how to fuel for your workout properly and pre-workout superfood energy bites!

Good day my fellow health enthusiasts!

I’m really excited about today’s post. Do you all remember how a while ago I blogged a bit about how tired and lethargic and unmotivated I was feeling? While I’m still not feeling my best, I have come a long way. I am back to working out at least a few times a week which has really helped my energy levels and my appetite is back on track (for a while there I was eating for the sake of it and never felt super hungry where as now I eat only when I’m hungry). Both of these things were pretty important, but what was the key to helping me come this far?

Fuelling my workouts properly.

I can’t say enough how big of a difference this has made. Fuelling properly before my workout gave me the initial energy to lift myself out of my lethargy and move my butt a bit and fuelling properly after my workout has helped with my recovery meaning during my following workouts I could workout harder and with more energy! There was really a cyclical effect whereby I set myself up properly one day and had a great workout and it fed into the next meaning the next workout was even better!

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So in the next couple of posts, I’m going to talk about how to go about this. I’m sure a lot of you know the basics but it’s always good to be reminded and be given more ideas! Today I’ll talk about fuelling up pre-workout and the next post will be about post-workout.

I always knew a lot of the principals I’m going to discuss, since proper fuelling of exercise and training was something we discussed a lot in my classes on exercise physiology in university. My problem was that I never really applied them. Why you might ask?

  1. I exercised in the past primarily to lose weight/fat and thought the idea of eating before and after a workout (extra calories) would only hinder that goal
  2. I thought that it wouldn’t have that huge an impact on my recreational exercise

What I have found in the last few weeks is that I could not have been more wrong on both fronts! It has been a huge factor in helping me get back into an exercise routine. My workouts are better and I’m seeing improvements much faster than before. And in regards to weight loss- fuelling properly ensures you can workout harder and more often, reduces risk of injury and helps you build lean muscle faster- all of which help with weight/fat loss! So there is really no reasons not to do it.

Dates from Algeria (Biskra) called Deglet

Pre-Workout Fuel

There are a few key factors to consider when choosing a pre-workout snack:

  1. The body’s first fuel choice during exercise is carbohydrates. More specifically, simple carbohydrates, that have already been broken down into their simple sugar components of glucose, fructose , etc. So remember to KISS! (Keep is Simple Stupid)
  2. Eating large amount of protein isn’t advisable as it requires more water to metabolize. This means more water will be taken from the body, reducing hydration. Protein burned for fuel during exercise will also create toxins which will create a stress response in the body. Not what you want during exercise!
  3. A ton of fiber is also not a great since it increase the time it takes to digest glucose. You want speedy digestion of this snack!
  4. You want your snack to be easily digestible. This ensures that less energy is diverted to digesting your food and that less blood goes to your stomach to help digest, leaving more blood to deliver oxygen to your working muscles.
  5. Your snack should be determined by the workout you’re going to do. I tend to do workout that are an hour or less or sometimes a class that’s 90 min. For exercise up to an hour you want pure carbohydrate and then for longer than an hour you can add in some protein
  6. Choose alkalizing foods. The body produces lactic acid during exercise so eating acid containing foods will reduce the body’s ability deal with it and this leads to muscle stiffness and pain. It also creates fatigue! Acidic foods will also create nutritional stress which will divert energy from the exercise recovery process. I talked about this here.
  7. Eat a complete, well balanced meal about 2 hours beforehand and an energizing snack about 30 minutes before.

All this being said though I want to mention an important fat for energy- medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). And what fabulous food is rich in these? Coconut oil! MCTs are burned right away for energy!

Sources: The Thrive Diet, Natural News, Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance

English: Matcha Tea or green tea powder

English: Matcha Tea or green tea powder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keeping all this in mind, I set out to create a pre-workout snack that would cover all my bases as well as incorporate some additional ingredients that would further boost my workout! It was adapted from a recipe for Direct Energy Bites from The Thrive Diet, an awesome book for anyone looking to incorporate more raw/high performance foods into their diet.

Included in my bites are dates, coconut oil, cacao powder, matcha, goji berries, maca and spirulina. Here’s why these ingredients combined to make an awesome pre-workout snack (Scroll down for the recipe):

  • Easily digestible energy- dates are high in glucose (a simple sugar) and coconut oil is rich in MCTs. Both of these can be used immediately as fuel without being broken down.
  • Matcha: has caffeine therefore acts to give you a boost for your workout. Also, there is evidence that matcha can help restore hormonal balance after a workout. It helps restore adrenal gland balance which aids the body in recovering from stress (and exercise is a stress, albeit a good one!). It is also high in chlorophyll and antioxidants. This is good because you breakdown a lot of oxygen when working out which creates free radicals, or oxidants. Antioxidants will help neutralize these.
  • Goji berries: contain polysaccharides called lycium barbarum which are very effective detoxifiers and reduce inflammation in the body.. The help remove lactic acid created by our muscles during exercise and help the body adapt to stress. . Goji berries also have sesquiterpenoids which stimulate production of Human Growth Hormone, which helps build muscle!
  • Maca: provides energy and promotes quick regeneration of fatigues muscle tissue and the adrenal glands. Therefore it will help muscles recover and improve strength!
  • Cacao powder: I mainly threw this in for flavour but it does have a small amount of caffeine which provides energy and is a powerful antioxidant!
  • Spirulina: high in chlorophyll and antioxidants as well as iron which is needed for oxygen delivery to the muscles. Therefore, spirulina may help to increase endurance.

So I bet you all want this recipe now don’t you? Well here you go :)

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Pre-Workout Superfood Energy Bites (Vegan, Gluten-free, Sugar-Free, Raw)

These are no culinary masterpieces but they provide great energy for a workout! The matcha and cacao give an interesting flavour, the dates and maca give a sweetness and the salt helps balance the flavours. Eat one before a workout for easily digestible fuel and an antioxidant boost!

Makes 8 bites. Inspired by Direct Energy Bites from The Thrive Diet.

* These ingredients are optional but I highly recommend them since they provide awesome benefits. If you don’t like the taste for green tea (matcha) maybe add extra cacao. If you don’t include any of the optional ingredients you will still have a bite that gives great energy so don’t worry if you are missing one or all of them!

  • 5 large medjool dates, soaked
  • 2 tbsp goji berries
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tsp matcha powder*
  • 1/2-1 tsp maca powder*
  • 1 tsp spirulina*
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or extract)
  • pinch sea salt

Toss everything into a food processor and process until a mixture that will stick together forms. The dates should be completely broken down and the goji berries in small pieces.

Remove from food processor and form into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 min to firm up. Cut into 8 pieces. I liked these best eaten straight from the fridge, but it’s definitely not necessary!

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These are some nutritionally “stacked” little bites ;)

I’m curious to hear from all of you:

  • Do you eat proper pre- and post-workout snacks? If so, do you find they help?
  • What are your go-to workout eats? 

Check back soon for my post on post-workout nutrition and my delicious recovery smoothie :) Hope you all have a great Monday!

I am submitting this recipe to Allergy-Free Wednesday, Allergy Friendly Friday and Wellness Weekends!

64 thoughts on “how to fuel for your workout properly and pre-workout superfood energy bites!

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  6. Wauw! I made these today and they are *delicious* beyond reason- I wasn’t expecting the different flavours, since I am a n00b with regard to maca and spirulina and even cacao (as opposed to my trusty affair with carob). How does one even just have one bite? Glorious! :D Alas, there is no Matcha powder where I live it seems, after seriously trolling the net and local stores, but the recipe does just wonderfully without.

  7. I just became a vegan for health reasons but couldn’t do my strength training workout (kettlebells) without feeling dizzy. Like I was not eating enough. I did a search Friday night,purchased ingredients on Saturday and had my first bite on Sunday. Oh my goodness, I felt great!

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  10. My Matcha finally came in a couple weeks ago,,,so of course I made these and love them,,,thx again they will be regular for me. So appreciate people like you coming up with such good ideas :)

  11. Gabbby,
    I too have the same problem with nuts and basically anything else, detracting from my workout..I was googling yesterday, anfd lo and behold I found your recipe! I went out on my lunc hour and purchased everything. Got home and made these little morsels of goodness…these are FANTASTIC!! I do martial arts/kickboxing, and these really did the trick for me with energy. Thank you thank you. And they taste very good too :)
    Lisa

    • I’m so glad you found this recipe and that you like them! I found they are so helpful in fuelling my workouts, like a seriously noticeable difference in my power and endurance. Good to know someone else out there finds that pretty much every food detracts from their workout- I end up feeling all bloated and uncomfortable if I eat any of the things people usually recommend! 

      Thanks so much for your comment Lisa :)

  12. I´m not a vegan but I have been reducing my meat\chicken intake…I hate drinking those shakes for pre\post workout…at the moment I now drink for post workout water with Alpiste and some spirulina..great protein intake…I have been looking for a pre workout food and I have just loved your recipe! it is the best option I have seen for an extra boost.
    I will definitely be trying out your other recipes :)

  13. Hey there…just found this site and right off the bat such a great topic and good info,,,thx. I HAVE to eat before my weights or runs…usually about 2 hrs before(breakfast) I do an avocado pudding(chia seed/maca/cinnamon/turmeric), blended with VEGA(vanilla chai or chocolate), homemade nut milk and sometimes coconut water… sometimes add sweet potato/banana/pumpkin…then layer it up with fruits and goji love. Last year I was doing over night oats and found they bothered my runs. I usually run 8 -16 K so I make sure to fuel up with descent protein/carb/fat within 30 minutes. So ANYways about this recipe,,,YUM…making especially for low energy days(not many). Thx again :)

    • Thanks so much Robyn! Your avocado pudding sounds amazing! I don’t run at all (and I’m super impressed by your mileage btw) so I don’t think I’d need something quite that crazy but it sounds like a great recovery meal! I haven’t really gotten into the avocado puddings yet, but I have been meaning to.

      Ya I know what you mean about oats bothering you before runs. I’m pretty bothered by oats, really any whole grains and nuts if I eat them before I work out. They make me feel all bloated and uncomfortable.

      Glad you like the look of this recipe! Let me know how you like them :)

  14. Just wanted to give you guys a little info on the matcha:
    It actually isn’t that high in caffeine. About 5-10% compared to a cup of coffee, per teaspoon. The energy boost you get from the matcha is mainly due to its high concentration of B vitamins!

  15. Recently I have been reading up on this and trying to put into practice – like you, I never ate before a workout and a few hours after one…..I also totally see a difference, I love making a variation of your oatmeal smoothie as one of my preworkout snack…post work out – nuts or hummus and veggies.

    Gabby I am SO happy that I found your Blog – I love everything about it – these informational posts are awesome!

    …I need to find some maca ;)

    • That oatmeal smoothie is great fuel! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying it. I love it because it’s so balanced, clean and uses easy to find ingredients :)

      Your comment made me smile huge Heather! You know how much I adore your blog so it means so much! I love doing the research for these kind of posts so I will try to keep them coming!

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  17. Perfection, Gabby! I have started my new little training programme, so am actually taking notice about fuelling my body correctly…. these little bites sound right up my alley… actually anything that involves dates is always appreciated by me :)

    Great info… I’m totally going to try these little “workout bullets” !

  18. Wow super food snack :)
    I love your tips, this post really made me rethink my pre-workout snacks, because usually I only eat something like a banana and a almond butter sandwich… So I’m definitely going to include more super foods next time ;)

    • I do know it’s pretty high in caffeine although it gets released slower than coffee so you get a more sustained energy boost. I love matcha but it’s pretty bitter so I know some people don’t. I hope you get to try it and enjoy it- it’s so good for you!

  19. Wow, these look gorgeous, what lovely photos. It’s making me hungry just looking at them. I only really do a quick 12 minute intense workout in the morning and then a gentle walk. I don’t get time for much else so don’t really need to fuel up. I agree though, it’s good to have something easy to digest that’s going to keep you going. If I did have anything, of course it would be a green thickie!! Do you have a good food processor, as these look so smooth. Anything I make with my food processor ends up with whole dates still unprocessed.

    It’s funny I was just writing about powders and superfoods as people are always asking me if I include them in my smoothie. I wrote my answer here: http://www.greenthickies.com/how-to-make-a-green-thickie/#do-you-add-powders-and-other-superfoods-to-your-green-thickies

    • Thanks Katherine! I think the quality of my photography is totally dependent on my mood when I’m taking pictures lo.

      I find I like to have a quick bite even if I’m only doing a quick workout but it’s totally personal isn’t it. I had friends in school who would wake up and go to the gym in the morning before eating anything whereas if I did that I would feel like I was going to pass out!

      I really like our food processor, it manages to get things pretty smooth! I find as long as I soak the dates well before hand, I don’t have too many problems! I find adding a little water helps too which is why you’ll notice a lot of my date based recipes will include a little water, even just a teaspoon makes a difference.

      I love experimenting with powders and since I’m living with my parents at the moment I find I have a little more financial freedom to experiment so I’m taking advantage. I don’t think I’ll use them as much when I move out again- I certainly didn’t use as many as I do now before I moved back!

      Popped over to read your thoughts on powders- I really like your point about keeping it simple so you can form a habit- so true! Plus focusing on whole foods and not powders helps keep this lifestyle affordable!

      Thanks for stopping by and your comment :)

  20. I love the last photo, very dynamic! Thanks for the info, I’ve always been reluctant to eat anything before a workout because I tend to get side stitches, so would have an endurance drink instead. On weekends when my exercise class was first thing in the morning, I’d only have a double espresso and maybe a few pieces of fruit. I know, that’s an awful way to start the workout, and I wish I knew about your information back then. Well, now that I have your pre-workout snack recipe, all I need is to, well, work out! :D

    • Haha don’t worry, I have not been the best at pre-workout fuel either! But recent weeks have totally changed my mind. My workouts are so much more energized now and I’m seeing strength gains faster!

      Thanks for your comment about my picture. I don’t know much about photography, I usually just play around until something looks good ;) Nice to know it’s working!

  21. what a great post! i love eating fruit and a protein before I workout — quick energy and something for my muscles to use:) Those energy bites look absolutely delicious! and totally “poppable!” Thanks for sharing!

  22. I do fuel pre and post workout, but this post has me rethinking my typical “Elvis Banana” fuel. I love me some banana and peanut butter or almond butter, but your bites look DELISH and jam packed with nutrients!

  23. I used to be the same way- I wouldn’t eat prior to a workout because I was trying to lose weight. Not healthy. Eating before exercising changed the whole game!

    I love your tips- I think I’m going to have to incorporate more goji berries and spirulina into my pre-workout fuel. And those little bites look delish! How are you able to stop at 1?

    • I admit, sometimes I eat 2 ;)

      Thanks Kristy! I get so frustrated with myself when I think about how I sabotaged my workouts before. I never knew those things about spirulina or goji berries until I did some research but I’m so glad I did. I’m glad you liked the post and let me know what you think about the bites!

  24. I’m so glad you wrote this post Gabby! I’m pretty good about post workout nutrition but I’m horrible at pre-workout meals or snacks. It is especially crucial for me to do everything I can to get my proper nutrition in because I started my 2 a days today (I’ll be working out twice a day on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays… once on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays) and I can’t eat a meal at the crack of dawn because I don’t have an appetite. I also don’t like eating too much before a workout because it makes me feel sick but these bites are perfect! I can eat one before my morning run and it’ll give me enough fuel for that first workout!

    The information you provide is really great and simple to understand. Thanks for breaking it down for us! :) Looking forward to more posts like this!

    • Oh man, you are crazy! That is an intense workout schedule! I’m glad I can help you out in this small way, you are an inspiration!

      Good luck with all you training and make sure you are updating us as you go! Also, let me know how you like these! They are unique tasting and get the job done lol

  25. It seems so simple but I’m so glad you did a post on this. I have been struggling for the first time ever to finish a workout because I just don’t have any energy. I have come to realize my iron levels were low and recently bought spirulina (though I can’t say I like it) to help. I will def be making these now. Plus it gives me an excuse to finally buy goji berries!

    • I’m the same as you, never had a problem then suddenly I was exhausted all the time. I’m working with my doctor to sort out various problems and deficiencies and it’s getting better but no quite there. These really helped though. I hope you like them :)

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