What’s In The Perfect Pre-Workout Meal?

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

There are 5 components of a great pre-workout meal:

1. Protein

You want just enough protein to get some amino acids in your system. That’s about 30 grams.

If you are trying to gain a lot of weight, you may end up having more, but that’s just because all your meals have to be bigger. Not because more protein is better.

2. Carbohydrates

Don’t get suckered into low carb hype and wonder, “Shouldn’t I avoid carbs in my pre-workout meal? The thinking is that if you avoid carbs before you train, you will burn more fat when you workout. 

But that’s not the point of strength training.

In the old school days of iron legends, guys went to train to do one thing: Get brutally big and strong. That’s the way it should be.

You have the other 23 hours of the day to burn fat. Build muscle at the gym. And to do that with maximum effectiveness, you need carbs in your system. Carbs fuel high intensity workouts. Without them training will suffer.

Shoot for around 30-50 grams. That’s enough for most people, but you can experiment with taking it as high as 75-100 grams if you stay naturally ripped and are really struggling to gain weight. 

3. A little Fat

15-20g is all you need. Just enough to keep blood sugar from crashing. A tbsp of nut butter, or the fat that comes with meat or eggs.

4. Easy to digest

You want your pre-workout meal to get into your system quickly so that you aren’t digesting when your workout starts.

Everyone is different. You have to see what makes you feel best. I do great with bison and sweet potatoes.  You might like chicken, eggs, cottage cheese, grass fed yogurt, or protein powder. And for carbs, as we’ve discussed, fruit, oatmeal, hot rice cereal, jasmine rice or quinoa are some other options.

When I can’t get real sweet potatoes I go to the baby food aisle. Sweet potato baby food is a favorite pre and post workout snack as well as something I always travel with.

5. Sodium

For years during the low-sodium hype, sea salt was my high performance hack. I had my athletes whacking that stuff down while everyone else avoided it like the plague. The result? We all had better workouts, better pumps, and better results.

The reason for this is that sodium is a critical component of athletic performance. It’s drives muscular contractions, and helps keep your system hydrated.

Use high quality Himalayan sea salt liberally throughout the day, especially before you train.

3 Sample Pre-Workout Meals:

Have these anywhere from 90-120 min before your workout. You will have to play with the best timing. The bigger the meal, the further out you should have it.

1. 4-6 oz meat, 1 cup of mixed berries, 1 jar sweet potato baby food

This is a staple. It’s easy to make and easier to digest.

Pro tip: If you really want to crank up the sodium, add some sauerkraut, kim chee, or a pickle.

2. 1 scoop of protein powder, 1 cup of oats, 1/2 cup blue berries.

Cook the oats, mix in the protein powder, and add the blueberries. If you don’t do well with protein powders, you can just sub it out for some eggs, smoked salmon, left over meat, or whatever other protein you want.

3. 6oz ground beef or grilled chicken, handful of greens, 1/4 cup jasmine rice and a cup of of chopped pineapple.

It’s got enough food to fuel you through that afternoon slump, but not so much that it knocks you out.


What if you train at the crack of dawn, first thing in the AM? In that case, you won’t have time to eat a regular meal. So the game changes and you want to keep it VERY light. You should have enough food in you from your dinner the night before, so all you need is a cup of black coffee and a piece of fruit.

Grapefruits are great here because they have a compound that helps prolong the effects of caffeine.

That covers it. If you found this useful, please share it with a friend who could use some better workouts in the gym.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I appreciate you.

Train hard. 

P.S. If you want more tips on muscle building nutrition on top of ways to make your workouts more effective, enter your email in the box below.