What Does the Science Say?
Research shows that simple carbohydrates, which hit the bloodstream much faster than complex ones, can provide an energy jolt prior to a workout.
An expert panel report published in January 2018 in the journal Nutrition Today concluded that carbohydrates are an indispensable energy source for high-intensity performance because they get absorbed so quickly into the bloodstream. It’s a more efficient way to provide the muscles with needed energy during exercise for prime performance, according to the report.
Simple carbohydrates are found naturally in fruits, milk, and milk products, as well as in processed and refined sugars such as candy, table sugar, syrups, and soft drinks.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are more nutrient dense, found in foods like peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
Rice Krispies Treats have a lot of simple carbohydrates (from the cereal to the sugar used to bind it together), which help deliver that quick jolt of energy. But the caveat is that overall, they’re the type of simple carbs you want to limit in your diet given that they contain a lot of refined sugars, Collingwood says.
Nutrient-dense snacks without refined sugars can give you a similar energy boost. “Fruit provides carbs and also lots of important vitamins and minerals,” explains Collingwood. Additionally, low sugar cereal (Cheerios, Chex, and Wheaties, she says) can also get the job done. Other, healthier simple carbs can have a similar effect (with fewer added sugars), such as a half bagel, toast, rice cakes, or popcorn cakes, she says.
Another important caveat: A Rice Krispies Treat isn’t the best pre-exercise snack for all workouts, Collingwood says.
If you’re doing a low- or moderate-intensity 30-minute workout (like walking or a gentle Pilates or yoga class), you probably don’t need a preworkout pick-me-up as long as your last meal was within two to three hours, says Collingwood.
If you’re doing a higher-intensity workout (like HIIT, heavy weight training, a Spin class, or another aerobic activity that gets your heart rate up) or one that’s longer than 30 minutes, eating a Rice Krispies Treat before you start could help you power through, Collingwood says. “You can eat two minutes to two hours prior to a workout. However, when it comes to high glycemic goods like Rice Krispies Treats, which digest quickly, I suggest 15 to 30 minutes or less before your workout.”
What You Should Know if You Try It
If you’re going to try fueling up with a Rice Krispies Treat before your next sweat session, Collingwood says it’s important to know that it’s not the only fuel your body needs.
One 22 gram (g) packaged Rice Krispies Treat has 90 calories, 2 g fat, and 17 g carbohydrates (including 8 g added sugars). They are mostly high-glycemic carbs (meaning the type that spike energy quickly), Collingwood says. Other than some iron and B vitamins (thanks to the fortified cereal they’re made with), they have little nutritional value.
You’ll still need to focus on a healthy diet throughout the rest of your day, Collingwood says. That means that Rice Krispies Treat shouldn’t replace other meals or snacks throughout the day that provide your body with the nutrients and calories it needs.
After his record-breaking squat, @Ko0maaa posted a follow-up video to his viral TikTok, revealing that he consumed more than just a sweet cereal square prior to his workout: An hour and a half prior to the treat, he ate chicken, rice, and oatmeal, followed by his usual preworkout formula drink.
And because the cereal snack has added sugars, pay attention to other added sugars you’re getting throughout the day. If you are trying to stay within the recommended 10 percent or less added sugar (which is 12 teaspoons for someone following a 2,000 calorie diet), eating a Rice Krispies Treat (with 2 teaspoons of added sugars) before a workout means you should eat only 10 more throughout the day, Collingwood explains.
And, while they will provide you with some quick energy, your jolt won’t last long.
The cereal snack could be a good pick-me-up option if you’re doing a short, moderate- to high-intensity workout for an energy boost ahead of time (think 45- to 60 minutes) — or a good mid-workout snack for longer workouts to help you finish, Collingwood says.
But know that if you’re doing a longer workout (lasting one or several hours), you’ll have to focus on fueling up ahead of time with a balanced meal (a couple of hours before your workout) and a more substantial preworkout snack 15 to 60 minutes prior to exercise.
If you’re doing a low-intensity or shorter workout (less than 30 minutes), your body may not actually need the pre-workout energy boost at all; if you do grab something you’re probably better off with a piece of fruit, Collingwood says.
The Bottom Line: Should You Eat a Rice Krispies Treat Before a Workout?
It probably won’t do damage to your diet (if you’re otherwise eating a balanced diet and not getting too many added sugars), and it certainly is tasty and delicious, Collingwood points out. But while it might help you get through a moderate workout by offering a carbohydrate boost, know that its benefits are limited (and there are nutrient-dense snacks that can deliver similar energy lifts).