I can’t believe how many times over the past 2 decades I’ve been asked this question. I finally decided… it’s time to just answer the damn question!

Look, there’s going to be a lot of people out there with a special powder, shake, or special bar that will tell you they have the answer to what to eat before a workout.

First: What time are you talking about?

If you’re working out in the morning…. you’ve likely been fasting since the night before, so naturally your blood sugar is down. If you go out on an empty stomach it can cause BS to decrease even further, creating a situation where you’ll feel dizzy and nauseous.

This is the worst. It usually happens to folks who are newer to exercise and also are usually dealing unstable BS to start with, so by not eating you’re creating a big mess, you’ll feel like crap, and whatever workout you were trying to do goes out the door because you feel like you want to go hug the porcelain god. ugh.

But then there’s the other extreme where a new exerciser gets nervous about NOT eating, so they eat a Denny’s style breakfast before heading out for a workout session, and can’t figure out why they can’t stop burping and feeling like they’re gonna puke.

So now we know nothing is probably not good, and too much won’t work either, so the next question is:

THEN WHAT SHOULD I EAT?

And this is where it gets interesting. This is where all the expert advice out there (in my humble opinion) is totally bogus. This is a question that is best answered by going within.

Yes, that’s right…. discover for yourself the best food to eat! It’s like an experiment.

Let me give you an example.

Sally Sue figured out before her early morning workout if she ate a banana, it gave her just enough energy and blood sugar support and she had great energy for her workout.

If I eat a banana first thing in the morning before a workout, I will DEFINITELY puke it up. No questions asked.

It works for Sally Sue, it doesn’t work for me.

My mom works out with a personal trainer 3X a week at the God-awful hour of 5:30am. She’s been doing this for a decade. She’s 60. (I hear you… she amazes me, too!) She used to eat a 1/2 piece of Ezekiel cinnamon raisin sprouted toast with maybe a 1/2 Tablespoon of almond butter on it.

It worked for her.

On the mornings when I would visit and she somehow convinced me to wake up with her at that god-awful hour, I ate the same thing, and it worked for me.

Now days I think she does a small protein shake with almond milk.

The point I really want to convey here is what works for you might not work for someone else. You get the privilege of experimenting to figure out what will work best. Some folks have a hard time with food in their stomach, so they go for coconut water, a small protein shake, or a green juice. Some people prefer fruit, while others prefer a handful of almonds.

Your job is this:

Take into account what time you’re working out. If you had a nice lunch around 1pm and now around 4ish, you might Eat or drink something. Even if it’s just a little something (especially for early morning workouts or late afternoon workouts when you haven’t eaten anything since lunch). You’ll feel more energetic during the workout and your body will benefit from the extra boost of energy after fasting all night.

Don’t eat too much. If you over do it, you’ll feel like crap. I see new exercisers eat huge meals throughout the day, then add huge snacks in so they have energy before a workout, then make sure to eat after a workout…and wonder why they end up gaining weight even though they’re exercising.

What you eat is less important. Find something that makes you feel good and doesn’t cause an upset tummy.

Here are a few ideas, you can test out.

  • banana
  • any piece of fruit
  • Ezekiel toast with almond butter
  • handful of almonds
  • handful of nuts and dried fruit (trail mix)
  • yogurt
  • smoothie
  • apple with almond butter
  • hard boiled egg with hummus
  • coconut water

What have you tried in the past? What works best for you? Share below!

3 Comments

  • Angela

    I’m in the habit of having 1/2 cup of oatmeal before a workout. Sometimes I’ll throw in a 1/4 cup of organic blueberries and/or 1 tsp chia seeds. Works great for me. Within an hour after my workout, I try to make sure I have some protein. Whether it;s a shake or some lean meat.

  • Samantha

    FINALLY someone who gets it! Thank you for answering this question holistically. I am so tired of quick fix solutions and “you have to do it this way” responses. Nutrition is such an individual experiment, but in our fast paced culture, most of us want “the answer”…and NOW (myself included sometimes). Your explanation and suggestions are spot on.

    So what works for me? Hydrating before working out. I usually perform and feel best just drinking water or coconut water prior and then consuming a smoothie or Square Bar within 30 minutes of working out.

  • Susan

    With 6am BodyPump, a bit less than 1/2 cup of oatmeal with palm of organic blueberries & cinnamon. Energy plus the mind works better. 1/2 to whole banana on way to club if behind schedule. And water, water, water thru workout & after. Within 30 minutes AFTER workout, protein. If at home, a multi-faceted, vitamin-packed greens/fruit/whey smoothie. If stick around for yoga/sauna, vanilla low-sugar Muscle Milk or 1/2 protein bar (low sugar/low sodium). I like the idea of Ezekial/almond butter–a bit easier to down at 5am. I’ll try other suggestions.

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