Sven Wombwell
Article by: Sven Wombwell
Estimated 7 minutes read

Proper nutrition before a workout is essential for optimal performance and results. Whether you're hitting the gym for strength training, going for a run, or engaging in other physical activities, the right pre-workout food can significantly improve your energy levels, endurance, and overall effectiveness.

Understanding the best foods and carbohydrates to consume beforehand is vital for men looking to maximize their workouts. In this guide, we'll explore the science behind pre-workout nutrition and provide practical tips on what to eat to fuel your body for success.

Man preparing milk shake in kitchen

The Importance Of Pre-Workout Nutrition

During exercise, your body relies on glycogen stores for energy, which are primarily fueled by carbohydrates. Consuming the right balance of carbohydrates (along with other nutrients) before a workout replenishes your glycogen stores and gives you the energy to perform at your best.

Pre-workout nutrition can help prevent fatigue, improve endurance, and enhance muscle recovery. Supplying your body with the necessary pre-workout nutrients can delay fatigue, sustain energy throughout your workout, and facilitate muscle repair and growth post-exercise.

The key components of pre-workout nutrition include:

  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy during exercise. Consuming carbs before a workout replenishes glycogen stores in the muscles and liver to ensure a steady energy supply throughout your training session.
  • Protein: Protein is crucial for muscle repair and growth. Including protein in your pre-workout meal helps prevent muscle breakdown during exercise and supports muscle growth afterward.
  • Hydration: Proper hydration is essential for optimal exercise performance. Dehydration can cause fatigue, cramps, and decreased endurance. Drink plenty of water before your workout to stay hydrated.

Here's 8 of the Best Pre-Workout Foods

No matter your exercise routine, here are eight solid pre-workout snacks and meals.

  1. Oatmeal with Milk and Nuts: Oatmeal is rich in complex carbohydrates, which digest slowly to provide steady energy. Adding milk boosts protein, and nuts add healthy fats and extra crunch.
  2. Bananas: Bananas are convenient and nutrient-dense pre-workout fuel. They're packed with carbohydrates for a quick energy boost and potassium, which helps prevent muscle cramps and promotes proper muscle function.
  3. Whole Grain Toast with Nut Butter: Whole grain toast provides a healthy source of carbohydrates, while nut butter adds protein and healthy fats. This combo offers a balance of nutrients to fuel your workout and keep you full.
  4. Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are loaded with carbohydrates and vitamins for sustained energy. They also contain antioxidants that help combat exercise-induced oxidative stress.
  5. Greek Yogurt With Fruit And Honey: Greek yogurt is high in protein and low in sugar, providing excellent pre-workout nutrition. Add fresh fruit, such as berries or bananas, for additional carbs and natural sweetness.
  6. Brown Rice With Grilled Chicken: For a savory option, brown rice with grilled chicken is a balanced pre-workout meal. Brown rice provides complex carbohydrates, while grilled chicken is loaded with lean protein.
  7. Quinoa Salad With Vegetables: Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Pair it with vegetables like spinach, bell peppers, and cucumbers for a nutrient-packed pre-workout meal.
  8. Fruit Smoothie With Protein Powder: A fruit smoothie made with yogurt or milk and a scoop of protein powder is a convenient and nutritious pre-workout option. Blend with your favorite fruits, such as berries, bananas, or mangoes, for a refreshing and energizing drink.
Best sources of carbs

Best Carbohydrates For Pre-Workout Energy

In addition to choosing the right foods, it's important to understand the types of carbohydrates that are helpful to consume before a workout. 

Complex carbohydrates, which are rich in fiber and take longer to digest, provide a steady source of energy and help sustain endurance during exercise. Some examples of complex carbohydrates include:

  • Whole Grains: Foods like brown rice, quinoa, whole grain bread, and oatmeal are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates.
  • Starchy Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, potatoes, and squash are high in complex carbohydrates and provide essential nutrients for optimal performance.
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are not only rich in complex carbohydrates but also provide a good source of protein and fiber.
  • Fruits: While fruits contain natural sugars, they also contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that make them a valuable source of pre-workout fuel. Opt for whole fruits rather than fruit juices to benefit from their fiber content.
  • Dairy: Milk and yogurt contain lactose, a natural sugar, protein, and other nutrients that can help fuel your workout.

Timing and Portion Control To Maximize Pre-Workout Energy

When it comes to pre-workout nutrition, timing is crucial. Aim to consume a balanced meal containing carbohydrates, protein, and a small amount of healthy fats approximately 1-3 hours before your workout. This allows enough time for digestion and ensures that the nutrients are available when you need them most.

As for portion control, it's important to listen to your body and adjust your serving sizes based on your individual needs and the intensity of your workout. Perhaps most importantly, avoid overeating, as this can lead to discomfort during exercise, but also ensure that you're adequately fueled to perform at your best.

Pre-Workout Hydration Boosts Performance

In addition to consuming the right foods and carbohydrates, proper hydration is critical for optimal workout performance. 

Dehydration can impair exercise performance and increase the risk of fatigue and injury. Be sure to drink water throughout the day leading up to your workout, and consider consuming a small amount of water or a sports drink containing electrolytes before and during exercise—especially if you're engaging in prolonged or intense activity.

Additional Tips for Fueling Up Before You Workout

Is it better to eat protein or carbs before a workout? 

Whether it's better to eat protein or carbs before a workout depends on your fitness goals and the type of exercise you will be doing. Carbohydrates provide energy during exercise, while protein supports muscle repair and growth. For optimal performance, try to consume a balanced combination of both protein and carbs before your workout. 

Why are pre-workout meals important? 

Pre-workout meals are important for several reasons: they provide the necessary energy to fuel your workouts, enhance endurance and strength, and support muscle recovery. Proper pre-workout nutrition can also help prevent fatigue, improve focus and concentration, and reduce the risk of muscle damage during exercise. 

What should I eat before a workout to build muscle?

Consuming a combination of protein and carbohydrates before a workout can help build muscle. Opt for a balanced meal or snack with lean protein sources like chicken, fish, or tofu, plus complex carbs like whole grains or quinoa. This combination provides the nutrients needed to fuel your muscles for optimal growth and repair. 

When should you eat a pre-workout meal? 

The timing of your pre-workout meal is crucial for maximizing performance and minimizing digestive discomfort. Aim to eat a balanced meal containing protein and carbs 2-3 hours before your workout to allow for proper digestion. If you're short on time, choose a smaller snack that contains carbs and protein 30-60 minutes before exercising to provide quick energy without feeling too full.

Final Thoughts On Pre-Workout Food

Fueling your body with the right foods and carbohydrates before a workout is so important for maximizing performance, improving endurance, and enhancing muscle recovery.

By incorporating nutrient-dense foods rich in complex carbohydrates into your pre-workout meals and snacks, you can ensure that your body has the energy it needs to excel during exercise. Remember to focus on timing, portion control, and hydration to optimize your pre-workout nutrition strategy and take your workouts to the next level.

While you're on the path to self-improvement, don't forget about the rest of your physical, sexual, and emotional health. 

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