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Sports Nutrition

10 Dietitians Share Their Favorite Pre-Workout Snacks

The right combination of foods will help you push your limits during your workout session by keeping your energy levels going strong. Here are 10 great pre-workout snack options.

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What’s your go-to pre-workout snack?

I’m willing to bet, if you’re a fitness enthusiast, you’ve got one or two staples that you rely on time and again to fuel your workouts.

Am I right?

Well, today I’m here to show you with the help of 10 trusted colleagues just how you can go further this month with food.

Yep, just think about this for a second. Having the right combination of foods will help you push your limits during your workout session by giving you the essential nutrients needed to keep your energy levels going strong.

According to the latest position statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and American College of Sports Medicine, “Foods and fluids consumed in the 1 to 4 hours prior to an event should contribute to body carbohydrate stores (particularly, in the case of early morning events to restore liver glycogen after the overnight fast), ensure appropriate hydration status and maintain gastrointestinal comfort throughout the event. The type, timing and amount of foods and fluids included in this pre-event meal and/or snack should be well trialed and individualized according to the preferences, tolerance, and experiences of each athlete.”

I spoke with Dr. Christine Rosenbloom, RD, CSSD, a professor emerita of nutrition at Georgia State University and sports dietitian for Georgia State athletes, and she agreed. “A good pre-workout snack depends on how close to the exercise bout you plan to eat and the exercise intensity and duration. For example, if you haven’t eaten lunch and plan a hard workout after work, try to eat about 25 grams of carbohydrate the hour before your workout. Or, if you’ve eaten lunch and are going for a less intense work out (walking the dogs) focus on hydration and worry less about eating.”

In Rosenbloom’s Nutrition Today Article, Food and Fluid Guidelines Before, During and After Exercise, she discussed the importance of choosing low fiber and easy to digest, allowing the body to take full advantage of the nutrients during exercise.

And, as expected, it’s best to trial new pre-workout snacks during training rather than before a big competition. Allow yourself plenty of time to test your tolerance so there are no unforeseen surprises!

To get your creative juices flowing, here are 10 RDN-approved pre-workout snacks to take your fitness to the next level and go further with… FOOD!

1. Small Banana with Natural Nut Butter

“This may seem super simple, but it’s packed with easily digestible carbohydrates to fuel your workout with a little extra ‘staying power’ thanks to the protein and healthy fats in the nut butter. Not to mention, this combination is delicious!”

Kelly Puryear, MS, RDN, CPT, owner of Fuel for the Soul

2. 1/2 Medium Sweet Potato with Parmesan Cheese and Chopped Walnuts

“Carbohydrates fuel your workouts and the sweet potato will provide you with the carbs you need for optimal performance. The Parmesan cheese and walnuts have protein to help with with the uptake of the carbohydrates. In addition, the walnuts contain omega-3s, to reduce inflammation post workout for better recovery. Last of all, the sweet potatoes also have antioxidants to help with recovery.”

Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, sports dietitian and author of 365 Snacks for Every Day of the Year

3. Whole-Grain Toaster Waffle with Cinnamon & Maple Syrup

“You may think toaster waffles are just for kids, but the whole grain varieties taste great and are easy to grab on the go. The whole grains in the waffle provide long-lasting energy for a vigorous workout and the pure maple syrup provides quick-acting fuel as well as zinc, manganese, and 67 beneficial plant compounds with antioxidant properties. If you don’t have time to toast up a waffle, sub in an apple instead, but don’t forget the cinnamon and maple for great taste!”

Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, NYC-based sports dietitian, and Pure Maple Syrup communications consultant

4. PB & J Smoothie

1 scoop ISOPURE protein powder + 1/4 cup of 100% grape juice + 1 Tbsp peanut butter + 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

“This smoothie contains whey protein isolate to help increase muscle synthesis, essential fats, and 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes which delivers plant nutrients called polyphenols to support a healthy heart and circulation. Plus grape juice may help with exercise performance, per early research.”

Jim White RDN, ACSM EX-P, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, communications consultant for Welch’s

5. Pomegranate Juice

“Warming up is key to a healthy workout and pomegranate juice provides natural energy, without added sugars. Certain types of polyphenol antioxidants, like those found in pomegranate juice, may help increase nitric oxide bioavailability by protecting it from breaking down in the body. Nitric oxide helps your body get the oxygen and nutrients in needs during exercise.”

Alex Caspero, MA, RD, CPT, RYT Nutrition Consultant with POM Wonderful and author of Delish Knowledge

6. 6-inch Flour Tortilla with Low-Sodium Turkey and Hummus

“This snack is not only super convenient but also provides lasting energy on those days I know my workouts will soar well into the 90-minute mark. Using a “no added nitrate/nitrite” free turkey, you can rest easy knowing you’re getting a better-for-you option with ample lean protein that is easy to digest.”

Chrissy Carroll, RD, and USAT Level I Triathlon Coach from Snacking in Sneakers

7. Maca Milkshake

Maca (1 Tbsp men, 2 tsp women) + banana + a2 Milk or milk of choice + 20 grams of protein powder of choice.

“Maca is a root vegetable commonly found in the Andes Mountains of Peru. This superfood is packed full of calcium, iron, and magnesium, in addition to all of the essential amino acids that prevent muscle breakdown. Maca may also fortify bone density and minimize fatigue. In order to experience the benefits of maca, consume this shake at least 4-5 times each week rather than just once a week. Maca positively affects your energy levels and overall mood, thereby making it an ideal pre-exercise supplement. In fact, it can even support continued exercise after extended effort since studies have shown that it can increase blood glucose levels after a prolonged fast.”

Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, author of

8. Egg Sandwich

2 eggs on a 1/2 of a whole-wheat sandwich thin

“This is a go-to combination of mine, not only does it taste great, but it provides the right balance of carbohydrates and protein to help fuel your workout!”

Mitzi Dulan, RD, author of The Pinterest Diet

9. Medjool Dates with Salt

“If I haven’t eaten for a while and am heading to exercise within a half-hour of snacking, which often is the case early morning, I’ll have one or two Medjool dates for quick energy. If it’s a hot day and I’ll be exercising for over an hour, I add a dash of salt to be sure I maintain fluid balance, not just my blood sugar, with a higher sweat rate.”

Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, creator of the Fit Fueling Virtual Course

10. Greek Yogurt with Fruit & Granola

“Greek yogurt with fruit and granola is usually pretty easily digestible and has a nice combo of protein and carbs to fuel a workout and prep those muscles for the rebuilding that will take place post-workout.”

Kim Hoban, RDN, CDN, CPT

As you can see, the possibilities are endless when it comes to low-fiber, easy-to-digest foods that make you think outside of the bar! While I do love a good protein bar on occasion myself, having a variety of well-tolerated options that have been trialed makes it that much easier if you happen to run out of an ingredient or you’re traveling and a toaster, etc. isn’t available.

From Muscle & Performance