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5 Best Vegan Pre-Workout Meals (Easy Prep)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 22, 2022

Recently, a vegan client approached me about a pre-workout and post-workout nutrition recommendation.

I had a few in mind since this question popped up quite a few times over the years as a fitness coach.

So, I decided to make a research-backed and experience-based list of vegan meals that are beneficial when taken before a workout.

To do this properly, I combined the efforts with one of my vegan colleagues at Total Shape and sought a registered dietitian’s perspective on the same.

Let’s dig in.

Quick Summary

  • Baked sweet potatoes, coffee, and nuts are examples of some of the best vegan pre-workout meals with full benefits and nutritional value for vegans.
  • Both pre and post-workout meals can stimulate muscle growth for increased muscle mass, improve physical performance and reduce muscle soreness.
  • Coffee is a performance enhancer, fit for both vegans and non-vegans. However, with stimulants like coffee, there’s a need to moderate the serving sizes.

What Should a Vegan Take Before the Gym?

A fit person at home eating healthy food

Before the gym, a vegan should take a pre-workout snack that provides an energy boost for optimal performance during a workout.

Plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and healthy carbohydrates (complex carbs) are the nutrients vegan athletes should get from a vegan diet before exercise to boost their exercise performance.

Even though I'm not currently vegan, I have tried many vegan snack combinations and vegan pre-workout supplements.

I even have a favorite snack, which I'll reveal later in this piece.

“Whether it’s a meal, snack, or vegan shake, you can become just as powerful with a plant-based vegan diet as others who use animal-based foods.”

- Claire Muszalski, Registered Dietitian & Wellness Coach

For now, here are all the details about vegan pre-workout foods that could help you boost your workout:

Best Vegan Pre-workout Foods

A fit female holding a plate of fruits

Below is a list of pre-workout foods or vegan recipes that a vegan needs before hitting the gym:

1. Fruit and Nut Butter

Bananas and apples are ideal fruits that provide the energy spurt you need to kickstart those intense workouts like weight-training and high-intensity interval training.

Banana is a decent source of protein that is suitable for vegans.

But, more importantly, it comes loaded with potassium, an essential nutrient that helps prevent muscle cramps. It also replenishes the potassium lost when sweating [1].

Almond butter and avocado are other excellent examples of meals with full nutritional value for vegans and are great pre-workout nutritional meals for large group muscle exercises like leg workouts.

2. Chia Seeds, Oats With Fruit, or Nuts

A bowl of oats before a workout should supply the extra energy you need for that last rep when you’re tired and worn out. That's because oats are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates and can even be considered a longer-term energy supply [2].

Add in fruits for a quick burst of energy, nuts for added protein, then throw in chia seeds, and you have the perfect pre-workout snack before a rigorous exercise routine. You can even add a scoop of vegan protein; just make sure it doesn’t get too dry.

Chia seeds can be beneficial, especially if you’re looking to lose weight. They aid in regulating blood sugar spikes, assist in digestion due to their high fiber content, and could have massive cardiovascular benefits when combined with exercise [3].

3. Unsweetened Dried Fruit With a Handful of Almonds or Walnuts

Close up picture of dried fruits and nuts

When I’m late for my workout, I just go for the unsweetened dry fruit with walnuts and a handful of almonds.

The unsweetened dry fruit is an excellent source of healthy carbs.

They replenish the depleted carbohydrate stores and refuel your muscle to help absorb amino acids from proteins after your workout [4].

Almonds, on the other hand, regulate blood sugar to make you feel full. This satiety effect is important for calorie intake regulation and weight loss [5].

4. Coffee

Coffee as a pre-workout food can help boost my energy every time I take it before working out. I love the fact that it's cost-effective and doesn't take much of my time to prepare.

Studies have lauded coffee as an ergogenic aid or a performance enhancer. Thus, the stimulant is great for vegan athletes looking to boost their workouts [6].

The benefits of caffeine strike both cardio and strength training. There’s endurance, muscular strength, enhanced focus, and alertness, among other benefits [7].

5. Baked Sweet Potato

And now to my favorite vegan pre-workout meal — baked sweet potatoes. I’m among the likes of Christopher Columbus, King Henry VII, and many runners who enjoy the snack [8].

Part of why athletes like baked sweet potatoes is because of their nutrient abundance. You see, sweet potatoes are complex carbs with loads of vitamins and other minerals that can help you achieve your goals in the gym.

Sweet potatoes are also high in fiber, another essential nutrient for digestion and metabolism [9].

It's also possible to turn protein-based smoothies into great vegan pre-workouts.

You just need to combine multiple vegan ingredients, such as soy, hemp, peas, fruits, and vegetables, with a pre-workout supplement like rice protein powder.

FAQs

What’s the Best Timing for Pre and Post-Workout Supplements and Snacks?

The best timing for pre-workout supplements and snacks is 1-4 hours before working out and 30 minutes after for a post-workout meal [10].

This allows enough time for the nutrients to kick in.

How Do Vegans Get Creatine?

Vegans can get creatine from supplements. That's because creatine is not found in plant-based foods and is only naturally found in animal tissues.

The Importance of Pre-workout Nutrition

As fate has it, vegans don't have as many meal options before a workout as omnivores do. It can be challenging to balance everything and still avoid animal products.

So, I usually advise my vegan clients to add some of these plant-based meal replacement shakes into the mix.

Taking into account my own experience and that of my clients, I can confidently vouch for the effectiveness and safety of the products we extensively tested to create this guide. So make sure to check out the list and find the one that suits your needs.


References:

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325078/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17686832
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537788/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24084509
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31629349/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33388079/
  8. https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20813788/how-sweet-potatoes-can-help-your-running/
  9. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-sweet-potatoes
  10. https://www.eatright.org/fitness/exercise/exercise-nutrition/timing-your-pre-and-post-workout-nutrition

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