Guidelines for Effective Pre-Workout Nutrition | STACK

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...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Eat Junk Food Without Sacrificing Your Performance

You've been taught specific foods are essential for top performance. Coaches prescribe certain "superfoods" to get you stronger, and prohibit junk food...

The 5 Foods That Will Rule 2015

Make Rotisserie Chicken Better With 2 Simple No-Cook Recipes

Protein Powder Potato Chips? ProTings, Reviewed

Got (Almond) Milk? How 6 Popular Milk Alternatives Measure Up

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

Grab the Salt Shaker: Why Athletes Need to Eat More Sodium

Survive Two-a-Days With 5 Fueling Tips From the Houston Texans

The 7 Best Nuts for Your Health and Performance

Low Workout Stamina? Your Diet May Be the Culprit

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

3 Unlikely Ways to Lose Fat

Why You Need a Bedtime Snack

Why Can't I Stop Gaining Weight?

The Great Burger Battle: Which One Is Best for Athletes?

What Else Are You Drinking? The Truth About BPA Dangers

The Mineral Most Athletes Need More Of in Their Diets

4 Common Nutrition Questions Answered

Pre-Game Nutrition: What to Eat Before You Compete

High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar: What's The Difference?

6 Reasons Your Weight Fluctuates Every Day

Do You Need Protein Immediately After Your Workout?

Is All Sugar Bad for You?

The Skinny on Good Fat vs. Bad Fat

An Athlete's Guide to Calcium

7 Pro Athletes Who Succeed Despite Having Horrible Diets

We Tried Cricket Protein Bars. Should You?

Building a Healthy Pizza: Tips and Recipes

How Fatty Is Your Thanksgiving?

5 Basketball Pre-Game Snacks for Full-Game Energy

How the Glycemic Index Can Help Your Athletic Performance

6 Ways to Power Up Your Oatmeal

Build Muscle With This Diet for Young Athletes

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

3 Nutrition Hacks to Improve Your Sports Performance

Should Athletes Follow a Pescetarian Diet?

The Food Rules for Building Muscle

5 Drinks You Had No Idea Were As Bad As (or Worse Than) Soda

How to Build a Performance-Fueling Smoothie

The Meal Plan That Helped Shea McClellin Add 11 Pounds of Muscle

6 Fruits and Veggies You Aren't Eating But Should Be

LeBron Cuts Carbs This Summer. Should You?

Taco Bell Launching New High-Protein Menu