What Foods Give You Energy to Workout

Nov 03, 2021

If you want to burn as many calories as possible during your workout, you should pay more attention to what you eat before hitting the gym. While exercising on an empty stomach may seem like a good idea to achieve this, it won’t give you the results you want.

What you want is hydrating with the right fluids and fueling up with the right foods to maximize your performance and burn those excess pounds.

So, we’re going to help you choose the right foods to eat at the right time so you can get enough energy to make the most of your time at the gym.

Things to Know When Choosing Foods for Energy

All foods provide energy that we receive in the form of calories. But, they have a different effect on our energy levels. Basically, there are three macronutrients – carbs, fats, and proteins. Here’s how each affects our body and energy levels.

Carbs – How to Choose the Right Type

While carbs can give us an instant energy boost, fats and proteins are slower energy sources but also the more beneficial ones to our bodies.

When it comes to carbs, they can be simple or complex. Simple carbs are fast-digesting carbs so our body uses them for energy easily and more quickly. This means that they cause a blood sugar spike and therefore high energy levels right after we eat them.

But, all this leads to a crash that leaves us feeling sluggish. And, that’s not what we want during a workout. So, make sure you avoid simple carbs like white bread, fruit juice, breakfast cereals, candy, and refined or processed grains with added sugars.

Complex carbs, on the other hand, are loaded with fiber and are slower to digest, thus increasing our blood sugar levels gradually. In other words, they ensure we get a steady supply of energy throughout the workout and after that. Foods loaded with complex carbs include unrefined whole grains, legumes, oats, and starches.

Fats – Choose Them Wisely


Fats from food sources are crucial to fueling your workout. They are the main fuel source for longer, slower, low-to-moderate intensity and endurance exercises such as walking or cycling. However, eating high-fat foods right before or during intense exercise is not recommended. They digest slowly, so it’s best to eat them at least a few hours before a workout.

You should aim for a moderate amount of fat to improve your endurance and work out longer without getting tired quickly. And don’t worry about getting fat from consuming fat. You will only gain weight if you eat more calories than you can burn.

One more thing, not all fats are good fats. Avoid trans fats like margarine, packaged desserts, and fried foods, and saturated fats like bacon, sausages, and cured meat. What you want is unsaturated fats from foods such as nuts, seeds, avocado, salmon, and olive oil.

Protein – Not What You Think


Consuming protein before a workout is said to improve athletic performance. Bit, while it can help increase muscle growth and lean body mass, as well as improve muscle recovery and reduce appetite by promoting the feeling of fullness, it won’t do a lot for your energy levels.

It’s true that it takes longer to digest and is, therefore, a longer-lasting energy source than carbs, but this macronutrient is mostly used for building and maintaining the growth and function of muscle tissues.

If you eat more protein than you need, your body will store it as fat, and you don’t want that when trying to build a better body. However, if you’re not getting enough calories from fats and carbs, you can use protein for energy.

Overall, protein should be included in your pre-workout diet, but mostly for muscle growth and recovery and not for higher energy. Good sources include chicken, eggs, quinoa, cottage cheese, soy protein, etc.

Timing Matters

Now that you know how carbs, proteins, and fats affect your energy levels and your body before a workout, let’s talk about timing.

The timing of your meal matters when it comes to exercising. In general, you should have a small and simple meal if you eat shortly before your workout.

If you eat an hour before exercising, your meal should consist of easy-to-digest foods based on carbs and protein. And, if you eat two to three hours before your workout, feel free to enjoy a complete meal that includes fat, protein, and carbs.

Foods That Give Energy to Workout

Energy to Workout

Here are some great examples of foods you can eat to boost your energy levels before your workout.

  • Oatmeal with skim milk and crushed flaxseeds
  • Whole-grain cereal, low-fat or skim milk, and berries
  • Smoothie with fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, and orange juice
  • Half a whole-grain bagel spread with peanut butter and some slices of banana
  • Salad with vegetables, mandarin orange slices, olive oil, and slivered almonds
  • Whole-wheat toast with poached egg and half a grapefruit
  • Celery or apple slices with raisins and peanut butter
  • Low-fat granola with a yogurt parfait
  • Steamed vegetables with brown rice and some cheese
  • Meal replacement bar, as long as it’s up to 220 calories

To Sum Up

Fueling your body with proper nutrients before exercising will maximize your performance at the gym and speed up your recovery. Complex carbs and unsaturated fats will boost your energy levels while protein will improve muscle growth and recovery.

Article Posted In: Workout Lunch

Tags: workout, lunch for work out

Milena Popova

Milena is an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in writing articles on her favorite topics - food and health. In her free time, she loves trying out new recipes, reading, listening to music, and walking in nature.

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