Pre-workout Nutrition: Eating for Sustained Energy and Muscular Performance

Pre-workout Nutrition: Eating for Sustained Energy and Muscular Performance

Pre-workout Nutrition: Eating for Sustained Energy and Muscular Performance

Consume Carbohydrates and Protein, but Limit Fat:

The most important macronutrients to consume before and after a workout are carbohydrates and protein, while fat should be limited.

Carbohydrates provide fuel for your muscles and assist in moderate- to high-intensity activities. During exercise, the major source of carbohydrate is your muscle glycogen stores. The amount of glycogen stored determines the intensity at which you can exercise and for how long; the greater the stores, the longer it takes to reach exhaustion (1,2).

Protein provides amino acids to your muscles during a workout to begin the repair and rebuild process and can also be a form of energy if there isn’t enough carbohydrate available (1,2).

Fat takes longer to digest which can shift the body’s focus away from creating energy for physical activity to digestion (1,2).


High-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, low-fat foods to eat before exercise:

  • +1-2 eggs with toast and fruit
  • +Oatmeal with skim or 1% milk and fruit
  • +Pancakes prepared without oil or butter and topped with fruit compote or syrup
  • +Fat-free Greek yogurt and fruit
  • +Smoothie made with fat-free Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, and milk or juice
  • +Protein shake made with protein powder, fruit or oats, and milk, juice, or water
  • +Turkey sandwich on wheat bread with mustard and veggies
  • +Turkey slices with crackers and fruit
  • +Veggie burger on a wheat bun with ketchup, mustard, and veggies
  • +Chicken breast with a baked potato or sweet potato and veggies
  • +Fat-free or 1% cottage cheese and fruit or crackers
  • +Rice cake with jelly or honey and cinnamon
  • +Low-fat mozzarella cheese and crackers
  • +Crackers and veggies dipped in salsa or hummus
  • +Low-fat condiments like jelly, honey, mustard, ketchup, salt, and pepper
  • +Low-fat dips and dressings like fat-free Italian dressing, salsa, and hummus


High-fat foods to avoid before exercise:

  • +Nuts & nut butter
  • +Cheese
  • +2% or whole milk
  • +High-fat pastries and desserts like ice cream, milkshakes, pudding, cheesecake, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, and muffins
  • +High-fat condiments like butter and mayonnaise
  • +High-fat dips and dressings like ranch dressing, creamy Italian, bleu cheese, thousand island, and cheese dip



1. Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

2. Eating Before Exercise

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Collette Sinnott, RD, CPT

Hi there! I am a registered dietitian & certified personal trainer with a love of cooking and the outdoors! I created this blog to share my nutrition and fitness expertise and promote healthy lifestyles focused on disease prevention. I advocate for variety in food choices without restriction and encourage others to eat mostly nutrient-dense foods while including enjoyable foods. I am also passionate about fitness and recognize the benefit in moving a little each day!

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