Here’s how your favorite trainers power up to get the most out of every rep.
You can only get as much out of a workout as you put into it, and if you don’t have enough fuel, you may not see the gains you want to make. That’s where pre-workout snacks can help you level up. To maximize your performance (and your post-workout recovery), front-load your sweat session with the right nutrients.
“The benefit of a snack before training is that you’re likely to have carbohydrates on tap for energy, and fluids to prevent decreased performance from dehydration,” explains John Christie, a registered dietitian and Tonal’s Director of Curriculum Intelligence. He also points to research suggesting that a small amount of pre-workout protein can help reduce the presence of the stress hormone cortisol.
For moderate to high-intensity training, Christie recommends a 3-to-1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. However, he adds, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all recommendation for the size of your snack.
“It depends on the duration and intensity of your training, as well as the other parts of your diet on any given day,” Christie says. “A good target for a moderate intensity, 30- to 60-minute training session would be 150 to 250 calories, with fluids for hydration heading into the workout.” His go-to pre-workout snack is a small bowl of cereal, or—for something a little fancier—homemade granola with honey and yogurt.
Try to eat heavier or more protein-rich snacks at least 90 minutes before your workout to give your body time for digestion. If you work out in the morning and just don’t have time for that, you can modify your snack. “As you get closer to your workout, you’ll want to place progressively more priority toward digestibility, which will have you prioritizing liquids over solids, and likely also reducing the presence of proteins,” Christie says.
The takeaway? If you want to crush your next Power HIIT class or Power Hour program, be sure to fuel up before breaking a sweat. To provide more snacking inspiration, we asked Tonal coaches to share the pre-workout snacks that keep them energized throughout their workouts.
1. A Lettuce-Wrapped Sandwich
“I love this because I get to have a sandwich, but I also get to cross the whole ‘eat your greens’ idea off the list,” says Coach Jared Rodriguez, adding that he substitutes hummus for mayo as his spread-of-choice. “I don’t have that unwanted feeling of food in my stomach when I’m trying to focus on training. This snack breaks down easily in my body, so it keeps me feeling light yet well-fed. Crunchy, flavorful, and messy—just like I like it.”
“Right before I shoot my Tonal Live workouts or any workout where I’ll need sustained high-power energy, I have two dates,” says Coach Allison Tibbs. “Not only does this taste like an indulgent sweet treat, but it’s also the perfect boost of low-glycemic carbs and sugars to fuel my upcoming workout. Dates release glucose at a slower rate, which will keep your energy levels steady over the course of your workout. For a post-workout snack, split the date in half and add a teaspoon of almond butter and a dash of cinnamon.”
3. Blueberry Overnight Oats
For Coach Kendall “Woody” Wood, there are few options easier than grab-and-go overnight oats. “It’s a great source of slow-digesting carbs that energizes me without weighing me down. I can eat this and work out after just 15 minutes.” Her favorite: MUSH Blueberry Overnight Oats. “[It] tastes amazing, and five ounces is the perfect portion size,” she says. But you can also make your own with Coach Gabby’s recipe below. Simply reduce or remove the protein powder to power up.
4. Easy-to-Digest Protein Shake
“I mix goat whey protein, cinnamon, vanilla, water, and ice cubes in the blender for a simple pre-workout boost,” says Coach Liz Letchford, PhD. “I prefer goat whey to other types because it has an excellent amino acid profile while also being easy to digest. The amino acid profile of my snacks is important in supporting the rebuilding process after any muscle damage induced by a heavy lift.”
5. Peanut Butter Rice Cake
Coach Jared adds that one of his go-to snacks is a crunchy peanut butter rice cake. While you can eat it as a standalone snack (especially if you don’t have much time before your workout), he prefers to pair it with oatmeal. “I eat them both, paired together,” he says. “I like to eat this in the morning because it fuels me up with healthy carbs and muscle-building protein. I always feel full without feeling heavy or lethargic. I prefer steel-cut oats, almond milk or water, and fresh berries. Add a rice cake and organic peanut butter. Then it’s go-time.”
6. A Banana and Matcha
“My number one pre-workout snack is a banana. It’s simple but effective,” says Coach Nicolette Amarillas. “I love something that isn’t going to make me full prior to a workout but also has enough carbs and some sugar to give me energy. If I need more calories or am hungrier than normal, I add almond or pecan butter. When I have a big lift day and need an extra boost, I gravitate toward matcha. The caffeine in matcha gives me less jittery energy than caffeinated espresso, and it doesn’t keep me up late at night.”
7. Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin With Cashew Butter
“It tastes like French toast and fills me up,” adds Coach Woody, who prefers the Ezekial 4:9 brand that’s made with sprouted whole grains. “It’s a slow-release carb source that fuels me appropriately.” For her, this snack is a bit heavier, so she’ll typically enjoy it at least an hour before working out.