What to Eat Before a Workout?

what to eat before a workout - pre workout meal - Fitness Revolution Rowlett

This has to be one of the biggest questions that I get as a trainer.

I’ll admit that it’s a good question because depending on the type of workout can influence what a person should or should NOT do before their training session to maximize the results of their workout.

These can range from types of food, timing and supplements which can make your progress a lot easier.

I’ll keep the supplement list very basic but as you progress with your fitness and goals you can get pretty serious about certain types of supplements you can take to enhance your performance or fat loss progress… but ONLY if you are covering your bases already.

Again I emphasize that I’m still a believer that if you are eating like poo and not doing the basics then you will not get the full benefit of the supplement.


Gaining Weight

One of the original schools of thought when it came to pre-workout timing was for the individual to consume a meal an hour before the workout consisting of complex carbs and protein.

I’ll say right now that I do NOT recommend this for several reasons:

1.       You’ll have less of a ‘pump’ because a lot of the blood in the body goes to the gut trying to digest the food and not to the muscles

2.       Too heavy or greasy of a meal can lead to SEVER stomach discomfort (I’ll refrain from making jokes on this one)

3.       Ever tried doing a leg work out after a heavy meal? I’ll let your imagination run with that one. <=== Tweet

IF you feel that you HAVE to have something I would recommend eating a small amount of protein (20-30g) with little to no carbs

This may sound like heresy with all the pre-workout carb craze going on right now but realize as long as you glycogen store are refilled from your last workout to this one you’re going to be ok.

Besides those pre-workout carbs that people consume take on average several hours to hit the blood stream so it seems counterproductive to consume anything right before a workout.

I’m not a big believer in adding sugar based carbs to the pre-workout mix (waxy maize, dextrose, maltodextrin) because this just has the same effects as sugar when entered in the body (this can be argued I know).

We consume enough sugar on a daily bases we don’t need to add this in our pre-workout ritual.

Instead consume the bulk of your calories AFTER your workout

Supplements: I do recommend to some of my clients to get a pre-workout supplement that is low in stimulants (you want enough to make you feel awake and alert BUT not cracked out) but high in pump (vasodilatation) and additionally I’m a BIG beliver in BCAA’s.



When it comes to endurance races (for me this classifies events longer that 60min give or take) one of the biggest take always is the timing of your pre-workout meal.

The goal of pre-workout meals for endurance enthusiast is traditionally to have an ample amount of carbs to fill up glycogen stores for their workouts.

A true racer should be filling their glycogen stores a day or even days before a race NOT right before. If you go on and pasta it up right before your race then what will happen is again all the blood will be pulled away from the muscles and sent to the gut for digestion.

Plus attempting to run after consuming a heavy carb loaded meal just before makes you feel heavy and uncomfortable with your run/ride/swim.

Begin consuming very slow digesting carbs at least 24 hours before your event and stay away from processed or gluten based products. Yes they may be glycogen rich but these all have high inflammatory factors associated with them and thus your body will have be battling those reactions instead of concentrating on its performance.

My personal recommendation of a good pre-endurance carb would be quinoa, very light in mass BUT dense with carbs and its LOW on the GI scale (lower than gluten free or whole wheat pasta and brown rice).

I would advice that endurance junkies should NOT eat right before the race BUT find the timing that lets you put in some additional energy in your body WITHOUT sacrificing performance.

I think that most people underestimate how much the body gets beat up during endurance workouts (have you ever done a triathlon or run a marathon) so this is why I do recommend a bit more in supplementation for these individuals.

Supplements: BCAA’s, EFA, Antioxidants, Glucosamine, Energy Gels (electrolyte based), Glutamine, Citrulline Malate



Fat Loss

This may surprise some people but I recommend NO pre-workout meals for my fat loss clients.

This has never made sense to me since I started training to recommend a person to eat something before they come in for a fat loss workout.

Again, this can piggy back on some previous blogs but if you are coming to do fat loss workouts then DON’T eat right before the workout (the longer the better). Still follow your typical meal plan or schedule if you have one but I would highly recommend NOT eating at lease several hours or longer before your workout.

If you begin loading yourself up on protein and carbs before a workout then your body is going to spend its time breaking that down first BEFORE it can begin depositing fatty acids into the blood stream; so depending on the volume of food that you consume can delay a fat burning process.

For most of my fat loss clients I will have them consume a low carb diet until their workout THEN afterwards we can have some carbs to replenish the body and take advantage of the elevated metabolism that occurs after a workout.

Supplements: BCCA’s, Caffeine, Green Tea


Discretion Advised

I know that what I say is probably very opposite to what you read and watch on TV (of course everything on TV is true).

Also I’ll say don’t try to mimic a professional athletes diets because they have spent years training their bodies systems to utilize certain fuel sources for their sport.

These are parameters that I follow when I have a new client but as I get to learn how their body responds and as their goals evolve so will their pre workout timing and meals.

As you get in and begin your workouts you’ll find what feels best to you and your goals; remember goals dictate your workouts which can dictate pre-workout meals and the timing of them.

In the end find what works best for you and gets you the results that you want.



In Health and Awesomeness,

Travis Signature 300x62 The Invasion of Body Snatchers, Skinny Fat People

Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, CES, RBT is the owner of Fitness Revolution in Rowlett, TX.

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