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Your pre-workout meal should give your energy levels a quick boost, not fill you up. That means you need to target low-volume foods that are high in calories, carbohydrates, sodium, or all three. These ingredients will give your body the fuel it needs to complete a rigorous workout without weighing you down.
1. High-Carb Fruits
Any fruit would make a fantastic addition to your pre-workout meal, but the best options are bananas, apples and dates. That’s right: dates are incredibly nutritious and arguably the best fruit nobody talks about. Here are the average nutritional facts per one serving of each fruit:
- Banana: 105 calories, 27g carbohydrates, 1mg sodium
- Apple: 95 calories, 25g carbohydrates, 2mg sodium
- Dates: 133 calories, 36g carbohydrates, 3mg sodium
These numbers will obviously vary based on portion sizes, but you can see that one serving of each fruit provides significant nutritional value in two of the three categories we’re looking for. They’re also rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, all key components of a well-balanced diet.
Oatmeal is a popular food choice among fitness fanatics because it’s easy to prepare and has an impressive nutritional profile. Here’s the average value you can expect from a serving of oatmeal:
- 95 calories
- 27g carbohydrates
- 115mg sodium
- 5g protein
Not only does oatmeal check the three pre-workout boxes, but it also has a surprising amount of protein. Well-known flavors like Apple Cinnamon and Maple Brown Sugar make oatmeal taste more like a dessert than a healthy dish, so it’s a no-brainer to add to your pre-workout meal.
3. Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter looks a little different from the other foods on this list, both in appearance and nutritional value, but that doesn’t take away from its effectiveness as a pre-workout food. Check out these numbers:
- 188 calories per serving
- 6g carbohydrates
- 5mg sodium
- 16g fat
- 8g protein
While peanut butter possesses only one of the three pillars we’re looking for, it’s so calorie-dense and full of energy that it demands our attention. You ideally want to get your energy from carbohydrates, fat works just as well if you’re pressed for time or money. Peanut butter is cheap, versatile and can be consumed in a matter of seconds. Slap it on a sandwich or eat it straight from the jar to give your body a quick boost!
4. White Rice
White rice is one of the cleanest carbohydrate sources available and a staple of many people’s diets, whether they’re trying to lose fat or gain muscle. By “clean,” we mean it provides a lot of carbs but is comparably low in calories and fat. Here are the essential nutritional facts:
- 206 calories
- 45g carbohydrates
- 2mg sodium
- 4g protein
- .4g fat
Rice is also less filling than other common carb sources like bread and potatoes, so you don’t have to worry about it bloating your stomach. Enjoy a cup of rice and reap the benefits during your workout!
5. Greek Yogurt
This choice has lower carbs compared to the rest of the options, but it more than makes up for that deficiency with other benefits. Here’s what makes greek yogurt a good pre-workout food:
- 100 calories
- 6g carbs (all from sugar)
- 61mg sodium
- 17g protein
A hearty serving of protein, sodium and natural sugars make greek yogurt a unique, but effective energy source. If you want to add more carbohydrates or level out its sour taste, sprinkle some berries on top to make it a more well-rounded meal.
6. Meal Replacement Bar
Convenience is the main calling card of meal replacement bars. While they provide sufficient nutrients if you don’t have time to prepare food, you shouldn’t rely on them on a regular basis. Real food is always better than supplements.
The best meal replacement bars have 300-350 calories, 15-20 grams of protein and a healthy dose of carbs, fat and fiber. They also have artificial sugars that you should generally avoid, but if you eat the bar before your workout, you’ll burn them off quickly.
7. Your Cheat Meal
If you’re on a strict diet, the best time to eat your cheat meal is before an intense workout. You can burn off most of the excess calories and minimize the setback the cheat meal will have on your long-term goals. It doesn’t matter what comfort food you prefer – ice cream, pizza, or a greasy cheeseburger – just make sure you consume it at least an hour before your workout so it can settle in your stomach.
Fuel Your Workouts the Right Way
The old adage “you get out what you put in” holds true for pre-workout meals. The seven above pre-workout meals will provide your body with the nutrients and energy it needs, allowing you to get the most out of your workout. Add them to your meal plan and keep making progress!
Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.