These are 32 of the best foods to eat before a workout, whatever your gym goals

Power yourself through exercise with the best foods to eat before a workout

L-R: nut butter in a jar; cottage cheese on crackers; blueberries
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When thinking about the best foods to eat before a workout, it's important to consider both how they enhance performance but also help recovery. Because, whether you're doing running, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or lifting weights, nourishing your body with the fuel it really needs - as you put it through its paces - will ultimately aid your gym goals.

The best pre-exercise foods tend to give you the energy to power right through from warm-up to cool-down. However, it's also important to think about the kind of exercise you've got in the schedule and tweak your macronutrient intake accordingly. Those doing endurance training - like a 10k - will benefit from slow-release, higher-fibre carbohydrates. Meanwhile, others focusing on resistance movement, as part of strength training, will get a boost from topping up on protein.

Whatever you decide to load up on before lacing up your best running shoes, just be sure to eat with plenty of time for digestion. While many lighter snacks can be consumed as you head to training, heavier meals need a bit more time to go down so you can feel your best as you move. Hungry to get going? These foods will get you smashing those PBs...  

32 of the best foods to eat before a workout 

1. Banana

Bunch of bananas

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Bananas are a go-to snack for many gymgoers - and for good reason. The fruit is not only portable, and versatile enough to be eaten either alone or chopped up as a topping, but it's also a plentiful source of carbohydrates that will help get you through your sweat session. One study found consuming the nutrient 15 minutes before running helped boost endurance by just under 13 per cent. 

2. Porridge

Bowl of porridge

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Up well before you plan to train? While porridge might seem like a rather heavy breakfast, it's ideal pre-workout sustenance if you factor in ample time for digestion. Not only will its warmth on chilly mornings help wake you up, but oats are a great source of carbohydrates which research has found can be essential for more intense sweat sessions.

3. Coffee

Mug of coffee

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A coffee can do wonders for helping you achieve your fitness goals. Indeed, research has shown that its main active ingredient - caffeine - can help boost performance by reducing feelings of fatigue and increasing strength. One study revealed that it's best consumed 15 to 60 minutes before warm-up. 

4. Nut butter

Pot of nut butter

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An easy way to supercharge your toast for exercise? Spread on nut butter. Whether a peanut, almond or hazelnut-based spread, this will add a dollop of protein to your carb hit, stabilising the energy release. What's more, there is evidence that the amino acids the topping contains can aid muscle recovery - especially if you're doing a strength training workout at home.

5. Granola bar

Granola bars

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Granola bars are a great on-the-go snack if you tend to be in a rush on the way to your workout session. They contain ingredients like oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and honey, making them a dense source of energy-boosting carbohydrates. There is evidence that consumption of the macronutrient before a workout can particularly help power strength training sessions. 

6. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese on crackers

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It might not seem like your usual pre-workout food of choice, but cottage cheese can serve up some efficient nutritional fuel. The dairy-based topping provides an ideal balance of protein and carbs - when consumed on toast or crackers - which research has found can aid exercise performance.

7. Apple

Apple slices

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Apples are an easy item to throw into your gym bag and consume on the go. The fruit is packed with fibre and carbohydrates for slow-release energy, and there's also evidence that the polyphenols it contains can drive further crunchy exercise benefits - including increased strength and endurance, as well as decreased body fat.

8. Smoothies

Fruit smoothies

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If you want to consume something lighter before your sweat session, then sipping on a smoothie is a great option. There is, naturally, the option to blend up whichever foods you desire - from fruit and vegetables to nuts and yoghurt - although you'd be wise to throw in some ginger. A study found it could accelerate muscle recovery after weight training.

9. Toast

Toast with toppings

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Got less than one hour to go before training? Toast makes an ideal option, since it provides fast-digesting carbohydrates necessary for power but without the sluggishness. A study found that overweight, perimenopausal women had a 22 per cent boost in performance when they consumed a high-carb, low-protein snack around 30 minutes before a HIIT session. 

10. Grapes

Bunch of grapes

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Grapes are a pre-workout hero, according to science. There is evidence that polyphenols the fruit contains have a positive impact on oxidative stress, meaning the compounds could be protective against exercise-induced muscle damage. The slow-release energy also means you won't go wrong with a handful in advance of your warm-up.

11. Greek yoghurt

Bowl of Greek yoghurt

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If you're planning to lift weights in the gym, then Greek yoghurt may provide ideal pre-workout sustenance. Research found improvements in strength, muscle thickness and body composition after participants consumed a plain, fat-free version of the fridge staple for 12 weeks. Top as you wish with fruits, nuts and seeds.

12. Blueberries

Bowl of blueberries

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Blueberries are one of the best foods to have first thing in the morning, but they also pack a serious punch when it comes to supercharging your fitness routine. A study found that the fruit, when blended up into a smoothie, led to reduced muscle soreness and faster strength recovery. It is thought to be down to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

13. Nuts

Bowl of nuts

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After a workout-boosting topping for your yoghurt or porridge? A study showed that those munching on precisely 57g of almonds per day - the equivalent of a generous handful - before an intense 90-minute resistance-training session experienced less fatigue and decreased muscle damage. 

14. Granola

Granola with Greek yoghurt and fruit

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Granola makes a great pre-workout breakfast component if you're up in plenty of time before training. The popular yoghurt or acai bowl topping is usually made from a crunchy mix of oats, nuts and honey - and research has found the latter ingredient to be a particularly effective energy source for the human body.

15. Omelette


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For a high-protein pre-workout meal, you can't go wrong with an omelette. The dish is made from eggs and butter as its base, with cheese, ham and vegetables often used as a filling. A study found that protein, which is important to muscle growth, was beneficial whether consumed before or after a workout. 

16. Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs

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Eggs are a rich source of protein, and there is evidence that topping up on the macronutrient before 30 minutes of moderate exercise was enough to help aid fat burn in women. What's more, when boiled, they are an easy nutritious snack to transport in a gym bag.

17. Avocado

Avocado slices on toast

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There's a good reason why avocado on toast is considered a nourishing start to the day - particularly before a weekend workout. Research has shown that the delicious fruit is beneficial when consumed prior to treadmill running. However, make sure to eat with plenty of time before physical activity - it contains large amounts of 'healthy' fats, which can take a little while to digest.

18. Pasta


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If you're training in the late afternoon or evening, then lunching on pasta is a smart choice. There is evidence that consuming a meal rich in carbohydrates can help build up glycogen stores in the body, which can then be utilised for fuel during regular exercise - such as running 30 minutes a day.

19. Quinoa

Quinoa dish

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Quinoa is an example of an ideal whole grain - for slow-release energy - to eat prior to training. Research has shown that consuming low glycemic index (GI) foods, like the easily digestible carb, before prolonged strenuous exercise can boost results. Add it to your go-to summertime salad.

20. Salmon

Smoked salmon

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It may be a well-known component of the nourishing Mediterranean diet, but salmon can also be great pre-training fuel too. A study showed that 'good' fats - which the oily fish is known to be a rich source of - can be helpful when consumed before low-intensity workouts.

21. Cereal

Cereal with milk

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A simple bowl of cereal with milk can help elevate your running goals. A study found that carbohydrates - which the breakfast staple contains lots of - consumed within three to four hours prior to exercise, was linked with an increase in performance. Just make sure you pick a box that's not too high in sugar.

22. Protein shake

Protein powder

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Fuelling up before a strength training session? Sipping on one of the best protein powders is a smart option - not least because you can consume it on the go. There is evidence that, whether drunk before or after lifting weights, it can help aid you in building muscle.

23. Rice

Bowl of rice

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If you're unsure what to have for lunch before a workout later in the day, then make it a rice-based dish. Research has found it to be an effective pre-exercise food source, particularly ahead of endurance training - since it helps boost important glycogen stores.

24. Oranges

Basket of oranges

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In a rush to head to the gym? Pack an orange for your journey, particularly if you're after healthy, sustainable ways to lose weight. A study found that the fruit - which is a good source of fibre to keep you full - contains a flavonoid that can help reverse symptoms of obesity.

25. Pancakes

Stack of pancakes

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For pre-workout sustenance with a difference, munch on pancakes - but make sure they are made from whole wheat flour. This bolsters the fibre content, which research has found can enhance athletic performance and reduce physical stress on the body. Don't forget to consume them well in advance of training to allow for full digestion.

26. Oatcakes

Oatcake with hummus

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Oatcakes are an unsung hero when it comes to nutritious snacking - and they really come into their own before workouts too. Their primary ingredient is oatmeal, which a study showed was protective for the body when consumed by women before a HIIT session. Pair them up with other great pre-workout foods, like salmon or avocado.

27. Chicken

Chicken with vegetables

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When we exercise, our requirements for certain B vitamins increase, according to research. This is particularly the case for thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B6 - due to their involvement in the body's energy production. Chicken is a rich source of vitamin B6, making it an ideal ingredient for a meal consumed pre-training.

28. Chocolate milk

Chocolate milk

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It may seem like a surprising suggestion for pre-exercise sustenance, but sipping on chocolate milk before and during a workout can help with recovery afterwards. Indeed, a study found it was particularly effective, even when compared to other sports drinks on the market because it also contained some protein as opposed to carbs alone.

29. Dried fruit

Bowl of apricots

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If you're after a quick pre-workout energy boost, then dried fruit - such as dried apricots or raisins - is a great option. Research has found that those who eat more of the sweet snack tend to be a healthier weight and consume more nutrients.

30. Sweet potato

Sweet potato

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Sweet potato is a great food to eat before exercise when you want to warm up on a chilly day. This is because it is a rich source of slow-release complex carbohydrates, which research has found to be particularly beneficial when fuelling up for endurance training.

31. Beans

Beans with sausages

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Legumes, such as beans, are a great plant-based option that serves up plenty of protein. There is evidence that consuming enough of the macronutrient within a workout routine is important for muscle gains, particularly from resistance exercise. 

32. Broccoli

Bowl of broccoli

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Pre-workout foods should be as much about aiding recovery as boosting performance. A study found that glucosinolate-rich broccoli sprouts protected against oxidative stress caused by HIIT. Because they're higher in fibre, make sure to leave plenty of time between your meal and exercising.

Lauren Clark

Lauren is a freelance writer and editor with more than six years of digital and magazine experience. In addition to she has penned news and features for titles including Women's Health, The Telegraph, Stylist, Dazed, Grazia, The Sun's Fabulous, Yahoo Style UK and Get The Gloss. 

While Lauren specializes in covering wellness topics—ranging from nutrition and fitness, to health conditions and mental wellbeing—she has written across a diverse range of lifestyle topics, including beauty and travel. Career highlights so far include: luxury spa-hopping in Spain, interviewing Heidi Klum and joining an £18k-a-year London gym.