein waffle with syrup
  • Banana and spoonful of peanut butter
  • Cereal with milk

Quick Fuel Food Before One Hour of Working Out

Just before you are exercising, try to have some quick carbs. Besides, you might want to scale back on getting high-fat food and foods filled with high fiber. These will reduce the issues of the stomach. Following are the list of the fast fuel sourced food items-

  • Fruit juice or sports drink
  • Low-fat fruit smoothie
  • Low-fat muffins
  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • A small piece of fruit

Wrapping Up

Food or snacks you consume before working out should provide you with the required energy. They need to keep you fit and healthy.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.