Healthy Pre-Workout Snacks – What to Eat Before Exercising –

woman toasting with a glass of water as she eats dinner in the garden

Eating before a workout can be a precarious business. Too much food and you could end up with stomach cramps and indigestion, too little and you can feel like passing out in the middle of the gym. To figure out the right way to maintain your energy before a round of cardio, we asked Mary Jane Detroyer (opens in new tab)—a personal trainer, certified nutritionist, and registered dietitian based in New York City—for her tips on snacking before a workout and timing your meals.

First Things First: Do You Actually Need a Pre-Workout Snack?

It all depends on your body type, the intensity of your workout, and the last time you ate, according to Detroyer. Follow her handy guide below:

Woman weighing on a scale

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  1. “If someone goes to the gym and does 30 minutes on the elliptical at a very low intensity, and they’re not hungry, they probably don’t need a pre-gym snack. They’re just adding calories when they may not need them.”
  2. “If someone’s underweight and they know with their metabolism, they could eat all day long because they get hungry a lot, they’re definitely going to need a snack.”
  3. “If it’s someone who’s trying to lose weight, and they had a decent lunch, and they’re not really hungry and they’re not doing a crazy heavy workout, they can probably wait to go home and have a good dinner afterwards.”
  4. “If someone is going to be at the gym for an hour, they really don’t need anything but a 16 oz. bottle of water. Unless they ate a long time before and they’re starting to feel really hungry around 4:30PM, then they could have something small. This person needs to go eat pretty soon afterwards, too, not go have cocktails with friends.”

What Types of Foods Should People Snack On?

Detroyer recommends reaching for carbohydrates that range between 100 and 250 calories to accommodate everyone from a smaller person with a lighter workout to a bigger person doing a more intense workout.

Red apple

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Carbohydrates are what your body needs to perform any kind of physical exercise, even weight training, Detroyer notes. “You need to have something that’s going to get into the bloodstream and stay there throughout the workout. You wouldn’t want to have a lot of fat, too much protein, or too much fiber because those things slow the way the food is absorbed into the bloodstream.”

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About the Author: Eugene Berry