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The Best Snacks for Your WorkoutThe Best Snacks for Your Workout


A snack can help you push through a tough workout, but if you eat the wrong thing, you may have to leave the gym early. Everyone is different, so determining the right foods and the best time to eat them is a learning process.

Before Your Workout

The Mayo Clinic suggests that large meals be eaten at least 3 to 4 hours before a workout, small meals 2 to 3 hours before, and small snacks about 1 hour before. Choose foods balanced in carbohydrates and proteins and low in fat and fiber. Each person tolerates fat and fiber differently, so experiment to find what works best for you.

Pre-Workout Snacks

  • 1/2 of an English muffin topped with 2 scrambled egg whites. (94 calories)
  • 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes with a 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese. (112 calories)
  • 1/4 cup of oatmeal prepared with water and mashed with a 1/2 of a banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon. (135 calories)
  • 20 mini pretzels with 2 tablespoons of hummus. (156 calories)
  • 2 slices of unsweetened dried mango and 2 tablespoons of shelled pumpkin seeds. (140 calories)
  • 1/4 cup of low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt topped with a 1/4 cup of brown puffed rice cereal and 1/4 cup of blueberries. (118 calories)

After Your Workout

Eat within two hours of finishing a hard workout to replenish glycogen stores in your muscles. Depending on the time of day you exercise, this may be a full meal or a small snack that satisfies you until lunch or dinner. Choose foods that are balanced in proteins and carbohydrates, but add more heart-healthy fat and fiber during your recovery.

Post-Workout Snacks

  • A smoothie made with 1 cup of low-fat milk, 1/4 cup of vanilla Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup of frozen blackberries, ½ cup of kale leaves, and 1 teaspoon of honey. (286 calories)
  • 3 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tablespoon of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of honey, with 1 cup of red grapes for dipping. (219 calories)
  • A wrap with 1 whole wheat tortilla, 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado, 2 slices of smoked turkey, 1/4 cup of shredded romaine lettuce, and 2 teaspoons of spicy brown mustard. (232 calories)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes mixed with 2 tablespoons of diced olives, 1/2 cup of white cannellini beans, 1/2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and two chopped basil leaves. (212 calories)
  • 1 cup of prepared black bean soup and 1 piece of whole wheat bread topped with avocado spread (2 tablespoons of smashed avocado mixed with 1 tablespoon of prepared salsa). (270 calories)
  • 1 cup of chopped, grilled summer squash drizzled with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 2 ounces of chopped, cooked chicken over 1/2 cup of whole wheat pasta. (302 calories)

Bedtime Snacks

If you eat dinner early and can’t handle snacks before morning workouts, a bedtime snack can help. Be sure to keep it light so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep.

  • 1 sliced banana drizzled with 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter that has been heated for 20-30 seconds in the microwave. (215 calories)
  • 1/4 cup of dried tart cherries and 1/2 ounce of raw walnuts. (220 calories)
Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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