Foods to Eat Before a Workout to Increase Energy

woman eating fruit before a workout
Choosing optimal foods pre-workout can help increase your energy. (Image: Twenty20/Chantalao007)

Diet is the single most important element of developing energy for your workout. Really. What you eat can increase your energy and prepares your body to perform at its maximum during any type of exercise. And when you eat is almost as important as what foods you choose. The optimal time to eat a meal is one to two hours before you start your workout — this will allow your body to store the energy you'll need to push your muscles to their limits.


While fruit is important in your diet and should be eaten every day, it's a smart food to eat particularly before working out. That's because fruit serves two very important tasks in the body. First, it dilates the blood vessels so they can carry oxygen to the cells and removes waste products. Second, fruit provides the body with a source of simple sugars that will fuel the body immediately.

Good fruits to eat pre-workout: Bananas and oranges are extremely well suited for this task. Both contain sugars that will go to work rapidly in the body to produce energy. Bananas possess both simple and complex carbohydrates that provide immediate energy, digest slower and continue to provide energy throughout your workout.

Complex Carbohydrates

The best sources of long-term energy for your workout are foods that contain complex carbohydrates. In the body, complex carbohydrates metabolize at a much slower rate than simple carbohydrates like fruit juices, sodas and sweets. Make sure your pre-workout meal contains a large amount of these fuel sources.

As they digest, your body will store glycogen in your muscles and fat tissue around your body. Glycogen is the main sustained source of energy during a workout for the body to metabolize. A combination of complex carbohydrates and protein will help build your body’s store of glycogen. Once your workout begins, the energy used will come from the simple carbohydrates you have eaten that metabolize quickly. This gives you the quick burst of energy that is typical at the beginning of a workout. Upon exhaustion of this source of energy, the body begins to obtain its energy by metabolizing the stored glycogen in the body. The glycogen metabolizes slower giving you sustained energy throughout your workout.

The final source of energy the body will use is protein, like your muscles. This is the state you don’t want your body to reach because it will begin to draw its energy from the very muscles you are striving to build.

Good complex carbohydrates to eat pre-workout: Complex carbohydrates include foods like whole grain breads, pasta, sweet potatoes and beans. Each of these types of foods provide your body with the fuel it needs to perform at your peak during the workout.


Protein is a mandatory component of your pre-workout meal. It helps maintain the proper nitrogen balance within the muscles and provides the essential building blocks for the repair and growth of muscle tissue. Consume protein throughout the day to keep your body supplied with not only fuel for energy but also with the nutrients required to repair and maintain our bodies. Eating enough protein also helps you avoid hunger cravings and prevents the body from using your muscle to provide energy for the body.

Good proteins to eat pre-workout: The best sources of protein include fish, chicken and turkey, but all meats provide some amounts of protein. The most concentrated source of protein available is chicken and turkey. Not only the meat but also the eggs of these fowl provide more grams of protein per ounce than any other source of protein available. Other excellent sources of protein include dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, legumes and nuts.


Changing your eating habits to provide sustained food intake is just as important as what you are eating. Your body continually requires energy to make it through the day. This energy comes from the foods that you eat. With the goal of consistently working out with abundant energy in mind, you must prepare for that all through the day. You body builds the glycogen on a constant basis and if there is little or no glycogen available to meet your body’s energy needs it will begin to break down muscle to obtain the necessary energy. This process is the main reason you need to provide your body with good foods every two to three hours of the waking day.

Snacking is a very good habit to develop. This does not mean consuming sweets and unhealthy foods throughout the day, but it does mean to eat healthy foods like nuts, cheese, fruit or snacks that consist of complex carbohydrates throughout the day. Supplementing your diet between meals with snacks will keep your body running at an optimum and help it to prepare for your next appointment to work out.

Don't forget that fueling up after your workout is just as important as before. Check out these 11 easy ideas for post-workout foods.

What Do YOU Think?

What do you like to eat pre-workout? Does what you eat before your workout affect your performance at the gym?

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