Guidelines for Effective Pre-Workout Nutrition | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Guidelines for Effective Pre-Workout Nutrition

August 21, 2012

Must See Nutrition Videos

For competitive athletes, what to eat or what supplement to take before a workout has become an increasingly popular topic. Pre-workout nutrition is important. You need to fuel your body with energy to power through intense training sessions.

Honestly, any food consumed pre-workout is better than no food at all. Here are some guidelines to consider when choosing your next pre-workout meal.


Try to eat 30 to 90 minutes before your workout. Eating too close to training can cause you to feel full and bloated, which reduces the effectiveness of your workout. The 30- to 90-minute time frame is a general recommendation. It should be adjusted to meet individual nutrition needs. Some athletes must eat 90 minutes before a workout or they feel sick, while others are fine when eating 30 minutes before. Do what works best for you to get the most out of your workout.

Go easy

Don't fill up on food. This seems obvious, but it's surprising how many athletes start training after eating the equivalent of an average Thanksgiving dinner. You want enough to fuel your workout, but not so much that you can't get out of your car at the gym.


You need all three macro-nutrients: carbohydrate, protein and fat. When making your pre-workout food choices, aim for a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein, and do not exceed ten grams of fat. Since carbs are what fuel most of your workout, take in at least 20 grams.

An easy pre-workout meal is a protein shake and an apple. The shake provides protein and fat, and the apple provides carbs for workout fuel.

Ryan Colquhoun
- Ryan Colquhoun is an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach. He has worked with athletes from age 6 to professional, of...
Ryan Colquhoun
- Ryan Colquhoun is an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach. He has worked with athletes from age 6 to professional, of...
Must See
Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion
Views: 542,814
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,506,049
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,797,513

Featured Videos

Quest for the Ring: University of Kentucky Views: 297,020
Add Core Power for Basketball With Damian Lillard's Med Ball Throws Views: 4,255,927
Path to the Pros 2015: The Journey Begins Views: 28,363
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Russell Wilson Wants You to 'Eat the Ball'

The Food Rules for Building Muscle

Is It Okay to Eat the Same Thing Every Day?

Avoid Pigging Out: How to Conquer Food Cravings

Eat Like a Champion, Part 3: Post-Workout Nutrition

4 Common Nutrition Questions Answered

Low Workout Stamina? Your Diet May Be the Culprit

Macronutrients, Part I: Carbohydrates

Bone Broth Breakdown: Should You Eat This 'Super' Soup'?

Big Breakfast, Small Breakfast, No Breakfast: Which Is Best?

Why Chicken Soup Strengthens Your Immune System

Post-Holiday Chocolate Health Benefits

Eat Like a Champion, Part 2: How to Lose Fat Safely

8 Recovery Foods Recommended by Sport Dietitians

How and Why to Eat Mindfully

Halftime Snacks for Quick Refueling

Performance-Boosting Snacks with a Satisfying Crunch

Types of Yogurt: What's New and What's Best for Athletes

Do You Need Protein Immediately After Your Workout?

A Healthier Milk, Brought to You By Coca-Cola. Wait, What?

Is All Sugar Bad for You?

Game-Day Nutrition for Soccer Players

3 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget

12 Grab-and-Go High Protein Snacks

How to Turn Nutrition Goals Into Actions

Cheerios With Quinoa: Coming Soon to a Grocery Store Near You

Simple Nutrition Tips for Faster Workout Gains

Are 'Healthy Chips' Really Healthy? 5 Popular Options Examined

How to Build a Meal Plan to Suit Your Body Type

5 Changes Fast-Food Restaurants Are Making to Become Healthier

What You Need to Know About Protein

Eat Like a Champion, Part 1: How to Build Muscle in the Kitchen

The Nutrition That Powers Joe Thomas's Iron-Man Streak

Coconut Sugar: What Is It, and Is It Good for You?

Pre-Game Nutrition: What to Eat Before You Compete

What You Need to Know about Fats

Study Ranks Paleo As Second-Worst Diet

Why Every Athlete Should Drink Tea

The 5 Foods That Will Rule 2015