What to eat before a CrossFit workout

Eating before a workout might sound like the last thing that you want to do. However, it can not only help you enjoy your workout even more, it can help you with your fitness goals. Knowing what to eat before a CrossFit workout isn’t the only factor, you also need to determine when to eat.

When to eat before a workout

The first question to ask yourself is when are you working out? Because attending the 6:15am class is different than attending the 6pm class. Both of those mean different things for how much time you have to eat. And for shift workers, this still applies but simply shifts to reflect your schedule vs time of the day.

Most people do best with a 30-120 minute window before their workout. Some of the early morning class takers (5:15am and 6:15am) can handle something as close to 15 minutes before class after training their bodies to get used to fuel before a workout. 

It’s best to start out further from your workout time and then build your way closer as you learn what works for you. It can also be as simple as asking “when did I eat last and do I need more fuel to workout?”

For example, if you’re attending the 4pm class but ate your lunch at 11:30, that’s more than 5 hours post meal. Having a pre workout snack at 3pm can give you an extra boost for your workout.

Another example, if you’re signed up for 9:30am and had a full breakfast at 7, you can consider your meal your pre workout unless you notice a lack of energy during the workout or immediately after. Knowing when is only half of the equation. Knowing what to eat before a CrossFit workout can help your digestion too. Eating the right fuel source for high intensity training makes a difference.

What to eat before a CrossFit workout

If you’re eating a snack before your workout, our nutrition coaches recommend something that is predominantly carbohydrate. Those foods are faster burning and the exact fuel source we use during a workout. 

examples of what to eat before a CrossFit workout

Some examples of what to eat before a CrossFit workout:

  • fruit (dried, fresh, applesauce)
  • bagel, English muffin, toast
  • crackers
  • granola bar
  • sports drink like Gatorade

Fat and protein are great to eat, but are slower for our bodies to digest. Which means athletes can feel uncomfortable during workouts if those foods are consumed close to class time. If these types of foods are in your pre workout meal, they will help avoid feelings of hunger during class.

If you’re eating a meal as your pre workout (2.5 or more hours before), as long as your meal has some carbohydrates in it, you’re likely good to go. A drinkable carb option on the way to the gym can help during longer workouts if you feel like you need a little extra energy.

Why eat before a workout?

CrossFit is defined as constantly varied functional movements at high intensity. Those last 2 words are the reason we recommend eating before working out. High intensity requires energy to be able to do. If we are dragging throughout our day and into our workout, we aren’t making the most of the time we are in the gym. 

It also helps with recovery because if your body is taking from previous meals and snacks many hours ago, you have depleted your energy stores while working out. Now your body doesn’t have what it needs to help you recover.

It might feel counterintuitive to eat before a workout if your goal is weight loss. However, being properly fueled before a workout can lead to better performance within the gym. Meaning you might lift heavier weights or move at a higher intensity than you would previously. Heavier weights help with muscle gain, and muscle helps with metabolism, meaning we burn more calories by just existing. 

Consider having a small snack 30-60 minutes before your next CrossFit class. Need ideas? Grab an applesauce pouch, 1-2 clementines, or a piece of toast. Try one of those three things for the next 2 weeks and see how you feel in and after class.