The Best Snacks to Eat Before Specific Workouts

Woman sitting in the gras with a bowl of muesli and fresh fruits.

You can find a lot of tips in the Internet about what to eat after your workout, but what you don’t often find is information on what to eat before your run, bodyweight workout or yoga session. A snack ahead of time gives you the strength and energy you need to give it your best, but you have to be careful that the food doesn’t sit heavy in your stomach.

Man drinking from his water bottle after his run.

Different goals and nutrition tips

Do you want to build muscle, lose weight, run faster or simply stay fit? The diet you eat should depend on your goals. Plus, it’s a good idea to match the kind of snack you eat to the type of workout you plan to do:

1. Running

So, what’s on the agenda for today’s running training? An easy run to clear your head? A small snack – eaten 30-90 minutes before your run – is enough to curb your hunger and keep your blood sugar level constant. You could eat

  • a banana
  • a (homemade) cereal bar
  • rice cakes

If you are preparing for a (half) marathon and are putting in a lot of mileage, then things look a bit different: you need enough energy to finish a long training run. This means you are going to need plenty of carbohydrates like those found in

  • a small bowl of oatmeal with banana
  • a sweet potato brownie
  • two pieces of toast with a low-fat topping (e.g. ham, cheese or cottage cheese)

Many early birds like to run on an empty stomach. No problem! Just make sure to work out at low intensity and drink a glass of water before heading out. You shouldn’t run more than 40-60 minutes on an empty stomach.

Close up of a man cutting an apple on a wooden plate.

2. Bodyweight training

First off: if you’re not hungry, you don’t have to eat anything before a short bodyweight workout. However, if you’re feeling weak and need some energy for the workout, you should eat something small 60 minutes ahead of time. The ideal snack is a mix of carbohydrates and protein like

  • a glass of banana milk
  • an apple with a small handful of almonds
  • a small bowl of oatmeal with low-fat milk
  • two rice cakes with peanut butter and banana slices

Close up of almonds on a male hand.

3. Yoga

You shouldn’t eat anything heavy before your yoga session. Doing a downward dog or cobra pose on a full stomach can sure leave you feeling pretty uncomfortable or even nauseous. And, high-fiber foods (whole grain products, legumes or cabbage) can give you gas. What you could try before yoga is

  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • an apple with 1-2 teaspoons of almond butter
  • a handful of unsalted nuts

You’ll find out pretty quickly what works for you and what doesn’t. Everyone is different. You will have to decide for yourself how much time you need between your snack and your workout. Some people need at least two hours, whereas others can eat something 20 minutes before working out and it doesn’t bother them.

Keep the following tips in mind if you don’t want to weigh down your stomach before your workout:

  • There is a saying in German, “Gut gekaut ist halb verdaut,” which basically means “well-chewed is half-digested.” So eat slowly and chew thoroughly.
  • Go with low-fat foods. They take less time to digest.
  • Stay away from spicy foods. Heartburn and indigestion are uncomfortable.
  • High-fiber foods (legumes, mushrooms, cabbage) can sit heavy in the stomach and cause gas. You’ll simply have to test out whether you can eat these before a workout or not. But it is always a good idea to skip these before a big competition.
  • In general, easily digestible foods are always the better pick!

What do you like to eat before a workout? Share your pre-workout snack ideas with us in the Comments below!

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Julia Denner Dietitian Julia is a creative cook. She is convinced that a varied diet and regular exercise are the keys to success. View all posts by Julia Denner »

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