What Can I Eat Before a Workout? We’ve got answers

By Desiree Nielsen 

Thursday, May 3rd

Fitting in your daily movement will often mean staying flexible in your routines…so how do you ensure that you’re not hungry pre-workout without also having a full stomach weighing you down?

If your workout is 2-3 hours away, a standard meal will suffice. For example, if you work out at lunch time and eat a late breakfast at the office around 9AM, you’re good to go!

The closer to your workout you choose to eat, the lighter your food choice needs to be. Ideally, you want to avoid anything that will slow the rate your stomach empties so the snack doesn’t sit like a stone when you’re working out. This means that you want easily digestible energy in the form of carbohydrates, without excessive amounts of fibre, protein or fat. Think about 100-150 calories worth of real food.

Why eat pre-workout? It’s about having the energy to give your workout your all; it will also help with recovery and ensure that you have adequate energy stores, called glycogen, to do it all again tomorrow.

If you’re running out the door to the gym and realize you’re starving, a simple banana or glass of milk, soy or oat milk will do the trick. If it’s 30 to 60 minutes pre-workout, a larger snack like a simple smoothie is a great option. Try this Pre-Workout Smoothie that won’t cause tummy issues…and might even help ease them!

A few more easy ideas:

  • 2 brown rice cakes spread with a thin layer of peanut butter and honey
  • ½ cup of plain yogurt with some chopped fruit or a spoon of whole fruit jam swirled in
  • A packed of plain instant oats with a bit of maple syrup or fruit.


One of the tricks that kept me on track was scheduling my workouts for the week on Sunday. Once you have them scheduled, you can note which ones will require carrying pre-workout snacks to the office. If it helps, set a reminder in your phone for your pre-workout snack! Eating before a workout helps keep you motivated and feeling energized to move.


Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She runs a nutrition consulting practice with a focus on inflammation, digestion and plant-centred diets. Desiree is the author of a book on anti-inflammatory nutrition called Un-Junk Your Diet: How to shop, cook and eat to fight inflammation and feel better, forever and her new cookbook, Eat More Plants: 100 Anti-inflammatory Plant-centred Recipes for Vibrant Living is slated for release August 2019 with Penguin Canada. She is also the host of The Urban Vegetarian on Gusto TV and co-founder of My Healthy Gut, an innovative and research-backed iOS app for digestive health.