What to eat before a workout

Get the most out of your workout by fuelling your body with these foods beforehand.

Woman making smoothie

by Bryony Firth-bernard |

Whatever your workout may be, whether it’s swimming, cycling, pilates or hitting the gym, no one wants to start a workout feeling tired and sluggish. Fuelling your body beforehand can make or break your workout, as it’s where our body gets its energy from, not to mention it’s important for muscle recovery and growth too.

If you’re not sure what to eat before a workout then keep reading, as we breakdown the best foods to consume, when you should eat them, as well as some meal ideas.

What to eat before a workout

Some people like to do ‘fasted cardio’ where you don’t eat any food before your workout in an attempt to burn and lose body fat. But according to My Protein, unless you’re doing this cardio from 6AM to 7AM, then you should be fuelling your body before every workout.

A good pre-workout meal should contain a moderate amount of protein, be high in complex carbs and low in fat. We’ve outlined the role of each macronutrient and why it’s important to eat before your workout.


Carbs provide a source of energy for your body and should make up the most of your pre-workout meal. If you don’t consume enough, you may feel a lack of energy throughout your workout and lose concentration. Healthy carbs include:

• Oats

• Bananas

• Brown rice

• Whole wheat pasta

• Potatoes

• Whole grain breakfast cereals

• Whole grain bread


This is important to help build muscle, prevent damage and help promote recovery. Good sources of protein include:

• Protein shakes

• Chicken

• Fish

• Lean cuts of meat

• Yogurt, cheese, milk

• Eggs

When should I eat before a workout?

If you’ve eaten a main meal (such as breakfast or lunch) you should allow yourself three hours before doing a workout to make sure it's fully digested. However, if it’s way past main meal time then consuming a light meal or snack containing easy-to-digest carbs and protein, an hour before exercise is ideal.

5 pre-workout foods

Bananas - Bananas have double the amount of carbs compared to other fruits, they’re quick to eat and tasty too! Eat alongside some peanut butter to add some protein into the mix.

Porridge - Oats are complex carbs, meaning they release energy slowly, so they’re great to eat around two hours before your workout. Add a scoop of protein powder so you’re getting a source of protein too.

Whole grain bread with a nut butter - Again, whole grains are complex carbs, so they’re great for sustained energy throughout your workout. Apply a thin spread of almond or peanut butter for your protein intake.

Chicken, rice and vegetables - This stereotypical meal is a classic pre-workout meal, which provides a great balance of carbs and protein. Consume around 2 to 3 hours before working out.

Protein shakes - A typical gym go-to, but great for if you’re in a rush. Protein shakes are very low in carbs however, so it’s best to consume alongside something like a banana or to add in a carb supplement (such as maltodextrin powder).

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