The next time you get ready to head to the gym on an empty stomach, think again. Working out without any fuel can actually do more harm than good for anyone who is trying to lose weight or build muscle. “Exercising on an empty stomach can lead to the breakdown of muscle tissue,” Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, CSSD, told Life by Daily Burn. As a result, your workout can negatively impact your metabolism and can even lead to injury, Daily Burn explains. You can avoid this by eating a light and healthy snack at least an hour before you hit the gym. We suggest whipping up these pre-workout snacks, which are filled with energizing ingredients that will fuel your next sweat session.
1. Vegan Granola Bars
Fruit and nut bars | iStock.com
Nuts and dried fruit will fuel your muscles, and are packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fats, which will keep your energy levels up. Martha Stewart’s dried fruit and nut health bars are packed with dates, cherries, blueberries, papaya, pecans, macadamia nuts, and whole grains, ensuring you have a nutritious snack to enjoy before your workout. The recipe yields 8 servings.
- 1 cup (9 ounces) pitted dates
- Vegetable-oil cooking spray
- 1½ cups old-fashioned oats, finely ground, or 1 cup quinoa flakes
- 4½ ounces (1 cup) pecans, toasted (½ finely ground and ½ coarsely chopped)
- 2 ounces (½ cup) unsalted macadamia nuts, toasted (½ finely ground and ½ coarsely chopped)
- 2¼ ounces (⅓ cup) dried papaya, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1¾ ounces (⅓ cup) dried cherries, chopped
- 2 ounces (⅓ cup) dried blueberries
- 2 tablespoons oat bran
- 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 2 tablespoons wheat germ
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons brown-rice syrup or honey
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place dates in a small saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a simmer. Drain. Purée in a food processor until smooth. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Mix oats or quinoa flakes with nuts, papaya, cherries, blueberries, bran, flaxseed, wheat germ, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix in date purée and brown-rice syrup or honey. Press mixture into pan. Bake until center is firm and edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 8 bars.
2. Peanut Butter Protein Balls
Protein balls with chocolate chips | Source: iStock
Oxygen’s recipe creates a perfect pre-workout snack by blending the right amount of protein and carbs. For the best results, allow these protein balls to firm up in the refrigerator overnight — aim to eat two of these about two hours before your workout.
- ⅓ cup natural peanut butter
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
- 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 3 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Roll into 14 balls and refrigerate until firm. If possible, let sit overnight.
3. Banana Pear Smoothie
Pre-workout smoothie | iStock.com
Best Health’s banana pear smoothie is a satisfying snack that’s perfect to eat before working out. In fact, Men’s Fitness writes that bananas are one of the best foods to eat before hitting the gym; they’re packed with digestible carbohydrates and potassium, which fuel your muscles and help stave off cramps. The recipe yields 2 servings, with each containing 199 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fiber.
- 2 ripe pears, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon peeled and coarsely chopped ginger root
- 1 banana
- 1 cup skim milk
- Handful of ice
- Sprinkle of cinnamon on top
Directions: Blend all ingredients together. Enjoy!
4. 2-Minute Peanut Butter Rice Squares
Jar of peanut butter | iStock.com
Rebecca Scritchfield’s 2-minute peanut butter rice squares will keep your energy levels up during high-intensity workouts. The recipe calls for rice, maple syrup, and peanut butter, but you can also personalize this vegan and gluten-free recipe by adding in spices, dried fruits, shredded unsweetened coconut, sea salt, and chocolate chips.
- 1 cup leftover rice, brown or white
- ¼ cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
- 2 tablespoons 100% maple syrup
Directions: Place peanut butter in a microwave-safe dish and heat on high for 45 seconds, or until loosened. Add to a medium bowl along with maple syrup. Stir to combine. Add rice, then stir until evenly coated. Transfer to an 8-by-8-inch baking dish or glass container. Cover and keep stored in the refrigerator. Cut into squares before eating.
5. Banana Sushi
Slicing bananas | iStock.com
Active.com’s pre-workout snack consists of potassium-filled bananas, nut butter, tortillas, and jam. Livestrong notes that you can help prevent muscle cramps in your legs by eating bananas prior to your workouts.
- 1 tortilla of your choice
- 1 banana, sliced
- 1 tablespoon nut butter of your choice
- 1 tablespoon jam or apple butter
Directions: Spread a thin layer of nut butter on the tortilla, topped with a thin spread of jam. Place banana slices on bottom third of the tortilla and roll up tightly. Cut into one-inch pieces.
6. Lemon Ginger Pre-Workout Breakfast Cookies
Healthy breakfast cookies | iStock.com
Perfect for breakfast or a pre-workout snack, Vega’s cookies are filled with bananas, cashew butter, coconut oil, fresh ginger, oats, and cashews. After eating all of those nutritious ingredients, we guarantee you’ll have a fat-burning, calorie-blasting workout!
- 2 bananas, puréed
- 2 tablespoons ground flax
- 5 tablespoons water
- ½ cup cashew butter
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped fine
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 cup oats, ground
- 1½ cups oats
- ¼ cup cashews, chopped
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine banana, flax, water, cashew butter, coconut oil, vanilla extract, maple syrup, ginger, lemon zest, and juice. Process until combined, then transfer to a mixing bowl. Add baking soda, salt, oats, and cashews. Mix well to combine, then roll into balls and transfer to prepared cookie sheet. Flatten each cookie slightly. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.