Thursday, December 27, 2012

Snacks Before Work Outs

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time working out in the morning. It seems like it could be a great thing; working out before the day has even begun. No room for the excuse, "I ran out of time in the day." While I have heard that working out should "wake you up", it is rarely the case for me. I am usually fatigued after working out and want to do nothing more than take a shower and curl back in to bed. Sometimes, thinking about waking up early to work out and THEN do a full day in the office seems so daunting. The voice in my head says that I am tired enough when I first wake up in the morning, why exhaust myself even more?

With this being said, I wish I could be a morning exerciser and really do want to work on it. I hear there are great benefits to working out in the morning. After reading Sparkpeople's "What to Eat Before You Work Out" Article, I am wondering now if a pre-work out snack is all I need to help me get the energy to do my morning work outs.

Photo from
 As found in the article: "Some people do have a hard time exercising without eating first, especially if it’s been a long time since their last meal or snack. These individuals often are more sensitive to changes in their blood sugar levels, which fall during the first 15-20 minutes of workout. That drop in blood sugar can cause tiredness, mild dizziness, or even faintness—especially if your blood sugar was already low, but eating something beforehand can help prevent this. If you have health issues like diabetes or hypoglycemia that can cause low blood sugar, you’ll probably want to eat before your workout. If you get very hungry during a workout (and it interferes with your energy levels or focus), or become so ravenous after an exercise session that you end up overeating, try eating before you hit the gym to avoid these problems.


If you are a moderate exerciser who tends to perform better with a pre-exercise snack, there are two ways to handle your needs:

1. Eat a small (100- to 200-calorie) snack about 30 minutes before you work out. This snack should include fast-digesting (high glycemic
index) carbohydrates and very little fat (which digests slowly), so that you digest the meal quickly and the fuel is available during your exercise session. Here are some ideas:
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit smoothie
  • High-glycemic fruits like pineapple, apricots, banana, mango, and watermelon
  • Sports drinks
  • Pretzels or bagels (but not whole grain varieties, which digest slowly)
  • Energy bars (look for 3-5 grams of protein, at least 15 grams of carbs, and very little fat)
2. Eat a nutritionally balanced meal 1-2 hours before your exercise. This is the best option for many people. The larger the meal, and the more fat and protein it contains, the longer you may need to wait before exercising. Ideally, try to eat enough calories to equal about half the calories you expect to burn during your upcoming workout. So if you burn about 600 calories during your workout, aim for at least 300 calories during this meal — or a little more if your exercise is “high intensity” (over 75% of your maximum heart rate). At least 50-60% of these calories should come from carbohydrates, which should keep your blood sugar and energy levels fairly stable during your exercise session. Include some protein to help prevent the breakdown of muscle for fuel and give your muscles a headstart on recovery after exercise. Some good food choices and combinations for this kind of meal include:
  • Fruit and yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Oatmeal
  • Cereals (with more than 3 grams of fiber) and milk
  • Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  • Hummus and raw veggies
  • Hard boiled eggs (or egg whites)
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Half a peanut butter or turkey/chicken sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Whole grain crackers with nut butter or cheese
  • Whole grain fig (or fruit) Newton cookies
  • Milk (especially chocolate milk)
  • Tomato or vegetable juice
  • Yogurt smoothie (with added protein powder, if desired)
  • Most protein/energy bars
As a moderate exerciser, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to timing your meals and choosing your foods. The most important things are getting to know your body and how it responds to exercise, so that you can give it what it needs to perform at its best. Eating the right foods at the right times before you work out is essential to keeping your energy up, your workout performance high, and your body in fat-burning mode."

Do you ever eat a snack before working out? If so, what's your "go-to" snack?

When is your favorite time of the day to work out?


  1. Back when I was motivated (hopefully again soon) I used to work out in the mornings. Morning workouts were by far the most amazing! I hate working out at the end of the day and would much rather work out in the morning and get it out of the way. Before I would head out of the house for my walk I would drink a bottle of water and eat a banana or piece of peanut butter toast. I found it easier to have something in my stomach while I walked. It really does jump start your day and often times I would still have enough energy to work out later in the day as well, but if not atleast I got it outta the way in the morning!

  2. I usually can't eat right before a workout, even a small snack. I usually have to wait 3+hours otherwise I get stomach cramps. However I hate working out first thing in the morning too! My "sweet spot" is working out right before noon, or right before supper.

  3. I love morning workouts...such a great way to start the day, and beleive it or not, I love doing it on an empty stomach! After I workout, I'm careful not to eat any carbs. The idea is, if you eat cards right before working out, you're simply using that to fuel your workout rather than using your body's reserves (=weight loss). If you eat carbs right after working out, you are halting the recovery your body is doing - using more stores. I like a sugar free protein shake with sugar free almond milk within 30 mins of a workout. This ensures that your muscles get what they need. I'm then careful not to give my body any major sugar highs and lows through the day.

    well, all of that is best case scenario of course. I'm still struggling to make it happen every day!