The 10 Best Pre-Workout Snacks of 2022

MUSH ready-to-eat oats have a good ratio of carbs & protein without added sugar

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Consuming a pre-workout snack can help keep you nourished during exercise and potentially improve performance and recovery time. “The goal of a pre-workout snack is to help fuel your workout to maximize effort and minimize physical and mental fatigue,” explains Brittney Bearden, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, a sports dietitian based in Dallas, Texas.

Verywell Fit Approved Pre-Workout Snacks

MUSH ready-to-eat oats is our top pick for a pre-workout snack because it provides an easily digestible source of carbs without added sugar. If you’re looking for a pre-workout bar that has a good level of carbohydrates and moderate protein, try Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bars.

It's important to make sure your pre-workout snack contains adequate carbohydrates, as carbs break down to glucose which is your body's main form of energy. Additionally, it is recommended to limit fat and fiber in pre-workout snacks to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal issues during exercise. “Generally, we want to choose a pre-workout snack high in carbohydrate, low to moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber,” Bearden says.

Incorporating a low to moderate amount of protein pre-workout is usually well tolerated and can help to build and repair muscle. When selecting our picks for best pre-workout snacks, our sports dietitian used her clinical experience along with recommendations from other dietitians with experience working with athletes. Their top priorities were overall nutritional content and taste, and we made sure most of our picks were gluten-free and vegan, making them accessible to a variety of dietary patterns.

Here are the best pre-workout snacks.

Best Overall: MUSH ready-to-eat oats

Mush Ready to Eat Oats Vanilla Bean

photo courtesy of MUSH

Pros
  • Made with whole grains

  • Gluten-Free and vegan

  • Simple, clear ingredients

  • No added sugars or artificial flavors

Cons
  • Requires refrigeration

  • Expensive

MUSH earns our top pick for a pre-workout snack because it offers a nutrient-dense source of carbohydrates without added sugar in a convenient, single-serve pack. All flavor varieties are made with whole grain oats plus a mix of fruit and fruit juice or other natural flavors from spices, nuts, or extracts. With simple, natural ingredients and no added sugar, we like that this snack can be a good snack option anytime, not just before a workout.

No matter which flavor of MUSH you choose, you’ll get more than 30 grams of carbohydrates per serving without any added sugar. One serving of Blueberry MUSH contains 240 calories, 36 grams of carbohydrates, and 5 grams of protein making it a nutrient-dense option to enjoy as a pre-workout snack. The oats are also a good source of fiber which offers gut-health benefits. Mush may be best consumed an hour or more out from your workout if you find that higher fiber intakes cause digestive upset during exercise.

MUSH is available in multiple flavors including Apple Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean, Coffee Coconut, Dark Chocolate, Strawberry, and Blueberry. If you’re allergic to tree nuts then you’ll want to carefully check the labels as many of the flavors are made with almond or coconut milk.

Serving size: 1 container (170 g) | Carbohydrates: 36 g | Protein: 5 g | Allergens: tree nuts | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-Free: Yes | Flavors: Apple Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean, Coffee Coconut, Dark Chocolate, Strawberry, Blueberry 

Best Fruit Puree: GoGo SqueeZ Applesauce Pouches

GoGo SqueeZ BIG

GoGo Squeez

Pros
  • Gluten-free and vegan

  • No added sugars or artificial flavors

  • Dairy and nut-free

Cons
  • Less than 30 grams of carbohydrates per serving

Fruit is one of the best pre-workout snacks as it offers a nutrient-dense source of carbohydrates. But, not everyone can keep fruit fresh and free of bruises in the bottom of their workout bag. Enter fruit pouches, a convenient and portable way to get your fruit before a workout. 

The GoGo squeeZ BIG pouches are our top pick for fruit purees because they have more fruit (and more carbohydrates) per pouch as compared to many smaller size fruit pouches. One pouch (120 grams) of the classic apple contains 21 grams of carbohydrates with 2 grams of fiber making it a great pre-workout snack to eat within the hour before a workout.

This snack is slightly lower in carbohydrates, so you may need another carbohydrate source (like a handful of pretzels) if you’re planning to exercise for an hour or more. For these longer workouts, you'll also likely benefit from consuming carbohydrates and electrolytes during your workout from electrolyte drinks and potentially energy chews, gels, or bars.

GoGo offers a variety of flavors, all of which are free of dairy, gluten, and nuts making for an allergy-friendly choice. Choose from flavors like Pineapple, Pear, Mango, Raspberry, or Apple.

Serving size: 1 pouch (120 g) | Carbohydrates:  21 g | Protein: 0 g | Allergens: none | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-Free: Yes | Flavors: Pineapple, Pear, Mango, Raspberry, Apple

Best Bar: Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bar

Skratch Labs Energy Bar

Skratch Labs

Pros
  • Gluten-free and vegan

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors

  • Over 30 grams of carbs per bar

Cons
  • Not suitable for tree nuts and/or peanut allergies

  • Expensive

Skratch Labs makes a complete line of sports nutrition products for athletes including energy bars, hydration mixes, and recovery snacks. The Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bar is our number one pick for best bar because it’s a high carbohydrate bar made with limited added sugar.

The Anytime Energy Bars are offered in a variety of flavors including Peanut Butter & Chocolate, Raspberries & Lemon, Peanut Butter & Strawberry, Chocolate Chips & Almonds, and Cherries & Pistachios. The bars are gluten, soy, and dairy-free, but most contain peanuts or tree nuts, both of which are major allergens.

The Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bars have a slightly longer ingredient list than some other bars, but none contain artificial sweeteners or flavors. For example, the Peanut Butter & Strawberries bar is made with a nut butter blend, dried strawberries, and coconut nectar among other ingredients for sweetness and texture. It contains 220 calories, 32 grams of carbohydrates, and 5 grams of protein.

The higher carbohydrates in each bar, moderate fat, and moderate protein content make them an ideal choice for at least an hour or two before a workout. But they may not be a good choice for some people if eaten too close to the start of exercise (less than an hour before you work out) since the fat content might cause stomach discomfort.

Serving size: 1 bar (50 g) | Carbohydrates:  32 g | Protein: 5 g | Allergens: tree nuts & peanuts (varies by flavor) | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-Free: Yes Flavors: Peanut Butter & Chocolate, Raspberries & Lemon, Peanut Butter & Strawberry, Chocolate Chips & Almonds, and Cherries & Pistachios

Best Bar, Runner-Up: Larabar Gluten-Free Snack Bar Variety Pack 16 Pack

Lara Bar Pack

Amazon

Pros
  • Limited ingredient list

  • No added sugars or artificial flavors

  • Gluten-free and vegan

Cons
  • Contains less than 30 grams of carbohydrates

  • May cause digestive upset for some people

The minimally-processed, gluten-free Larabars are an excellent option to snack on pre-workout. With a simple ingredient list and no added sugar, they can also make for a great anytime snack. With these bars, you also don't have to worry about additives like artificial sweeteners which may cause digestive upset in some people.

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. However, dates are high in fructans, a type of fermentable carbohydrate (also known as FODMAPs) that may cause digestive discomfort in people with irritable bowel syndrome. If you find that dates don’t sit well with you, skip the Larabars and opt for a lower FODMAP alternative such as a fig-based bar.

A pro of Larabars is that many contain only a few ingredients. For example, the Peanut Butter Cookie bar contains dates, peanuts, and sea salt. This wholesome mix provides 220 calories along with 6 grams of protein and 23 grams of carbs. The bars offer a good mix of carbohydrates and protein best eaten in the hour leading up to a workout.

If you get stomach discomfort from eating these too close to workout time, it may be because of the fat content, so you may want to try eating them earlier. If you’re planning on a workout lasting an hour or more, add an extra source of carbohydrates to get closer to the one gram per kilogram of body weight recommendation.

Serving size: 1 bar (45 g) | Carbohydrates:  23 g | Protein: 6 g | Allergens: peanuts & tree nuts (varies by flavor) | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-Free: Yes Flavors: Cherry Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Coconut Cream Pie, Apple Pie, Peanut Butter Cookie, Cashew Cookie, Blueberry Muffin (other flavors available)

Best Cereal: Cascadian Farm Organic Purely O's

Cascadian Farm Cereal

Amazon

Pros
  • Vegan and Certified Organic

  • Low in added sugar

  • Made with whole grains

Cons
  • Higher fiber amount

  • Not appropriate for gluten allergy or sensitivity

Cereal may not be the first snack to come to mind when considering what to eat before a workout, but it can be a convenient and delicious option if you need a quick carbohydrate boost. Cascadian Farm Organic Purely O’s cereal tops our list for the best cereal because it’s made with whole grains and is very low in added sugar. 

One serving (1 ½ cup or 38 grams) of Purely O’s has 140 calories, 29 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of protein. This Certified Organic cereal is made with organic whole grain oats and organic barley, has 4 grams of fiber, and contains less than one gram of added sugar. The higher fiber content may cause some discomfort for some if eaten within an hour before exercise. If that's the case for you, you might want to try eating them earlier or experiment with a different snack option.

The good thing about cereal is that you can eat it with or without milk, making it a convenient option for snacking on-the-go. Plus, if you add dairy or soy milk, both good sources of protein, this cereal can double as a post-workout snack. Purely O’s cereal can also be added as a crunchy topping to a smoothie or as a mix-in to your favorite trail mix.

Serving size: 1 ½ cup (38 g) | Carbohydrates:  29 g | Protein: 4 g | Allergens: wheat | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-Free: No | Flavors: Original

Best with Caffeine: Verb Energy Bar

Verb Energy bars

Amazon

Pros
  • Contains 65 mg caffeine per serving

  • Gluten-free and vegan

  • Made with whole grains

Cons
  • Less than 15 grams of carbohydrates

  • Expensive

Caffeine before a workout has been shown to benefit performance. If you’re looking for a convenient pre-workout snack that offers both caffeine and carbs, Verb Energy Bars are a great choice. With 13 grams of carbohydrates and 65 milligrams caffeine per serving, this bar checks the boxes for a pre-workout snack. Just keep in mind you may need an additional source of carbohydrates for workouts that are an hour or longer.

Keep in mind that the caffeine quantity in the Verb Energy Bars is slightly less than a cup of home brewed coffee which has around 100 milligrams of caffeine but more than what you’d find in a cup of black tea which has approximately 45 milligrams of caffeine per cup. 

Verb Energy Bars are made with a mix of grains including oats, brown rice, and quinoa. They’re sweetened with agave, brown sugar, and/or molasses depending on the flavor and each bar includes organic green tea as a caffeine source. The bars are approximately 90 calories, depending on the flavor, and have around 3 grams of protein.

Serving size: 1 bar (22 g) | Carbohydrates:  13 g | Protein: 3 g | Allergens: tree nuts | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-Free: Yes | Flavors: Vanilla Latte, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, Cookie Butter, Key Lime Pie, Caramel Macchiato, Cinnamon Roll

Best Sweet: Honey Stinger Organic Waffle, Honey

Honey Stinger Organic Waffle, Honey

Amazon

Pros
  • Certified Organic

  • Multiple flavor options

  • Gluten-free options are available

Cons
  • Less than 30 grams of carbohydrates per serving

  • Not vegan or allergy-friendly


If you're looking for a great-tasting, top-quality energy boost, Honey Stinger Waffles are the way to go. They’re made with a mix of carbohydrate sources including wheat flour, honey, and brown rice syrup. The waffles are Certified Organic and come in a variety of flavors including Honey, Chocolate, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Cookies & Cream, and Cinnamon. 

The Honey flavor waffles contain wheat, soy, and egg; however, Honey Stinger offers gluten-free flavors for those who need to avoid gluten. One Honey flavor waffle has 150 calories, 19 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein. If you’re planning on a long endurance workout, you’ll likely want to eat more than one waffle or add a second source of carbohydrates to boost your total intake. As an added bonus, these waffles are also great for a mid-workout carb-boost as they contain a mix of carbohydrates which has shown to benefit absorption.

Serving size: 1 waffle (30 g) | Carbohydrates:  19 g | Protein: 1 g | Allergens: wheat, soy, egg (varies by flavor) | Vegan: No | Gluten-Free: No (gluten-free options available) | Flavors: Honey, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Cookies & Cream, Cinnamon, Chocolate

Best Dried Fruit: Made in Nature Organic Dried Deglet Noor Dates

Deglet Noor Dates

Amazon

Pros
  • Only ingredient is dates

  • Certified Organic

  • Gluten-free and vegan

Cons
  • May cause digestive upset in some people

Dried fruit is an excellent pre-workout snack especially if you’re not a fan of the pureed fruit pouches. 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 source of quickly digested carbohydrates to power you through your favorite activity. 

We chose the Made in Nature Dried Deglet Noor Dates because they’re a deliciously sweet pre-workout snack and are both Certified Organic and Certified Gluten-Free. One serving (5 dates or 40 grams) contains 110 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein. However, be aware that dates are a good source of fiber with one serving providing just over 10 percent of your daily fiber needs at 3 grams. This amount of fiber eaten close to exercise may cause digestive discomfort for some people.

Serving size: 5 dates (40 g)  | Carbohydrates:  30 g | Protein: 1 g | Allergens: n/a | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-Free: Yes | Flavors: n/a

Best Chocolate: Barnana Chocolate Banana Bites

Barnana Chocolate Dipped Bites

Amazon

Pros
  • Certified Organic

  • Made with simple, sustainability-sourced ingredients

  • Gluten-free

Cons
  • Less than 30 grams of carbohydrate per serving

  • Moderate amount of fat

  • 4 grams of fiber per serving

Chocolate isn’t the first thing to come to mind when you think about a pre-workout snack, but these Barnana Dark Chocolate Dipped Banana Bites are perfect for chocolate lovers looking to fuel-up before a workout. The Barnana snacks are Certified Organic and are made with fair trade dark chocolate and organic bananas. The company is committed to sustainability, using upcycled bananas to make their snacks while also reducing food waste.

One 1.4 ounce serving (40 grams) contains 180 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein. There is a moderate amount of fat and fiber from this snack that may cause digestive upset for some if eaten too close to exercise. Therefore, eating at least one to two hours (or more) before exercise may work best for most people. If you’re not a chocolate fan, you can buy Barnana snacks in multiple other flavors including Coconut, Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Cup, Mango, and Original.

Serving size: 1.4 oz (40 g) | Carbohydrates:  23 g | Protein: 2 g | Allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, soy (varies by flavor) | Vegan: No (likely because of the glaze used)| Gluten-Free: Yes | Flavors: Peanut Butter, Coconut, Peanut Butter Cup, Mango, Original

Best Allergy Friendly: Enjoy Life Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Ovals

Breakfast Ovals

Walmart

Pros
  • Vegan and Certified Gluten-free

  • Free of 14 allergens

  • Made with whole grains

Cons
  • 3 grams of fiber per bar

Enjoy Life makes a variety of allergy-friendly snacks free of 14 major allergens including gluten. The soft baked breakfast ovals are our number one pick for an allergy-friendly, pre-workout snack because they’re carb-rich, Certified Gluten-Free, and are made in a dedicated nut-free facility.

The bars are made with a mix of whole grain oats, brown sugar and date paste. One bar contains 230 calories, 31 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of protein. Keep in mind that these bars have three grams of fiber which may cause stomach issues by some people if eaten in the hour leading up to exercise.

Serving size: 1 bar (50 g) | Carbohydrates: 31 g | Protein: 3 g | Allergens: none | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-Free: Yes | Flavors: Apple Cinnamon, Berry Medley, Maple Fig, Chocolate Chip Banana

Final Verdict

If you're looking for a convenient pre-workout snack that’s naturally high in carbohydrates without added sugar, opt for MUSH ready-to-eat oats. We also recommend Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bars if you’re looking for a high carbohydrate bar with a moderate amount of protein.

How We Selected

When choosing the best pre-workout snacks, we looked at a variety of products with majority carbohydrates, moderate protein, and low fat and fiber. In addition, we chose the pre-workout snacks while keeping in mind that individuals have varied tolerance, food restrictions, and allergies. A range of products from fruit to whole grains are listed to ensure there is a product choice no matter your individual preferences and restrictions. Taste, price, and convenience were also considered when choosing the best pre-workout snacks

What to Look For in a Pre-Workout Snack

Nutrient Profile

Optimizing your pre and post-workout nutrition is highly individualized, based on many factors including weight, body composition, overall diet and personal goals, as well as type of exercise and duration.

The nutrients in a pre-workout snack make a significant difference in its effect on performance. Carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber are important nutrients to consider when choosing the best pre-workout snack for you. “A snack before a cardio/endurance exercise can be primarily carbohydrate based and a snack before a strength training exercise can be more of a split between carbohydrates and protein,” says Bearden.

Carbohydrates provide the body’s primary energy source, glucose, and are especially important prior to endurance exercise. Protein intake before a workout can also impact muscle protein synthesis, however total protein intake throughout the day is the most important for muscle repair and maintenance.

“Exercise duration and intensity are also important factors in determining the size and composition of a pre-workout snack,” says Bearden. If you’re planning to exercise for an hour or more or are participating in high-intensity exercise, you’ll likely require more carbohydrates prior to the activity. A good rule of thumb is to follow the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommendation to consume 1 to 4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight in the one to four hours leading up to exercise.

Fat and fiber are also important to consider as eating a snack that’s high in either nutrient may result in digestive discomfort in some people. Tolerance varies as does the time between eating and exercise. In general, the closer you are to exercise, the lower in fat and fiber you want your carb-rich snack to be. If you have more time between eating and exercise then fat and fiber may be slightly higher to allow for ample digestion time.

Timing

Some athletes can eat a large meal or snack minutes before a workout and feel great, while others feel nauseous or weighed down if they eat before exercise. Multiple factors influence how well you tolerate a pre-workout snack including the timing of your last meal. “If your last meal was 4 or more hours ago, a pre-workout snack is a great addition. However, if your last meal was just 1-2 hours ago, you can likely forgo the pre-workout snack,” Bearden says. You may need to try a few different foods and time frames before finding a pre-workout snack that works best for you. In general, a small, carbohydrate-rich snack about one to two hours before your workout is a good starting point.

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, but this rule varies greatly depending on body size, tolerance, your most recent meal, and your daily calorie needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it ok to eat a snack before a workout?

    When deciding if you should eat a snack before a workout, consider when you last ate as well as the type and duration of your planned exercise. If you’ve eaten a meal recently or if you’re planning on a short, low-intensity exercise session then you may not require a pre-workout snack. However, if you’re planning on a high-intensity workout and/or a workout lasting an hour or more, it’s a good idea to eat a pre-workout snack that’s a good source of carbohydrates.

  • Is fruit a good pre-workout snack?

    Yes, fruit is a great source of carbohydrates making it a good pre-workout snack. However, some people may find that fruit alone results in digestive upset. If that’s the case, consider reducing the portion size and pairing with an alternative carbohydrate source such as from grains.

  • 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. “I generally don’t recommend dairy alone for a pre-workout snack but will recommend it as part of the pre-workout snack such as overnight oats, cereal and milk, or Greek yogurt and granola,” says Bearden.

    In general, dairy products provide both carbohydrates and protein which can help to fuel your workout, but are likely better paired with a carbohydrate-rich snack versus eaten as a standalone snack before a workout.

  • What should you avoid eating before a workout?

    The foods you may or may not tolerate before a workout depend on the intensity of your workout and your digestive system. In general, it's best to avoid high fiber or high-fat foods before a workout. “Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate that is super beneficial to our health but should be avoided before a workout,” says Bearden. She also adds that fat is the slowest of the macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) to be digested. “It can lead to stomach distress when eating a large amount prior to exercise,” she explains. It's best to experiment with what works best for your body and to also avoid trying new foods before competitions or long training sessions.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

Allison Knott, MS, RDN, CSSD is a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in sports dietetics with multiple years of experience working with amateur endurance athletes. She knows the importance of finding a nutrient-dense, pre-workout snack that’s enjoyable, affordable, and most importantly, is effective at fueling peak performance.

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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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By Allison Knott MS, RDN, CSSD, CDN
Allison Knott MS, RDN, CSSD, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics with a master's degree in nutrition communication from Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and PolicyShe is the founder of Anew Well Nutrition, a virtual nutrition consulting practice with a focus on fitness and performance nutrition.