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How to Choose a Pre-Workout Snack

Dos and Don'ts of Pre-Workout Snacks

You nosh on a bunch of melon and head out for a run. Five minutes into your workout, you experience one of the worst cramps in your belly. You try everything to make it go away: massaging it, slowing down your pace, and raising your arms in the air, but walking is the only thing that helps. You curse that stupid cantaloupe and watermelon for ruining your run.

Certain foods can cause major digestive upset, so here are some tips on choosing an appropriate pre-workout snack.

  • Fiber is not your friend: All that bulk that gets things moving in your system is bound to prevent you from moving when you exercise, since it can cause gas pains and may even necessitate a trip to the ladies' room.
  • Go for a combo of protein and carbs: Carbs rather than protein offer your body fuel, so make sure your snack has an emphasis on carbs. Simple carbs are best, since they digest more easily than complex ones.
  • Avoid foods that personally give you gas: A ripe pear with a handful of nuts might be the perfect prehike snack for your best friend, but that dangerous combo could be a tummy time bomb for you. If you've had bad luck with a food giving you gas in the past, it's not the best choice for your pre-workout snack.
  • Remember it's just a snack: You don't need to eat a large quantity of food. If you do, then chances are you'll end up with cramps or a feeling of sluggishness. Shoot for a nibble that's about 150 calories.
  • Choose energy bars wisely: Many contain 200 to 250 calories, so you'll want to eat only half and save the rest for after your sweat session.
  • Timing is everything: Nosh on your snack about 30 minutes before setting out to exercise.

Here are some snack ideas:

  • Half a slice of whole wheat bread with a little almond butter
  • Half a banana mixed with half a cup of Greek yogurt
  • A few baby carrots with a small handful of peanuts
  • Two tablespoons cottage of cheese mixed with a quarter cup of sliced grapes
  • An ounce of cheese with some crackers
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Grace Hitchcock
misscoleenmcphee misscoleenmcphee 4 years
If I am working out in the evening, is it best to eat dinner prior to working out or have a snack, work out, then eat dinner after?
RandyR RandyR 5 years
I like peanut butter or almond butter on sliced apple (usually about 1/3-1/2 apple). I often eat this before an early AM class when I am not ready to have a big breakfast. I find it works really well for me.
barrybullock barrybullock 5 years
Im a 66 yr old male with stage 4 COPD and CHF. I go the gym every morning and work out for 60 minutes. Cardio/vascular. I find that by drinking a homemade smoothie with plenty of fresh fruit, veggies and protien and potassium energy and lung funtions really give me the energy I need.
Sprint2theTable Sprint2theTable 6 years
I avoid all protein right before a workout. It can lead to cramping and my sotmach is prone to get them! My favorite thing to do is eat a date or prune beforehand. It gives me a good shot of energy without any heaviness.
Vanonymous Vanonymous 6 years
I should have read this yesterday! I was running my first half marathon and had planned for it meticulously. It was at 7:30am so I woke up at 5am to eat a half cup of oatmeal with a tablespoon of almond butter and a teaspoon of maple syrup. This has worked well for me for long runs in the past, but not yesterday! I thought I would be good b/c I gave myself over 2 hours to digest, but I got a side stitch during MILE 1 and it lasted the ENTIRE race. Boooo! My stomach still hurts in random spots today b/c I was digging my fingers into it so hard trying to make it go away. I'm pretty sure I have finger print bruises! Lesson learned!
tea-bag tea-bag 6 years
i've found great success with 20g rolled oats (1/4 cup) cooked the night before with about 1.5 cups of water and mixed with .5 Tbsp of chia seeds. The chia seeds soak up the water overnight & provide hydration during my workout!
amber512 amber512 6 years
I specifically make sure to eat fiber, especially if it's first thing in the morning. I get the WORST cramps if my system hasn't been "moved" yet.
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