These Pre-workout Foods Will Help You Burn Even More Fat

May 9, 2018 at 4:37 p.m. ET
Image: Manuta/Getty Images

Show of hands if you're the type of person who doesn't eat before hitting the gym. It's OK. You can be honest.

Now, if you are, it's time to stop — because not only does not eating make you dizzy, lethargic and lightheaded at the gym (making you more prone to injury), but it also prevents you from truly getting the most out of your workout.

It's true: Eating the right pre-workout snacks before your workout turns your body into a powerful fat-burning machine. So, we turned to the experts in our quest for the ultimate pre-workout snacks, and they were eager to share some of their favorite fat-burning foods.

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Sarah Waybright, registered dietitian and owner/founder of WhyFoodWorks, LLC, says the best choice for a pre-workout snack is one that is mostly carbohydrates.

"Your body uses carbohydrates it has stored (called glycogen), so your snack will help replenish and preserve those stores to help minimize damage to your muscles and increase endurance," says Waybright.

She recommends having one of the following snacks 15 to 30 minutes before you hit the gym:

  • Small glass of 100 percent juice
  • Banana
  • Piece of toast

Martina M. Cartwright, a registered dietitian, author, speaker and adjunct professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona, recommends eating one of the following high-carb snacks about an hour before a physical exertion to encourage fat burning:

  • A handful or two of Cheerios (or a bowl of them with a touch of low fat milk)
  • A slice of whole wheat toast or half of a bagel
  • A piece of whole fruit
  • A few whole wheat crackers
  • Half-cup of pasta with a touch of butter
  • Half-cup of rice with a touch of oil
  • Half-cup of oatmeal with a few raisins

"Carbohydrates are digested faster than fat or protein," explains Cartwright. "This is important, as eating too much fat or protein or even a large-carb meal within two hours before a workout will drive blood flow to the stomach, not the muscles. Carbohydrates are rapidly used up during a workout, leaving fat as the fuel the body will burn once the workout gets started."

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Jasmine Jafferali, corporate lifestyle and wellness consultant in fitness, wellness, and nutrition, says Low Glycemic Index and low-fructose foods will provide the best pre-workout burn. "Low GI foods are slow to release in the bloodstream and fill up your glycogen stores, allowing you to go a little longer and harder in your workout," she explains.

If you're exercising in the morning, Jafferali recommends one of these tasty snack options:

  • A protein shake made with a half-cup of coffee, half-cup of coconut milk and one scoop of chocolate or vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup of raspberries and 10 ounces of unsweetened Greek yogurt

Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of thinking that exercising on an empty stomach is a good idea.

"Some people think not eating before working out is a great fat-burning strategy," says Katie Fingerhut Heaney, a registered dietitian, food writer and business owner based in St. Louis, Missouri. "But the reality is, the body will use whatever energy is available, including whatever carbohydrate is there — protein, muscle and fat. If someone is exercising on an empty stomach, they might not have enough energy to perform a quality workout."

A version of this article was originally published in January 2013.