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What to Eat Before a HIIT Workout? (8 Best Meals to Try)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

Part of my job as an athletic trainer is to give nutrition tips to my clients on what to eat before starting any workout.

Knowing that high-intensity interval training requires a lot of effort, I spent a few weeks researching the most nutritious pre-workout foods that fit in this context.

I also consulted a dietician to see if these foods could provide complete nutrients to support this fast-paced exercise.

Read on to find out what you can eat to perform HIIT successfully.

 

Quick Summary

  • Eating foods that have a complete macronutrient profile with essential micronutrients, such as certain vitamins and minerals, is needed before engaging in an intense workout.
  • Some meals that offer proper nutrition are whole wheat pasta with lean chicken, boiled potatoes and egg, and low-fat greek yogurt with fruits.
  • Getting a well-balanced pre and post-workout nutrition can help your body function well, but taking dedicated sports supplements can help you reach your fitness goals much faster.

8 Pre-Workout Meals to Boost HIIT Workouts

Close up shot of wheat bread on a table

Letโ€™s take a look at eight pre-workout meals that have proven to be quite effective for my clients doing HIIT workouts over the past years.

1. Whole Wheat Toast With Peanut Butter

A peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread is one of the recommended pre-workout snacks that can provide a good source of protein, complex carbohydrates, fat, and dietary fiber.

Also, it has oleic acid, which has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, and several energy-giving micronutrients such as B vitamins, iron, and folate [1].

Eating this nutrient-dense pre-workout snack can help you increase your energy and muscle strength, allowing you to meet the demands of HIIT.

2. Baked Sweet Potatoes and Beans

Sweet potatoes with beans are high in complex carbs, fiber, protein, and micronutrients like potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Because potatoes are naturally low in protein, adding beans can supply the amino acid isoleucine, which aids metabolism and energy regulation [2].

Having sweet potato and bean casserole with cheese before your high-intensity workout can help you get the complete nutrition you need for a long HIIT session.

3. Whole Grain Bread With Scrambled Eggs

Close of shot of whole grain bread and scrambled eggs

Whole grain bread with scrambled eggs contains complex carbohydrates, protein, and micronutrients such as selenium, magnesium, and iron [3].

Cooking eggs in healthy fat, such as olive oil, can increase their nutritional value, which includes healthy omega-9 fats and antioxidants.

Consuming this pre-workout meal combination before HIIT might help boost your immune system, improve blood flow, and reduce inflammation.

4. Boiled Potatoes and Hard-Boiled Egg

Boiled potatoes and hard-boiled eggs are excellent sources of carbohydrates, proteins, essential vitamins, and minerals.

And because they are cooked by boiling, they contain less fat. Also, cooking potatoes with their skins has been shown to retain their nutrients [4].

Eating boiled potatoes and eggs before a workout can help power up your body while taking better care of your heart.

5. Low-Fat Greek Yogurt, Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds

Close up shot of greek yogurt with fruits, nuts and seeds

The combination of Greek yogurt, ripe berries, almonds, and ground flax seeds makes for a complete meal that includes healthy fats, carbs, protein, and vital micronutrients.

Choosing low-fat Greek yogurt and almonds can help protect your heart, while berries and flax seeds can provide stamina to your body [5].

Having a bowl of this mixture can energize you and properly fuel your whole body, allowing you to train longer.

6. Brown Rice and Lean Chicken Meat

One-pot rice and chicken dish is a healthy option for those who want to combine healthy carbs and protein in one meal.

But this dish can be more nutritious and heart-friendly by using brown rice, lean chicken meat without the skin, and chopped veggies like carrots, peas, and corn kernels [6].

Thus, eating a small plate of this meal an hour or two before your HIIT session can provide you with long-lasting energy and quick muscle repair.

7. Banana Whey Protein Shake

Close up shot of banana whey protein shake in a glass

Banana-whey protein smoothies, usually consumed as a post-workout meal, provide simple carbohydrates and proteins, two essential macronutrients for HIIT workouts.

A smoothie made with a banana and two scoops of whey protein powder has around 2 g of fat, 4 g of carbs, and 32 g of protein [7].

Consuming banana whey protein shakes can provide quick energy without raising blood sugar levels too high while supplying you with amino acids to boost muscle gain.

Related: Is a Banana Good Before a Workout?

8. Whole Wheat Pasta, Leafy Vegetables, and Lean Chicken Meat

A meal of whole wheat pasta, dark leafy greens, and lean chicken meat is a good source of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and protein.

According to research, green leafy vegetables are high in iron, nitrate, and folate, which are all essential for mind and body functions [8].

Eating whole wheat pasta before workout with leafy greens and lean proteins can help your body get the energy and strength it needs for your high-intensity workouts.

Can Eating Before HIIT Have Other Health Benefits?

A person doing HIIT workout at home

Eating nutritious foods before HIIT can have other health benefits, such as maintaining your energy stores and preventing muscle loss.

Providing your body with carbohydrates will help not to deplete but rather replenish glycogen stores that your body will require during your next workout.

โ€œA light amount of food will help you get through the workout session more comfortably and with more energy.โ€

- Douglas Paddon-Jones, Professor, University of Texas

Furthermore, supplying your muscles with essential amino acids can help you retain lean muscles and stimulate the production of new muscle tissue fibers [9].

Are There Risks?

There are some risks to eating before engaging in HIIT, including an increased risk of upset stomach, bloating, and low energy.

It is critical to wait a few hours after a meal before starting your workout and to avoid foods that are too heavy on the stomach.

Drinking plenty of fluids before working out can also help to avoid these risks. In fact, increasing overall water intake can help you get better workout results [10].

FAQs

Is It Good to Do HIIT on an Empty Stomach?

It might not be a good idea to do HIIT on an empty stomach because your body needs the energy to keep up with the high demands of this workout. Also, eating before exercising can help your body perform and hasten the post-workout recovery process.

When Should You Eat Before HIIT?

You should eat one to two hours before beginning your HIIT routine to give your body time to digest your meal.

It can help you avoid bloating, stomach cramps, and indigestion, which are common problems that impede weight loss efforts.

Best Foods to Eat to Fuel Your High-Intensity Interval Training

Carbohydrate and protein-rich foods can help fuel high-intensity interval training because they can provide energy and promote faster muscle recovery.

However, I usually advise my clients to take ergogenic supplements along with a healthy diet to increase their strength, speed, and endurance during hard, long workouts.

My clients and I have tested and used these supplements for years, and they have helped them lose weight and reach their ideal physiques significantly faster.


References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/diet/peanut-butter-good-for-you
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3654977/
  3. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/bread-best-whole-grain-multigrain-whole-wheat/
  4. https://www.thestatesman.com/lifestyle/cook-potatoes-healthiest-way-boost-nutrition-1502667895.html
  5. https://www.hss.gov.nt.ca/en/services/nutritional-food-fact-sheet-series/berries
  6. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-brown-rice
  7. https://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/protein-shake-35471834
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29263222/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019684/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8336541/
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