Here is exactly what to eat before a workout

Do you have a workout planned in the evening but you’re not sure what to eat for lunch and at what time?

Healthy Mummy nutritionist Cheree has shared with us EVERYTHING we need to know about when to eat, what to eat AND why you should dig in before a workout.

After all, food is energy and the consumption of smart, nutritious snacks can actually make a difference in your workout. Here is your pre-workout know-how.

ash working out wendy

What to eat before a workout

The timing of when to eat before a workout will depend on the type of exercise you are about to undertake:

  • Eat 3-4 hours prior to a longer, endurance style workout.

Cheree says, “If you’re about to head into a longer, endurance style workouts you’ll be aiming for a sustained release of glycogen from the breakdown of carbohydrates and for this your body will work best if you are able to eat 3-4 hours prior to start time.

“This meal should be centred on low glycaemic index (GI) complex carbohydrate foods.”

  • Eat 45-60 minutes before a usual gym workout or run around the block

For your usual gym workout or a run around the block with the dog, 45-60 minutes is a nice timeframe. For this, Cheree says that it’s beneficial to combine carbohydrates with a small protein hit and keep these meals a low calorie option (250cal or less).

Cheree’s top 5 picks for what to eat pre-workout (1-2 hours prior to ‘go time’)

1. Banana Smoothie

Combine a banana, oats and some nut butter with some cinnamon or cacao powder and use almond or coconut milk as a delicious base.

Banana smoothie laid out

Bananas are not only low GI, which means they provide sustained energy release and carbohydrates to the body, but they also contain high amounts of potassium which assist with optimal muscle and nerve function. Sipping on coconut water can make you less dehydrated during your workout as well.

Try our Healthy Mummy banana smoothie before your next Tabata workout.

2. Green Apple slices with 100% nut butter

A small amount of fibre and carbohydrate in the apple combined with protein and monounsaturated fats found in nut butter will help to provide lasting energy, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and relieving you of the mid-workout energy drain.

3. Cottage cheese on wholegrain rice crackers 


Cottage cheese contains an optimal form of protein that is slow-digesting and will fuel your muscles for a longer period of time. Combine this delicious treat with wholegrain crackers and you’ve added the complex carbohydrates your body is able to use to replace the glycogen stores that are used up for energy during exercise.

4. Overnight oats 

If it’s a morning workout that gets you going then opting for an overnight oats recipe might be just the fuel you need. Try combing oats, oat or nut milk and some cinnamon in a jar stored in the fridge overnight. In the morning, top this dish with all your favourites – nuts, berries and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

Try this recipe with your The Healthy Mummy protein powder for added benefits of improved muscle recovery and function.

overnight oats

5. Low fat plain or Greek yoghurt 

With a few berries thrown in, this is perfect for the last minute workout preparation rush. If you’re closer to or under the one hour mark before your exercise begins than a lower calorie, higher energy snack is the go-to!

Why do this before a workout?

Knowing how to best fuel your body for a workout will help you shake the most out of your movement.

“Understanding that the body will create energy in three different ways depending on whether we need a quick burst (usually from a natural source of adenosine tryphosphate (ATP) found in the body), a moderate 30-45 min gym workout equivalent (where our body uses glucose) or sustained energy for endurance (requiring the use of our glycogen stores, a substance obtained from the breakdown of carbohydrates) is essential in understanding why you should or shouldn’t eat and what food selections are best for you,” Cheree says.

Without the fuel to fire up these energy sources, our stores can get quite low leaving us with a feeling of mid-workout dread, more difficult muscle recovery and even an increased likelihood of injury.

Keep in mind, as a general rule that we perform better if we have the fuel readily available for our body to use up!

The final verdict?

Cheree adds, “The closer you are to your workout, the more simple a meal you should opt for, the more time you have before ‘go time’ and the longer your workout duration will be, the more complex and filling your meal should be.”

On a final note, don’t forget to hydrate!

“Adequate hydration can give you up to 80% more strength in your workout – that’s a huge difference to make with something as simple as drinking water,” she says.

For your best chance at hydration, opt for sipping your daily intake over a 12-14 hour period rather than having larger amounts as separated intervals.

Stuck on your next workout idea? Join the March 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge Butt & Thighs Challenge, where you can choose from 350 exercise videos tailored to busy mums. What’s your next pre workout food going to be?


With more than 4,000 delicious (and healthy) recipes, 350 exercises & 24/7 support – the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge  is designed (and proven) to help busy mums like you lose weight!

written by:

Katie Fowler

Katie is a yoga loving writer from Sydney's northern beaches. With a flair for healthy baking you can find her scouring Instagram for the latest take on raw brownies and trolling Pinterest for interior design inspiration!