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6 Best Pre-Workout Protein Snacks For Stronger Muscles, Says Dietitian

If you are “team protein” when it comes to a pre-workout snacks, these will peak your interest.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Working out takes more than finding the motivation to hit the gym or pound the pavement. Fueling your body with the proper nutrition can help take your exercise to the next level, possibly helping you feel fueled, energized, and supported. And perhaps most importantly, the right snack can prevent you from feeling hangry, perhaps resulting in your ditching your workout altogether.

No matter which exercises you are partaking in, your pre-workout macro priority is carbohydrates to prevent glycogen depletion and provide sustaining energy. Depending on your workout of choice, fiber may need to be limited, as overeating roughage may lead to abdominal discomfort while you are bouncing around.

Protein is often thought of as a post-workout must-have macro. But data does show that including protein in your pre-workout may support increasing muscle creation, muscle recovery, and athletic performance. And choosing to take in your protein before your workout versus after your workout may not make a world of difference when it comes to muscle growth. Suppose you are participating in more cardio-heavy activities. In that case, less protein may be needed than if you are doing more of a strength training regimen.

Healthy fats can be included in your pre-workout snack, as long as you aren't eating it too close to your exercise time. If you are looking for a quick nosh shortly before you hit the gym floor, fat may not be your macro of choice to focus on. But if your snack time is a ways away from the time you will be pumping iron, healthy fats can help keep your hunger at bay when it is time to get moving.

Remember—the closer you get to your workout time, the more you want to focus on "quick" carbs than anything else.

If you are "team protein" when it comes to a pre-workout snack (and you can tolerate it), there are many options you can lean on. To help get your body fueled and ready to tackle your workout, here are 6 dietitian-approved protein snacks for stronger muscles. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.

Handful of No Shell Wonderful Pistachios and POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice

pistachios and POM juice

Pomegranate juice is naturally hydrating (an essential factor in a pre-workout snack) and is a good source of potassium: an important electrolyte for muscle function. Plus, the antioxidants in POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice may help increase nitric oxide bioavailability by protecting it from breaking down. Nitric oxide helps your body get the oxygen and nutrients it needs for a successful exercise sesh.

Taking pomegranate extract 30 minutes before a workout may help improve athletic performance in certain populations.

Combining the juice with Wonderful Pistachios will fuel your body with all of the essential amino acids you need, as pistachios are a complete plant protein. Plus, since they are packed with antioxidants and simple to eat on the go, enjoying some of these gorgeous nuts may help you see the results you want to see.

RELATED14 Best Foods for Better Workout Results, According to Experts

CLIF Builders Protein + Caffeine Bars

clif bar builders
Clif Bar & Company

CLIF Builders Protein + Caffeine is a convenient bar with 20 grams of plant-based protein and 65 milligrams of caffeine (equivalent to a shot of espresso). These protein bars are crafted with complete protein to help rebuild muscles after your workout.

The added caffeine can help give your strength training workout an extra boost. Why caffeine? Caffeine may improve performance when taken before or during activity. Plus, it may improve concentration, reduce fatigue, and enhance alertness, helping you get more out of your workout.

Note that while this bar is a great pre- or post-workout nosh for most people, it is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, children under 18 years old, or people sensitive to caffeine.

RELATED16 Post-Workout Snacks Fitness Experts Swear By

Envy Apple and Nut Butter

apples and peanut butter

Envy Apples are a game-changer for apple lovers who live an on-the-go lifestyle, thanks to their unique flesh that stays white longer than other apples. Plus, these apples win in the taste department, with a naturally balanced sweetness (not bitter) and a delicious crunch.

These apples are packed with natural carbohydrates, helping support sustained energy throughout your exercise plan. If you are having your snack at least an hour before your exercise, adding some natural nut butter will give your nosh some staying power. Leaning on portable single-serving natural nut butters like Justin's can be a great solution for busy people who don't have a refrigerator at their disposal.

Zing Mini and Fresh Fruit

zing mini

Zing mini bars are perfectly portioned for people who need a satiating balance of carbs, protein, and fiber without loads of calories. These bars are smaller than what you would expect when you think of protein bars – which isn't a bad thing! At 100 calories and 5 grams of protein, these plant-based protein snacks are a perfect addition to a pre-workout snack, especially when combined with a piece of fresh fruit like banans for some easy-to-digest carbs to sustain your workout.

KIND Oatmeal and Berries

kind oatmeal

Along with the healthy carbs that this oatmeal provides, one serving of KIND Oatmeal contains a whopping 5 grams of protein to give it some staying power. For busy people who need a sustainable snack to help make it through their workout, whipping up some KIND Oatmeal may be a perfect solution.

Oatmeal digests more slowly than carb choices like white bread, helping you feel fueled and satisfied longer. Top your oatmeal with some fresh berries for an antioxidant boost.

Koia Vanilla Bean Protein Shake

Koia Vanilla Bean Protein Shake

As long as you are drinking this shake with ample time to digest, Koia Vanilla Bean Protein Shake can be a perfectly sippable pre-workout snack that tastes delicious and checks all of the boxes. With only 4 grams of added sugars and packed with nutrients, this shake can help people feel fueled and satisfied if they need a bit more substance before they hit the gym floor. Depending on your workout, you may need to add a piece of fruit or another carb source to give your body enough energy to make it through.

Check out 9 High-Protein Meal Ideas To Build Muscle & Feel Stronger.

Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer who has been in practice for almost 20 years. Read more about Lauren