The 9 Best Pre-Workout Snacks of 2021, According to a Dietitian

Get the energy you need for a great workout

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Eating a snack before your workout can improve your performance and boost recovery, but it’s important to choose the right snack that will boost energy instead of slowing you down. Especially if you’re a morning exerciser, you may feel the need to have something in your stomach after a good night’s sleep.

Not eating enough before a workout can leave you feeling dizzy, lethargic, and nauseous and may make you more prone to injury. Evidence suggests that consuming a snack that’s high in easily digestible carbohydrates and moderate in healthy fat and protein within one hour of exercise is best. While this may work for most, you may need to test a few snacks and time frames that work for you.

Here, the best pre-workout snacks:

Best Overall: Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Classic Oatmeal with Flax and Chia

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Classic Oatmeal with Flax and Chia

Oatmeal is an energizing, filling pre-workout snack or meal that's great no matter what time of day you work out. The carbs in the oats release a steady stream of carbs during your workout, so your energy levels will stay consistent, making it an ideal choice before your morning long run or bike ride. While some people prefer the convenience of quick oats, others love the texture and delicious taste of steel cut oats.

To save time, make a batch the night before and heat it up in the microwave for an easy, quick meal. Toss some berries and sliced almonds on top for a little extra protein and antioxidants.

Best 100-Calorie: Health Warrior Chia Bars

Health Warrior Chia Bars

When you want a small protein snack but don't want a bar with a ton of calories, Health Warrior Chia Bars are an excellent choice. With only 100 calories and 3 grams of sugar, Health Warrior's Chia Bars are the perfect small snack for an active lifestyle. The tasty, convenient bar is ideal for taking with you on the go or for grabbing before a workout when you want something light.

Chia seeds are an excellent plant-based protein source that also contains fiber and heart-healthy ALA omega-3 fatty acids. Research shows that chia seeds can absorb enough water to equal 12 times their own mass.  Each bar provides at least half of the recommended daily value of ALA—a plant form of omega-3 fatty acids.

The gluten-free, non-GMO Project Verified bars are filling, delicious, and an excellent choice for kids. With a variety of flavors—including Acai Berry, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Vanilla Almond, Apple Cinnamon, Mango, and Banana Nut—there's something for everyone.

Best Bar: Larabar Gluten-Free Snack Bar Variety Pack

Larabar Gluten-Free Snack Bar Variety Pack

The minimally-processed, gluten-free, and Non-GMO Larabars are an excellent option to snack on pre-workout. With simple ingredients you can read, you don't have to worry about tummy troubling ingredients such as artificial sweeteners. In fact, some Larabars contain less than five ingredients.

For example, the Peanut Butter Cookie bar contains only dates, peanuts, and sea salt. This wholesome mix provides 220 nutrition-packed calories along with 6 grams of protein and 23 grams of carbs to power you through a tough workout.

The base for Larabars is dates, a carbohydrate-rich dried fruit that offers easily digestible natural sugar which acts as quick fuel for your muscles. If you feel that a whole bar is too much before a workout, try eating half before and saving the other half for later.

Best Bar Runner-Up: KIND Energy Bar

KIND Energy Peanut Butter

KIND Energy Bars are formulated particularly for athletes needing an energy and protein boost. The delicious chewy bars taste like an indulgent treat pre-workout, but they contain wholesome ingredients, such as whole grain oats and peanut butter. The peanut butter flavor contains 250 calories, 32 grams of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of protein.

Each bar contains a blend of superfood grains, including quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and millet. It's a great option to keep in your gym bag for an after-work sweat session or pack in your backpack for a long hike. If you're not a fan of straight peanut butter, the bar comes in other tasty flavors such as Chocolate Chunk and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter. For those with allergies, note that the bars do contain soy.

Best Trailmix: Gorilly Goods Trail Mix

Gorilly Goods

When it comes to a pre-workout snack, having an individually-portioned, protein-packed option is a game-changer. These grab and go trail mix snack packs from Gorilly Goods are a tasty way to get the nourishment you need before a sweat session.

The organic and vegan trail mix snack packs contain soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds, dried fruit, and other nutritious ingredients depending on the flavor. Each blend contains a balance of plant-based protein, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, and easily digestible carbs from dried fruit to boost your energy.

The delicious trail mix comes in three flavors—Hillside, Trail, and Coast. Hillside is a salty and spicy mix, Curry is a sweet and savory curry blend, and Trail is a superfood twist on traditional trail mix. With vitamin C-rich goji berries and magnesium-packed cacao nibs, Gorilly Good's Trail flavor trail mix is a healthier-for-you version of your favorite fruit and nut snack.

Each Trail package contains 185 calories, 14 grams of carbohydrates, and 5 grams of plant-based protein.

Best with Caffeine: Rise Brewing Co. Oat Milk Nitro Cold Brew Latte

Rise Brewing Co. Oat Milk Nitro Cold Brew Latte

Some people are averse to eating a snack before a workout, but they may be open to a beverage. For devoted coffee drinkers looking for a pre-workout buzz, RISE Brewing Co. makes a delicious Oat Milk Nitro Cold Brew Latte. This convenient can provides a caffeine fix equivalent to 80 milligrams—or one espresso shot—mixed with creamy, low-sugar oat milk for a carbohydrate boost.

Each can provides 110 calories and 18 grams of carbohydrates. The delicious grab and go option is best served cold, but it does not require refrigeration. Plus, the organic coffee is dairy-free, so you won't feel weighed down or experience tummy troubles during your workout.

Best Energy Chew: Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews

Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews

If you're looking for a great-tasting, top-quality energy boost, Honey Stinger Energy Chews are the way to go. The effective energy chews are packed with nutrition and natural flavor and can power you through the toughest workouts and competitions. Honey Stinger Energy Chews are USDA-certified organic, with 95 percent organic ingredients, including organic honey and juice concentrates. These chews are also allergy-friendly as they're free of gluten, nuts, dairy, and soy.

Recommended for use before, during, and after activity, Honey Stinger Energy Chews are often compared favorably against other popular chews on the market. They’re easier to open, they taste better, they're easy to chew, they aren’t sticky, and they have no aftertaste. With 160 calories and 39 grams of carbs per packet, they're a terrific boost for your favorite athletic endeavors.

Best Sweet: Peeled Snacks Organic Dried Mango

Peeled Snacks Organic Dried Mango

Dried fruit is an excellent pre-workout snack. You don't have to worry about it getting squashed in your bag like fresh fruit, it's tasty and sweet, and it provides a ton of quickly digested natural carbohydrates to power you through your favorite activity. Peeled Snacks Organic Dried Mango is a great sweet snack to boost your energy before a workout.

The convenient single-serve packets are filled with naturally sweet organic dried mango. In fact, the snack contains only one ingredient: organic mangos. Each bag contains 110 calories, 25 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein.

Final Verdict

If you're looking for a filling, warm pre-workout snack, try Bob's Red Mill Oatmeal Cups. For a more portable snack, consider a Larabar (view at Amazon).

What to Look for in a Pre-Workout Snack

Timing:

Some athletes can eat a large meal or snack minutes before a workout and feel great, while others feel nauseous or weighed down with even a bite a few hours before. You may need to try a few different snacks and time frames before finding your percent pre-workout snack sweet spot. A small, carbohydrate-rich snack about one to two hours before your workout should suffice. 

Size:

The size of your snack should depend on how much energy you will likely expend during the activity. A workout that is less than 45 minutes may only necessitate a small snack, whereas endurance exercise lasting 1 to more than 2.5 hours will need more fuel before, during, and after. A good rule of thumb for regular-sized snacks is about 100 to 250 calories.

FAQs

Is it bad to eat dairy before a workout?

Some athletes avoid dairy in the snack before a workout due to fears of gastrointestinal discomfort or decreased performance. Evidence suggests that if you can tolerate cow's milk, consuming dairy products as a snack before a workout should be fine. Dairy products are a great source of carbohydrates and protein, which can help to fuel your workout.

What should you avoid eating before a workout?

What you may or may not tolerate really depends on the intensity of your workout and your digestive system. In general, it's best to avoid high fiber vegetables, high-fat foods, large volumes of liquids, and fast food before a workout. These foods can be more challenging for the body to break down and take more time to digest. It's best to experiment with what works best for your body.

What Experts Say

"I'm a big fan of snacking and encourage most of my clients to factor in one to two "smart snacks"—snacks that are carefully chosen and planned for—during their day. Snacks provide a source of energy in between meals, help balance blood sugar levels throughout the day, and can reduce overall calorie consumption by managing hunger levels." Lauren Bloch, MS, RDN

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

A personal note on my recommendations written above. As a dietitian, I frequently recommend snacks as part of any balanced diet, especially for those who are active. I believe the products in the round-up are made by trusted brands and are composed of high-quality ingredients. I would recommend the above products to friends, family, and clients, and I have personally tried all of the products.Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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