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How to Get Energized Before a Workout? (Based on Science)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 26, 2022

There’s nothing worse than getting through the first couple of sets at the gym and realizing that you have low energy levels because you rushed your meals earlier in the day.

As a personal fitness coach, I can see this immediately in my clients when they start a training session, but there are simple things you can do even on a busy day to boost your workout energy.

To figure out the ideal things to consume before you head to the gym, I teamed up with my dietitian to go through some nutritional research papers on this topic.

Quick Summary

  • Exercising on an empty stomach can help with weight loss efforts and cutting, but if you have a tough training routine, then food will be important.
  • With the right type of food and timing, you can significantly boost your energy levels for your next workout.
  • It’s important to understand which macronutrients work best and which ones might have a negative impact on physical activity.

How Can You Get More Energy Before a Workout?

A woman holding a weight

You can get more energy before a workout by carefully planning your diet.

Here are four tips I give my clients for improving their sustained energy levels before workouts.

Plan Your Main Meals

You should plan to eat a solid meal three times a day, but you have to get the timing right.

Aim to avoid eating a large volume less than an hour before exercise.

Your meals should also include plenty of protein and complex carbs throughout the day so that you have slow-release energy and amino acids for your muscles to recover [1].

Have a Healthy Snack

While exercise during fasting periods can help with weight loss, most athletes will need proper nutrition for their tough workout sessions [2].

Give your muscles more fuel with quick carbs from eating fresh fruits before a workout. You can also add some peanut butter as a pre-workout snack for protein.

Stay Hydrated

Close up image holding a glass of water

I recommend that you drink water in small amounts throughout the day which adds up to at least four pints.

And in the hour before you exercise, aim to drink an extra pint of water in addition to what you normally drink [3].

Being fully hydrated before you get started will make a huge difference to your body.

Get Fresh Air

If you’re feeling sluggish in the afternoon or evening, then aim to get some fresh air and plenty of oxygen into your lungs.

Try out some deep breathing exercises outdoors, and you won’t feel tired for long [4].

Take Other Supplements

Depending on your workout time, I suggest that you also take a pre-workout.

These can increase your physical and mental energy enough to add a few more pounds or do a few more reps.

What Foods Give You an Energy Boost?

banana top view

Here are five things my dietitian recommends eating as part of a meal or a pre-workout snack before training.

Banana

Not only will a banana provide energy in a slow-release form, but it’s also an excellent source of potassium [5].

This is an important trace mineral and electrolyte that plays a key role in hydration. 

And because it’s easy to digest, you can eat a banana 10 minutes before your workout without causing stomach issues.

Read More: Eating a Banana Before Working Out (Is It Good for You?)

Whole Grains

Whole grains are a great source of carbs, and because they are less refined, the body will absorb the carbs a lot more slowly.

You could either consume pasta before working out or eat whole grain bread for lunch. Partner those with some lean protein like chicken or fish for dinner.

“Carbohydrates, as the body's primary source of energy, generally pass through the digestive tract more rapidly than either protein or fats. Protein digests faster than fats.”

- Sharon Perkins, Writer at SFGate.com. 

Brown Rice

Brown rice on a clear bowl

Brown unprocessed rice is also full of complex carbohydrates that won’t result in sudden blood sugar spikes in your body.

Eating rice as a pre-workout meal about one to two hours before the gym can fully stock up your glycogen stores [6].

Energy Bars

You have to be careful with these, as many energy bars you find in stores are just sugary treats.

But there are a few good products out there that provide slow-release carbs and protein that can help fuel your workout.

Fruit Juice

And our final recommendation is a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice. A five-ounce glass will have about 20 grams of carbs [7].

And while these are absorbed fast, when you drink that juice just before training, it can give you great energy to get your blood pumping.

Are There Things to Avoid?

Drinking energy drink outdoors

Yes, there are certain things you need to avoid drinking and eating before or after a workout.

Energy Drinks

These are full of sugar, and even if you’re heading into a tough training routine, that volume of sugar will cause blood glucose spikes that are tough to process [8].

Processed Foods

Highly processed food is typically full of sugar and simple carbs. While they can provide a quick energy boost, this isn’t a sustained delivery that can result in an energy crash.

Stimulants

If you go for a post-workday workout in the evening, then you want to avoid ingredients like caffeine.

Yes, it can boost performance, but that’s not worth sacrificing your recovery time with a bad night’s sleep [9].

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FAQs

Are Macros Important In Pre-Workout Snacks?

Yes, macros are important in workout snacks. You should make sure that these snacks contain mainly carbs and protein as these are easier to digest than fat [10].

Do Vitamins And Minerals Help With Energy?

Yes, vitamins and minerals help with energy. Things like Vitamin B12 and iron play a key role in forming red blood cells that deliver energy to organs and muscles [11].

Focus On Your Energy Levels Before Each Workout

Whether you’re looking to lose body weight or bulk up with lean muscle mass, having enough energy from a well-balanced diet and perfectly timed snacks is an important task to get on top of.

And if you want to increase how much energy you have during your workouts, then we have a few supplements that we thoroughly tested and can recommend:

These aren’t magic pills that turn you into a Marvel superhero, but they can make enough of a difference to get to your fitness goals faster.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142015/
  2. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnme/2016/1984198/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986525
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/
  5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/bananas
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6019055
  7. https://www.carbmanager.com/food-detail/nl:25992c5068ea97434583b99d5b1ff763/fruit-juice-juice
  8. https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/fitness/why-does-exercise-sometimes-raise-blood-sugar
  9. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4
  10. https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/digests-first-protein-carbohydrates-fat-10384.html
  11. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/supplements-and-energy-what-to-know

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