The best snack to eat before HIIT for maximum energy

Workout Nutrition is an imperfect science: eat too soon before starting your high-intensity effort and you may feel nauseous; low on fuel before exercising, and you may not have enough energy to complete the entire workout. So if you’re a fan of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and wondering, “What should I eat before I work out?”, it’s time to call in an expert.

Maria Garcia, group fitness manager at Equinox, HIIT instructor, and NASM-certified nutrition coach, has thought much on how to walk into an exercise class with maximum energy. “Pre-HIIT fuel is important because it ensures you can stay strong throughout your training session,” Garcia says. “Who wants to feel dizzy and fatigued or have to run to the bathroom in the middle of a class?” Retweet.

As someone who has studied nutrition and has represented his fair share of mountain climbers, Garcia has a few rules of thumb to help you fuel yourself with the proper nutrients while allowing optimal time to digest. “About 45 minutes before a HIIT class, I make sure I can perform at my peak with the optimal nutrients,” he says. “My pre-workout fuel is an easily digestible snack consisting of carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates give you quick energy and protein supports your muscles and helps you recover faster.”

My pre-workout fuel is an easily digestible snack consisting of carbs and protein.” — Maria Garcia, Group Fitness Manager at Equinox and NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach

While protein and carbohydrates are great nutrients to take with you to your workout, there are a few nutrients Garcia recommends consuming in moderation before you get moving and enjoying yourself. Specifically, fiber and fat. “Fiber right before a workout can cause digestive issues, and that’s the last thing you want during your workout,” explains Garcia. “Also, I stay away from eating large amounts of high-fat foods. Fats take longer to digest. Again, this is a bad idea right before your workout – you won’t have enough time to digest everything before you get to that class.”

Of course, you also don’t want to eat a huge amount of food before you start heating up, even if your mega-snack includes all the right nutrients. “You don’t want to eat a big protein bar, a high-sugar drink like soda, or any big meal right before your workout. Keep the snack small but with the right nutrients, and it will help you get through a HIIT class in the best way,” says Garcia.

Now that you know the science behind pre-exercise nutrition, you’re ready to get down to the good stuff. And by that, I mean…the snack. Below, Garcia shares the four favorite snacks of his to eat before, *ahem*, hitting the gym.

The 4 best snacks to eat before a HIIT workout, according to a nutritionist-slash-trainer

Bottom line: All of these criteria mean that choosing a pre-HIIT snack isn’t exactly straightforward. But in all her time teaching HIIT and studying nutrition, Garcia has a few snacks you can steal for yourself.

  • A small banana with nut butter
  • Greek yogurt with red berries
  • A low-sugar protein shake
  • Wholemeal toast with a few slices of avocado

So is the science of pre-workout snacking officially… cracked? Not quite. “Everyone is different, and what works perfectly for one person may not be optimal for another person. Choosing foods that work for you based on your goals, health conditions, and preferences is also important to creating sustainable and successful results,” adds Garcia. So take your snack preferences as a suggestion and experiment with your own workouts, okay?

Get moving with this full-body, no-equipment HIIT workout:

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