Plant-Based Eating: Pre Workout for Women

Are you struggling to find sufficient energy to fuel your workouts? Changing your pre workout plant-based meals and snacks just might make the difference in helping you reach your health and fitness goals. Here’s what you need to know about pre workout for women on a plant-based diet.

If you’re looking for a way to level up your workout, whether that be to run an extra mile or lift a little extra weight, you might want to take a look at what you’re eating. But with all the buzz on nutrition for enhancing training and elevating performance, from fasted workouts to pre workout energy drinks and the newest pre workout supplements, it can be hard to know what is right for you. It’s easy to overlook the power of a simple meal as the best natural pre workout for women to maximize your physical activity routine. And if you prioritize eating plant-based or vegan meals, you can work these into your fitness regimen, too. 

Feeling sluggish or easily tired may be signs your body may need extra nutrition before a workout. Incorporating a pre workout meal or snack ensures your body is not running on empty, providing enough fuel to power through a tough workout. Whether you are a weightlifter or a yoga type of girl, all workouts–strength, endurance, and aerobic exercise–need a proper fuel source for optimal performance. The style of training, type of food, as well as the time you eat are all factors when choosing the best pre workout for women’s performance.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal with Pistachios

Pre Workout for Women: Benefits of Pre Workout Meals

Our body’s main source of fuel is glucose, which it receives from carbohydrate consumption (think whole grains, fruits, pulses, and vegetables) and stores as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Exercise depletes these glycogen stores as duration and intensity of movement increases. Intense exercise depletes these stores more quickly, which is why you may need more food before such training. More gentle exercise, such as walking, does not drain the glycogen stores as fast, and therefore may not need to be fueled as significantly. During an intense workout, your body can get low on glucose, resulting in the fatigue you may experience mid exercise. Pre workout for women can help you feel energized to prevent this glucose crash and also helps support training adaptations to help you feel stronger, faster, and leaner. Additionally, it provides your brain with fuel preventing blood sugar and motivation crashes. 

Berry Bowl with Quinoa and Walnuts

What and When to Eat Pre Workout 

Each macronutrient has its own role in providing fuel before a workout. Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy source for high intensity exercise, like running, HIIT training, or weightlifting, as well as longer moderate-low intensity exercises, such as walking or bike riding.The body only utilizes dietary fats or protein when the main fuel source, carbohydrates, are depleted. Having a macronutrient balanced meal, including a balance of protein, carbs, and fats, before a workout can help to optimize your training. Carbohydrates should be the main focus (grains, fruits, starchy vegetables), as they are the preferred fuel source for the body; women should aim for 1-4 grams per kilogram of body weight. Eating a moderate amount of protein (tofu, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds)–10-20 grams–can increase strength, muscle mass, and recovery. Fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, peanut butter) should be eaten sparingly before a workout, less than 10 grams, as they are slower to digest. Depending on the length of time before your training session, the amount and type of food you eat may change slightly. This ensures you are properly digesting the food to be utilized as fuel during your training. Eating too much too close to the time you workout can leave you feeling lethargic, heavy, and even nauseated; but eating too little with a length of time before your workout can leave you under fueled. It is important to find the right balance that works for your body and schedule.

Eating Strategy 2-3 Hours Before Workout

This is the ideal time to create the best pre workout for women eating strategy, as you are able to consume enough food to power your training, but also give your body enough time to properly digest without feeling too full during the workout. This is a great time to have a meal with a focus on carbs, adequate protein, and some healthy fats. Include complex carbohydrates such as whole grains that will keep you full for longer, but avoid too much fiber, which can disrupt your stomach mid workout. A low amount of healthy fat from nuts, seeds, and avocados (under 10 gram) will help provide satiation and energy as well. 

Pre Workout Vegan Meal Ideas: 

Tahini Butter Toast with Citrus

Eating Strategy 30-60 Minutes Before Workout 

If it doesn’t fit into your schedule to eat a plant-based meal 2-3 hours before your workout, then having a small snack 30-60 minutes before is also beneficial. This snack should also contain a balance of carbs and protein with a small amount of fat for fuel, but should not be an overly filling meal to avoid stomach discomfort during the workout. For this reason, the food choices should be something you can easily digest and tolerate. This means lower fiber, smaller portions, and simple carbohydrates to provide you that quick energy source.  

Pre Workout Vegan Snacks: 

Strawberry Coconut Energy Bites

Plant-Based Performance is on Track

There seems to be a negative stigma around eating vegan and performance outcomes. This is far from the truth, however. New research shows that a vegan diet adequately supports muscle strength and can even be more effective in endurance training than an omnivore diet for women. This supports that eating plant-based does not hold you back from your fitness goals and can even be more beneficial. 

It may take some trial and error and experimenting with different types, amounts, and timing of pre workout meals and snacks until you find what works best for you and your training. Taking the extra time to properly fuel your body with the right macronutrients pre workout may make all the difference in your training to help you reach your goals faster. 


Written by Ashley Teltow, dietetic intern, with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN



  1. Rothschild JA, Kilding AE, Plews DJ. What Should I Eat before Exercise? Pre-Exercise Nutrition and the Response to Endurance Exercise: Current Prospective and Future Directions. Nutrients. 2020;12(11):3473. Published 2020 Nov 12. doi:10.3390/nu12113473.
  2. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016;116(3):501-528. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.12.006
  3. Boutros GH, Landry-Duval MA, Garzon M, Karelis AD. Is a vegan diet detrimental to endurance and muscle strength? Eur J Clin Nutr. 2020;74(11):1550-1555. doi:10.1038/s41430-020-0639-y.

For more information on plant-based eating for fitness, check out: 

5 Dietitian Tips for Fueling Fitness with Plants
Healthy Diet Promotes Fitness in Aging
5 Plant-Based Carbs to Fuel Runners

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