It can be difficult to tell what the best pre-workout foods are, and particularly what types of macros are best to fuel your sweat-a-thon. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to macros, and there can also be variations between the meal portions: preworkout foods for men and preworkout foods for women. While we know that there are three macronutrients, we discuss, arguably, the most important one of them all in this good pre-workout foods: protein blog.

Shortly you’re going to see that most of the foods recommended for any healthy diet will include protein for pre-workout meals. Luckily for you, we have short-listed the best pre-workout foods to ensure your energy levels don’t deplete mid-workout and you fuel your body with the best sources of protein.


What is protein?

Protein is one of the three macronutrients required to maintain a healthy body. It is composed of 20 amino acids, 9 of which are called essential amino acids, need to be obtained from food sources. When protein is ingested, it is broken down to amino acids. Protein comprises many parts of the body, including hair, nails, muscle, bone and so on. It can be considered the building blocks that support growth and repair of tissue in the body as well as contributing to basic bodily functioning. Examples include making enzymes and horomones, supporting muscle synthesis and acting as a carrier for haemoglobin (carrying oxygen around the body).

It’s a key constituent in maintaining and repairing muscles in the body. This is particularly pertinent following a workout when muscle catabolism occurs (i.e. muscle breakdown). Proteins swoop in like an army to help repair the muscles in a process called muscle anabolism. That is why as you read on you’ll see that protein is an important component in any pre-workout snack or pre-workout meal. Hence, many pre-workout feeds will include ingredients with the highest protein foods available.

Why do I need to eat protein?

Protein is constantly being broken down within the body. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, protein cannot be stored in the body; consequently, there is no reservoir to pull from if protein levels drop. Therefore, we need to nourish our body with protein to ensure the we don’t run low.

So what are the signs of protein deficiency? Well, dietary protein deficiencies can lead to an array of problems including:

  • Brittle nails/hair
  • Skin lesions
  • Loss of muscle
  • Increase appetite and cravings for foods
  • Growth inhibition (in children)
  • Increased risk of infections

Whether you’re an athlete or not, it’s crucial to consume sufficient amounts of protein maintaining a healthy body. In the next paragraph, you’ll be provided with a high protein food list.


Pre-workout foods

Lean meats and poultry include chicken, turkey, steak or lean ground mince are high in protein and low in saturated fat.

Fish also features on our high protein pre-workout foods as it’s an excellent source of protein and also omega 3! Some of the best sources include tuna, cod, shrimp and salmon.

Greek yoghurt topped with fruits is a quick and convenient way to get some protein and carbs in. Why not blend them up and make a smoothie!


Eggs are a natural healthy source of protein. They are very versatile and can be quickly whipped up with some toast to fuel your workout.

Protein powder is a lean protein source and one of the highest protein foods available. Try making a protein shake or adding a scoop to your porridge (proats = protein + oats) to add some flavour and bulk to it. I personally love the chocolate flavour.

Protein bars also are handy if you’re out and about and in need of quick protein snack preworkout. Tip: Check the ingredients as some of them can be high in sugar. These protein bars are pretty low on sugar quantity.


Plant-based protein sources include:

Tofu: Tempeh contains the highest quantity of protein (30g per cup). However, firm tofu and edamame also are a good protein source for vegetarians.

Lentils are versatile and can be added to curries, salads etc. They’re also a good source of fibre.

Beans are also a good source of protein and can compliment a meat dish or be eaten with toast to offer a macro-balanced meal!

Spirulina comes in powder form and can be sprinkled over meals or used to make smoothie bowls. If you haven’t seen or tried spirulina bowls, you are missing out!

Peanuts offer a good quantity of protein (approximately 26g protein per 100g serving) and can be a quick vegetarian-friendly pre-workout snack. If you like peanut butter and banana, then you should try this peanut butter out.

Almonds, while not as good a source of protein as peanuts, almonds are still a good pre-workout protein source (21g protein per 100g serving).

Potatoes are full of nutrients and contain approximately 4-5g protein per medium sized potato.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Protein Tips

  • Include protein in most meals, it’s optimal, particularly for athletes, to avoid long periods of time without protein.
  • Including protein in a pre-workout meal is important, particurlarly after being in a fasted state overnight.
  • Try and get a mix of natural protein foods as opposed to eating processed/manufactured proteins for every meal. While we all know it can be difficult to hit your target protein intake for the day, it’s important to try and avoid processed meats where possible.
  • If you are away or out and about and need something to keep the hunger pangs away, a protein snack can be a quick way of hitting your macros while steering clear of tempting sugary options. For example, I often carry a high protein snack bar in my bag. It can be eaten anywhere, packed with protein, it’s not messy and it’s tasty, win win!
  • Avoid greasy sources of protein. You can control this by choosing healthy ways to prepare your food, e.g. boiling, grilling,  roasting and using low calories sprays. Additionally, removing the skin and visible fat from meat will reduce your saturated fat intake.
  • Take caution with calories in nuts as they are a calorie-dense food.
  • Don’t overdo it on the protein, while we need a good quantity of protein to support muscle anabolism, there’s no value in consuming excess protein. The amounts people are advised to eat varies depends on gender and lifestyle (bodybuilders/gym-goers typically require more protein). The current recommended daily allowance is 0.36g per pound of body weight, which seems a bit low.
  • For personnel wishing to gain muscle or lose weight, they should aim higher: on average 1g protein per pound of body weight.
  • Protein intake recommendations for strength and endurance athletes ranges from 0.64 – 1.09g per pound of bodyweight, while people on a bulking diet can benefit from protein levels of 1.50g per pound of bodyweight.


Berry, J., 2019. Essential Amino Acids: Definition, Benefits, And Foods. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2020].

Brazier, Y., 2018. Protein: Sources, Deficiency, And Requirements. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2020].

Dardevet, D., Rémond, D., Peyron, M., Papet, I., Savary-Auzeloux, I. and Mosoni, L., 2012. Muscle Wasting and Resistance of Muscle Anabolism: The “Anabolic Threshold Concept” for Adapted Nutritional Strategies during Sarcopenia. The Scientific World Journal, 2012, pp.1-6.

Mikstas, C., 2019. Slideshow: What To Eat Before And After A Workout. [online] WebMD. Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2020]. 2018. 7 Surprising Signs And Symptoms Of Protein Deficiency. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2020].

Osterweil, N., 2018. The Benefits Of Protein. [online] WebMD. Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2020].

Rogers, P., 2020. Building Up And Breaking Down Muscle In Weight Training. [online] Verywell Fit. Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2020].

The Nutrition Source. 2020. Protein. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2020]. 2019. Introduction To Protein And High Protein Foods – Unlock Food. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2020].

Categories: Blogs


Andrey Kuznetsov · 18/03/2020 at 9:19 PM

Dear Sharon.
Thank you very much for your fantastic website. It is amazing that you show people where to start and what steps to take towards their healthy living. I hope more people will know about your website and follow your guidance.
Kind regards,

    Sharon · 19/03/2020 at 6:10 PM

    Hi Andrey,

    Thank you so much for your warm words! I hope the page helps you towards a healthier lifestyle!


Robert · 18/03/2020 at 10:42 PM

Good stuff, I got really hungry after reading this article.

I lot of people think that you only need protein if you’re trying to build muscle and bulk up.

    Sharon · 19/03/2020 at 6:12 PM

    Hi Robert,

    Many people don’t realise that protein is an essential macronutrient required to maintain normal healthy bodily functions!

    Hope you filled up on some protein after reading this article!


Arthur · 19/03/2020 at 9:05 PM

Well that was interesting! I normally don’t like to eat before a workout, I rather drink a protein shake during. This was a well researched article. I really enjoyed it. Found out how much protein intake i need!

    Sharon · 20/03/2020 at 8:25 PM

    Hi Arthur,

    Yes, it can be hard working out with too much food in the belly! Especially when working on the core. Hope this provides insight into appropriate workout meals!


Jukka · 19/03/2020 at 9:11 PM

I eat mainly plant-based and I do weightlifting so thanks for the new ideas! In the past, I was more worried about the after workout protein but I’ve read the science pointing out that pre-workout meal is more important for performance and recovery, especially in high intensity and long workouts like weightlifting often tend to be. My go-to meal is a shake of brown rice protein and a banana. I find that if I eat a full meal, I tend to get queezy on the heavy lifts.

    Sharon · 20/03/2020 at 8:29 PM

    Hi there,

    Yes there’s often ambiguity regarding how much and time periods of before and after workout meals. I agree with you there, it can be a bit uncomfortable if you’ve eaten too much or too close to a workout. I’m sure when a person gets into a routine, they can get it down to a fine art though!


Will · 20/03/2020 at 1:28 AM

I think a lot of people who exercise don’t realise how much protein is required to maintain a healthy body and this post definitely helps with that! Great information for people who aren’t sure how much protein they should consume to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle.

    Sharon · 20/03/2020 at 8:31 PM

    Hi Will,

    I agree, people often don’t eat a balanced meal or eat soon enough before/after a workout and then leave their body absent of fuel.

    Thanks so much, I hope it helps you in your endeavours.

Johan · 02/04/2020 at 4:18 AM

Hey Sharon, some really good tips here. I mainly get my workouts done first thing in the morning. I’ll normally just eat a banana before hand, so it’s not too heavy.

Though of late I’ve started using spirulina mixed with water, it can be an acquired taste! I like the idea of having a protein shake as a pre-workout snack. Some experimentation on what works best for me is in order.

    Sharon · 02/04/2020 at 4:18 PM

    Hi Johan,

    Thank you so much!

    I’m the same, recently I’ve been working out in the evening and I just feel so full, especially when it comes to core work. I’ve yet to properly venture into the world of spirulina, so if you’ve nay suggestions on fun ways to eat it, I’d love to hear them!

    Best wishes,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *