16 Best Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks An Exercise Phisiologist's Picks

Making sure your pre- and post-workout snacks are on point can be the difference between you making real progress, and not going anywhere.


While my specialty sits within the realm of “exercise science”, I still get a fairly large number of clients coming to me for the sole purpose of changing how they look.  To put it simply, they want to build a little muscle, lose a little fat, and “tone up”.

Something I am sure that everyone has felt at one time or another.

“Once we made a bit of a plan to get in a pre-workout snack before training, and a post-workout snack after training, we started to see some huge changes.  They not only felt a whole lot better but also saw much better results from their training.”

Hunter Bennett, Exercise Physiologist

With these people, I always take a very simple approach.  We start by making some small changes to their diet: add in one serving of vegetables and one serving of lean protein to every meal.  We also get in the gym for 2-3 solid training sessions per week.

See, simple.

Now, this is an approach that I have used hundreds of times (and with great success I might add!).  However, over time I saw a growing number of clients who struggled to adjust to the changes involved.

While they could stick to the diet well enough (it is pretty straight forward), they would get to their workout and then crash and burn.  They found themselves feeling lethargic, tired, and completely unmotivated.

It had me scratching my head for weeks!

Then, after actually talking to a number of these legends, I realized that many were eating the bulk of their food for dinner.  Now, while there is nothing wrong with this, it did mean that they were having a small breakfast and a small lunch and then they were coming to train with me.  All before shooting off home for dinner.

Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

I quickly realized that they were not eating enough around their workouts!  And I actually felt like a bit of an idiot for not discussing the importance of pre- and post-workout nutrition with them sooner.

Once we made a bit of a plan to get in a pre-workout snack before training, and a post-workout snack after training, we started to see some huge changes.  They not only felt a whole lot better but also saw much better results from their training.

In fact, the results were so astounding that I now have this discussion with all my clients.

And now I am having it with you.

Why are Pre-Workout Snacks Important?

I already alluded to it above, but pre-workout snacks are pretty darn important.

Firstly, a good pre-workout snack provides you with fuel (in the form of carbohydrates) for your upcoming workout.

This means that you come into your workout feeling mentally prepared and full of energy, which is already a pretty big deal by itself.  Additionally, you will be able to complete your workout at a higher intensity than you would without the extra carbohydrates from your snack.

But that’s not all!

A pre-workout snack should also provide your body with a healthy serving of protein.

Protein is often considered to be the building blocks of the human body.  It is used to build new muscle and connective tissue, new cells, and practically every other part of your body.

By eating protein before you exercise, you provide your body with the nutrients it needs to recover from that exercise.  This essentially means faster recovery times, improved muscle growth, and you feeling better.

These two factors — more energy from the carbohydrates and faster recovery times from the protein — ultimately make your workout more effective.  In short, you burn more calories, get stronger, and build more muscle faster.  All from a little pre-workout snack.

What more could you want?

The 8 Best Pre-Workout Snacks

With all this in mind, I wanted to provide you with some of my favorite pre-workout snacks.  Each of these is easy to make, ticks all the boxes from a nutrient perspective, and, most importantly, tastes fantastic.

In my opinion, the 8 best pre-workout snacks are:

1. High Protein Oatmeal

High protein oatmeal recipe

This high protein oatmeal by Fannetastic Food is an absolute favorite of mine.  Providing a solid portion of protein and carbohydrates, it is the perfect pre-workout snack for those of you who want a quick energy boost.

Ingredients you will need:

  • Rolled oats
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Banana

This is a super simple one-pot dish that takes less than 10 minutes to put together.  I should also add that it tastes amazing and is perfect for those low on time.

Nutritional information per serving:

Carbohydrates: 65 g/Protein: 13 g/Fat: 12 g/Calories: 445

2. Peanut Butter Energy Bites

Peanut butter energy balls

Next up we have some peanut butter energy bites by Ambitious Kitchen.

These provide a very even mix of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, making them a fantastic option for anyone looking for a little pre-workout boost.

You will also be happy to know that this one is pretty easy to put together!

All you need is a large bowl, a pair of hands, and refrigerator and you have the perfect recipe for some amazing protein balls.

Ingredients:

  • Natural peanut butter
  • Coconut palm syrup
  • Vanilla extract
  • Protein powder
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Rolled oats
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Chia seeds

Nutritional information (per ball):

Carbohydrates: 12 g/Protein: 6 g/Fat: 8 g/Calories: 150

3. Turkey Avocado Wrap

Turkey Avocado Wrap

This turkey avocado wrap by The Monogrammed Mom goes out to all of you who are following a low carb or paleo way of eating or want something that is gluten-free.  These turkey avocado wraps are as simple as they come.  Moreover, since they provide a good serving of protein and healthy fats, they are a great way to give your body the nutrients it needs before training.

Luckily, this is another very easy one!  It literally takes two minutes to put together.  Plus, it also stores really well, so you can take it with you on the go.

Ingredients:

  • Thickly sliced deli turkey
  • Avocado
  • Carrot

Nutritional information (per serving/4 wraps):

Carbohydrates: 17 g/Protein: 14 g/Fat: 18 g/Calories: 280

4. Yogurt Parfait

Yogurt parfait

This yogurt parfait by Food, Pleasure, and Health is a simple option that will perfectly suit anyone following a low-fat way of eating.  Providing a good portion of both protein and high-quality carbohydrates, you can’t go wrong with these tasty treats pre-sweat-session.

Plus, this super quick recipe requires no time to put together and just a single glass for “equipment”.  It is so easy, it is ridiculous!

Ingredients:

  • Low-fat granola
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Berries

Nutritional information (per parfait):

Carbohydrates: 42 g/Protein: 14 g/Fat: 3 g/Calories: 250

5. Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Blueberry banana smoothie

Sometimes the best pre-workout snacks are those that you can eat on the run, literally.

And that includes this great blueberry banana smoothie by Amy’s Healthy Baking.  Full to the brim with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy carbohydrates, and a shot of protein, this is a great choice for your pre-workout nosh.

Prepare yourself some complex cooking here… I kid, I kid.  This a delicious smoothie that takes 60 seconds to prepare.  Perfect for all your pre-workout needs.

Ingredients:

  • Frozen blueberries
  • Banana, sliced and frozen
  • Plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • Unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • Ice cubes

Nutritional information (per smoothie):

Carbohydrates: 64 g/Protein: 15 g/Fat: 3 g/Calories: 290

6. Hard-Boiled Eggs and Carrot Sticks

Hard boiled egg and carrot sticks

Now, when it comes to pre-workout snacks, I am all for things that take little effort, minimal time, and can be eaten anywhere.  Which is exactly where my ultra-original recipe “hard-boiled eggs and carrot sticks” enters the equation.

Offering a serving of high-quality protein, this is a very simple recipe that suits anyone following a low-carb or paleo diet or anyone who needs something that is gluten-free!

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 large carrot

Start by putting the eggs in a pot and covering with water.  Then put them on high heat and bring to boil.  Once the water is boiling and the eggs are rolling, keeping the pot on the stove, turn off the heat and let them sit of 12 minutes.

Perfect hard-boiled eggs every time!

During this 12-minute period, cut up your carrots into sticks, and put into an airtight container to be eaten later.

Simple, effective, and can be eaten anywhere — what more could you want!?

Nutritional information (whole meal):

Carbohydrates: 9 g/Protein: 26 g/Fat: 20 g/Calories: 320

7. Sweet Potato and Avocado Egg Scramble

Sweet Potato Scramble

Next up we have this great sweet potato and avocado egg scramble by Nutrition in the Kitchen.  While this does indeed take a little bit more work than some of the others on this list, it stores incredibly well, meaning you can prep it in advance and smash it easily before your training session.

This recipe also tastes amazing and provides everything you need to fuel an intense training session.

Ingredients:

  • Sweet potato, diced into large cubes
  • Olive oil spray
  • Egg whites
  • Avocado
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Green onion
  • Yellow bell pepper
  • Onion
  • Garlic powder
  • Paprika
  • Salt and pepper

Nutritional information (one serving, or half the recipe):

Carbohydrates: 35 g/Protein: 26 g/Fat: 6 g/Calories: 265

8. Easy Protein Pancakes

Protein pancakes

Last but not least, we have this delicious protein pancake recipe by Diabetes Strong.  When most people think of pancakes, they think of a sweet treat that is full to the brim with sugar — but this recipe really flips that notion on its head.

By making some smart ingredient choices, this pancake recipe provides a solid portion of protein on top of some high-quality carbohydrates.  All of this means these pancakes give you everything you could ever need in a pre-workout snack.

I should also note that with minimal fat content, this is perfect for those of you who follow a low-fat diet.

Ingredients:

  • Uncooked oats
  • Egg whites
  • Vanilla protein powder
  • Blueberries
  • Baking powder
  • Stevia
  • Water
  • Cooking spray
  • Sugar-free syrup

This is one of the easiest recipes on this list, literally only taking about 15 minutes from start to finish.  Not to mention, the resulting pancakes are also some of the sweetest-tasting treats ever — it is hard to believe that these little guys are actually good for you!

Nutritional information per serving (2 pancakes):

Carbohydrates: 16 g/Protein: 22 g/Fat: 2 g/Calories: 180

Why are Post-Workout Snacks Important?

We have spent a bit of time talking about the importance of pre-workout nutrition, now it’s time to talk about post-workout snacks.

The way I like to think about this concept is if pre-workout snacks are about fueling our workout, then post workout snacks are about optimizing recovery after your workout is over.

During an intense training session, you burn through a whole lot of the energy (i.e. glycogen) stored within your muscle tissue.  You also break down and physically damage that muscle tissue.

It is this breakdown that actually prompts the body to build itself up stronger and better than ever before.  However, this process only works if the body has adequate nutrients available to allow this rebuilding process.

Enter post-workout snacks.

By providing the body with a healthy dose of carbohydrates and protein, post-workout snacks stimulate the replenishment of muscle fuel stores and maximize the repair and recovery of muscle tissue.  In this manner, it seriously improves the results of your training, while also keeping your post-training muscle soreness to a minimum.

In my mind, it is just as important as your pre-workout nutrition.

The 8 Best Post-Workout Snacks

So, in the same way as above, I also wanted to outline some of my favorite post-workout snacks.  Each of these offers a great way to meet your nutritional needs after a workout, are pretty easy to put together, and taste delicious.

The 8 best post-workout snacks are:

1. Oatmeal Raisin Protein Bars

Oatmeal raisin protein bars

Our first post-workout snack is these great oatmeal raisin protein bars by Eating Bird Food.

These little goldmines taste exactly like oatmeal raisin cookies but are packed full of protein and healthy carbohydrates.  This makes them a perfect muscle-repairing post-workout snack.

These bars are one of the best options for those of you who train in your lunch break at work because they can be taken anywhere and store really well.

Ingredients:

  • Old fashioned rolled oats
  • Almond meal
  • Vanilla protein powder
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Sea salt
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Honey
  • Egg whites
  • Vanilla extract
  • Seedless raisins
  • Dark chocolate

Nutritional information per serving (1 bar):

Carbohydrates: 30 g/Protein: 14 g/Fat: 6 g/Calories: 235

2. Overnight Chocolate Protein Oats

Overnight chocolate oats

Next up we have these amazing overnight chocolate protein oats by Diabetes Strong.

This is a great choice for those of you who are trying to keep your post-workout nutrition relatively low-fat while still getting a potent dose of protein and carbohydrates.

I love recipes that take me less than 5 minutes to prepare — which is why you will find me chowing down on this guy all too often.  Simple, tasty, and the perfect post-workout snack.

Ingredients:

  • Low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Rolled oats
  • Vanilla protein powder
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Almonds & berries (optional but recommended)
  • Stevia

Nutritional information per serving:

Carbohydrates: 20 g/Protein: 21 g/Fat: 3 g/Calories: 185

3. Gluten-Free Protein Banana Bread

Gluten-free protein banana bread

I can tell you now when I suggest banana bread as a post-workout snack, most people look at me like I’m an idiot.

Then I show them this recipe for gluten-free protein banana bread by Bites of Wellness and they look at me like I’m a genius.

Full to the brim with high-quality carbohydrates and a good serving of protein, this is a seriously powerful (and tasty) recovery tool.

Ingredients:

  • Bananas
  • Vanilla protein powder
  • Coconut flour
  • Flax eggs (made with ground flax seed and hot water)
  • Gluten-free oat flour
  • Brown rice flour
  • Stevia
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda

This one is absolutely perfect for those of you who don’t mind getting in the kitchen and doing a bit of baking.  With this, it requires a little bit of preparation, but once they are baked, it will all be worth it.

As a bonus, you can easily store this guy in the fridge for up to 5 days, ready to enjoy at your pleasure.

Nutritional information per serving (1 slice):

Carbohydrates: 31 g/Protein: 11 g/Fat: 6 g/Calories: 220

4. Easy Egg Wraps

Easy egg wraps

These easy egg wraps by The Lean Green Bean are the perfect post-workout snack for those of you following a low-carb, paleo, or ketogenic diet, as they are full to the brim with protein but contain zero carbohydrates.

Ingredients:

  • Eggs
  • Turkey
  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Prepare yourself for some fast and effective post-workout deliciousness.  This easy recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and about 2 minutes to eat (if you are anything like me, anyway).

Enjoy the simple deliciousness.

Nutritional information per serving (one serving, or all 4 wraps):

Carbohydrates: 4 g/Protein: 27 g/Fat: 26 g/Calories: 350

5. Ultimate 1-Minute Protein Brownie

Ultimate 1-minute brownie

If you have a sweet tooth but really cannot be bothered taking the time to cook something complicated, then, boy, have I got you covered.

Enter the ultimate 1-minute protein brownie by The Big Man’s World.

Full of protein and carbohydrates, this gluten-free, vegan-friendly brownie will meet all your post workout needs and have your mouth watering.

If you thought our last recipe was quick, then prepare to be amazed.  Using a single pot, and 60 seconds in the microwave, this delicious brownie takes as much time to make as it does to eat.

And the chocolate flavor?  So tasty!

Ingredients:

  • Protein powder
  • Coconut flour
  • Granulated sweetener
  • Baking powder
  • Dark cocoa powder
  • An egg/flax-egg
  • Almond milk
  • Dairy-free chocolate chips

Nutritional information per serving (1 slice):

Carbohydrates: 11 g/Protein: 36 g/Fat: 10 g/Calories: 265

6. Vegan Almond Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

Vegan almond banana oat smoothie

Many would argue that there is nothing better than finishing up a solid workout and then chugging down a protein shake.

Well, I would say that this vegan almond banana oatmeal smoothie by Ambitious Kitchen can give you that feeling times ten.

This delicious smoothie is full of high-quality carbohydrates, making it the perfect choice after a super intense workout.  Chuck in a dash of protein and you have a recipe (pun intended) for success.  Oh, and I should also note that it is completely gluten-free.

Ingredients:

  • Banana
  • Natural almond butter
  • Unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • Oats (gluten-free if desired)
  • Agave (or stevia)

Nutritional information per serving (1 smoothie):

Carbohydrates: 41 g/Protein: 7 g/Fat: 10 g/Calories: 280

7. Mocha Protein Shake

Mocha Protein Shake

Keeping with the “smoothie” theme, up next we have this delicious mocha protein shake by the Domestic Fashionista.

Chock full of protein and relatively high in carbohydrates, this is a great choice to maximize recovery and get you feeling your best after a hard training session.

And the little buzz from the coffee?  It puts you on top of the world!

Ingredients

  • Black coffee
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Chocolate protein powder
  • Splenda
  • Ice

Nutritional information per serving (1 serving):

Carbohydrates: 6 g/Protein: 21 g/Fat: 2 g/Calories: 125

8. Cottage Cheese Banana Pancakes

Cottage cheese banana pancakes

We are going to finish this list off with one of my absolute favorite post-workout snacks.

These cottage cheese banana pancakes by Ambitious Kitchen have everything that you could ever want to fuel your post-workout recovery.

This excellent recipe provides an even serving of fats, carbohydrates, and protein, meaning that it meets every single aspect of your recovery needs.  Additionally, its energy content is on the higher end, which ensures you keep your mental energy high throughout the rest of your day.

As a pancake recipe, this one takes a little bit more effort than some of the others on this list, but I can assure you that it is worth it.

This recipe is great, producing some of the lightest, goldenest (it’s a word…), healthiest, and tastiest, pancakes on the planet.

Stack ‘em up, drizzle with sugar-free maple syrup, and enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Old-fashioned rolled oats
  • Medium banana
  • Vanilla extract
  • Baking powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Egg
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Fresh berries
  • Sugar-free maple syrup

Nutritional information per serving (4 pancakes):

Carbohydrates: 42 g/Protein: 20 g/Fat: 8 g/Calories: 325

Take Home Message

When starting a new diet or commencing a new exercise routine, you want to make sure that you meet all your needs both pre- and post-workout.

This means making sure that you have the nutrients required to fuel your workout and recover from your workout.

The recipes listed in this article give you some great options that you can use as pre- and post-workout snacks.  So, enjoy — both the taste and the gains!


Want more tasty recipes recommended by our experts?

Make sure to check out the rest of our Recipe Series today!

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