pre workout meal ideas

What Should You Eat Before Exercise? [+8 Meal Ideas]

Pre exercise nutrition can help you maximize performance and optimize muscle recovery. In this post, we get deep into what should the perfect pre workout nutrition be, and some pre workout meal ideas to implement in your life!

Are you ready? Let’s give it a try!

Why is Pre Exercise Nutrition Important?

Nutrition provides the right nutrients for your body to function properly.

Each macronutrient plays a role in your metabolism, and the right amounts and timing can help you optimize metabolic functions.

Pre workout nutrition plays an specially important role on your exercise performance. The right pre workout nutrition doesn’t only improve your training performance, but it also minimizes muscle damage (1)

A proper pre exercise nutrition supplies your body with everything you need to optimize performance.


Meal Timing

The most important aspect of the pre workout nutrition is the meal timing.

Depending on how much time you leave before the workout session, your pre workout meal will consist of a specific amount of macronutrients.


The goal is to leave sufficient time to fully digest food before doing exercise. The closer it gets to the exercise session, the easier to digest the pre workout meal should be.

Food generally stays in your stomach for 40-120min. This is where there’s risk of throwing up, if you undergo very intense exercise.

To be safe, try to do a complete meal 2h before the workout session. If not possible, take something light to digest 45min to 1h before exercise.

What Should You Include in You Pre Workout Meal?

Each macronutrient is important for your metabolic function. They play different roles when it comes to pre workout nutrition.


Carbohydrates are the main fuel for intense exercise. Stored in the form of glycogen, carbohydrates can help you produce short term energy.

A single training session reduce your glycogen stores as much as 24-40% (2). The longer and more intense exercise, the higher reduction of glycogen.

glycogen meme

Athletes need of very high amounts of carbohydrates. Guidelines propose around 6 g/kg carbohydrates for males and slightly less for females (3). Bodybuilders typically maintain 4-7 g/kg carbohydrates (3)

Acute intake of carbohydrates prior to exercise can help you restore the glycogen stores and maximize the amount of available blood glucose to produce energy.

A high carbohydrate availability is linked to higher muscle adaptations and positive regulation of muscle growth (4)


Protein is an important macronutrient for muscle metabolism. In fact, muscle is made of contractile proteins.

An increase in muscle protein synthesis will result in an increase on muscle mass, and higher adaptations to exercise (5).

The right protein intake can improve your exercise performance, increase muscle protein synthesis, improve muscle recovery, and increase your muscle strength (6)


The minimum protein dose to trigger muscle response is 20-40g. It is recommended to include this amounts on at least your main meals, including your pre workout meal.

Including protein in your pre workout meal can maximize muscle protein synthesis and help your body maintain, repair, and build muscle over time.


Fat loses importance in pre workout nutrition. Its main metabolic function is to provide long lasting energy.

For intense exercise, carbohydrates are the main source of energy. As the duration of the exercise extends, there’s a shift in your energy metabolism, and fat takes over to be your main energy fuel.

Because of the nature and calorie density, fats are very slow to digest (7). Although this can come in handy at other situations, pre workout nutrition is not one of them.

The amount of fat in your pre workout meal should be restricted, as to achieve a easy-to-digest and full of energy pre workout meal.

noted meme

The Perfect Pre Workout Meal

The perfect pre workout meal should mainly consist on high quality protein and easy-to-digest carbohydrates. This combination will maximize your training performance and favour muscle growth.

Depending of the exercise duration and intensity, the amount of carbohydrates slightly varies. In regards to protein, 10-30g is the recommended dose to maximize muscle protein synthesis.

pre workout meal cheatsheet

If your pre workout meal is at least 60-90min before training, you could include some healthy sources of fat to have a complete and balanced meal.

Avoid high amounts of fiber and heavy meals. It lowers your digestions and you wouldn’t feel comfortable training with half digestion still to finish.

Pre Workout Meal Ideas

The perfect pre workout meal consists on protein and carbohydrates. What are some pre workout meal you could include in your diet?

Pre Workout Meal Ideas

  • High protein oats porridge
  • Tuna beans salad
  • Healthy fried rice
  • Scrambled eggs and toasts
  • Protein smoothie
  • Cereal and milk
  • Yogurt with granola and berries
  • Chicken sandwich

High-Protein Oats Porridge


  • 100g oats
  • 30g whey protein
  • 1 banana
  • 50g blueberries


  1. Make oats porridge as told in the package
  2. Let it cool, mix it with whey protein
  3. Add the toppings as you like, and enjoy!
high protein oats porridge

569 kcal // 35g P / 81g C / 9g F

Tuna and Beans Salad


  • 1 cup red onion
  • 2 cans tuna in olive oil
  • 2 cans white kidney beans
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsly
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the chopped onions
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a big bowl
  3. Leave it in the fridge and let it chill before serving
tuna bean salad

379 kcal // 35g P / 48g C / 8g F

Fried Rice


  • 100g white rice
  • 150g chicken
  • 150g green beans


  1. Boil rice as told in the package
  2. Stir-fry the green beans,  add the chicken and mix until cooked
  3. Add the rice, pour a splash of soya sauce, and enjoy!
tuna fried rice

569 kcal // 35g P / 81g C / 9g F

Scrambled Eggs and Toasts


  • 4 brown toasts
  • 3 eggs
  • 100ml egg whites
  • Siracha (or other hot sauce)
  • Fresh cilantro


  1. Crack the eggs and pour them on a pan at low heat.
  2. Continusly stir until creamy consistency. Turn off the heat and let it cook for another 1-2'
  3. Toast the bread. Build the toasts... and enjoy!

659 kcal // 42g P / 70g C / 21g F

Protein Smoothie


  • 30g vanilla whey protein
  • 100g blueberries
  • 80g oats
  • handful spinach
  • 250ml milk


  1. Pour all ingredients on a blender
  2. Blend until homogeneous mixture
protein smoothie

625 kcal // 43g P / 72g C / 16g F

Cereal Bowl


  • 30g vanilla whey protein
  • 250ml milk
  • 50g cornflakes
  • Handful blueberries


  1. Mix gently the whey protein with the milk
  2. Pour the liquid in a bowl and mix with chopped strawberries and cereals
cereal bowl

494 kcal // 35g P / 65g C / 10g F

Chicken Sandwich


  • 150g sliced chicken
  • 150g white bread
  • 1 egg
  • Sliced tomato
  • Green sprouts
  • French's mustard


  1. Cook the chicken and slice it
  2. Slice the bread and put it in the toaster
  3. Take a hard-boiled egg, tomato, and slice them
  4. Build the sandwich: bread, mustard, tomato, chicken, egg, green sprouts, and top with the other side of the bread!

686 kcal // 53g P / 76g C / 17g F

Protein Yogurt Parfait


  • 250g skyr
  • 1scoop whey protein
  • 60g granola
  • 100g berries


  1. Mix skyr with whey protein. If possible, leave it in the freezer for 20' for a ice cream-like texture
  2. Pour the granola and the berries on top
descarga (1)

548 kcal // 53g P / 74g C / 3g F


Pre exercise nutrition can help you maximize performance and optimize muscle recovery. The right pre workout meal provides all the nutrients you need to perform at your best.

The perfect pre workout meal consists on high quality protein and easy to digest carbohydrates. The amount of carbohydrates will depend on the duration and intensity of the exercise.

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