We are so excited to kick off our Marathon Series with Megan Marlow, co-creator of the Jillian Michael’s Fat Burning Nutrition Plan for Vegans!  Megan’s goal is to make living a plant-based lifestyle a little easier for everyone by sharing what she has learned through her own journey enhancing her life through food, while ensuring it is still an enjoyable experience everyone!  Today she is bringing us 5 pre-workout snacks perfect to ensure you have the energy you need to make it through your training runs!

Image by Kelly Brooks

By Megan Marlow
[Plant-Based Chef, Sports Nutrition Consultant, & Food Fanatic]
meganmarlow.com / Instagram @meganmarlow

Have you ever worked out and found yourself feeling weaker than normal, with a bit of brain fog, even after getting plenty of rest the night before? It happens to the best of us and it is, more often than not, an easy fix. Feeling weak or foggy during a workout is usually a sign of glycogen depletion, or in other words, not having enough fuel. Sometimes you need an extra rest day, but sometimes you just need a snack.

Giving our bodies the right nutrients to provide us with sustained energy is key to getting the most out of a workout. When deciding what food to put into our bodies prior to a workout, carbohydrates should be the main focus. Although they tend to get a bad reputation, carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and should never be avoided while training. Carbohydrates are converted into glycogen within the body and transported to muscles for fuel to give us power and strength. In other words, carbohydrates help us turn into the unstoppable beasts we’ve set out to be.

Some workouts require more than carbs. If your workout is for a longer duration, be sure to also incorporate a mixture of fats and proteins. The combination of all three macronutrients will work in harmony to provide energy while repairing damaged tissue along the way.

As a workout junkie myself, I’ve shared below some pre-workout snacks that I know are great for any type of workout. To be sure the nutrients are properly digested in time, plan on eating them 1 to 4 hours before a workout. In the event you find yourself 30 minutes (or less) away from getting your sweat on and need to eat, focus on simplicity. Rather than the snacks below, aim for a small mix of simple carbohydrates (i.e. fruit juice) and an item that is slightly more glucose rich (i.e. dried fruit like dates or mango).

Homemade Energy Bars

Homemade energy bars are not only super fun to make, but they are great to have on hand as a quick go-to when you’re in a time crunch. Making your own additive-free energy bars allows you to have control over what you’re putting into your body. Playing around with different ingredients and experimenting with what works for your body and taste buds is key. A good base to start with is a mix of fresh fruit, nuts, seeds and protein powder (like hemp, brown rice, or pea). From there you can add additional items like cacao nibs, maple syrup, dates, maca, and many other delicious energy powerhouses.

Baked Sweet Potato

If you’re planning a longer duration workout, sweet potatoes are an ideal energy staple. The complex carbohydrates within these orange tubers will sustain you for a longer period of time. Top them with yogurt and sliced banana with a drizzle of maple syrup, or, put a savory spin on them and stuff with some brown rice, beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo.

Granola w/ Yogurt & Berries

Berries are a great source of antioxidants, which help combat free radical damage caused by physical stress. Mix up some berries with a plant-based yogurt like So Delicious or Kite Hill and enjoy with your favorite granola. The carbs in this combination are great for topping off your energy reserves, and the fat in the yogurt keeps you feeling full during your workout.

Dark Chocolate

That’s right! Dark chocolate is on this list! Dark chocolate, specifically raw bars, are a great combination of carbohydrates and fat. Plus, who wouldn’t want to indulge in some chocolate before a workout? The key is to not overindulge. Too much fat can be taxing on the system and slow the conversion of sugars into glycogen. A small amount of fat will slow the carbohydrate conversion just enough to give you the sustained energy you need to power through a workout.

Fruit w/ Nut Butter

Fruit is, hands down, one of the best pre-workout fuel sources. Since most of its makeup is sugar and water, or in other words “carbohydrates and hydration,” this makes fruit an ideal (and incredibly easy) pre-workout snack. Pair your favorite fruit with a spoonful of raw nut butter to create a steady, focused stream of energy.


RECIPE: Raw Blueberry Macadamia Energy Bars

1 C blueberries (fresh or frozen and thawed)
1/2 C raw macadamia nuts
1/2 C unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 C dried cranberries
1/4 C raw hemp seeds
1/4 C medjool dates (roughly 6 dates)
3 Tbsp plant protein powder
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp coarse ground sea salt
Add all ingredients to a food processor. Pulse the ingredients until a desired consistency is reached (for smoother bars, pulse for longer). Line a small pan with parchment paper and press the mixture into the pan. Place the pan in the freezer and allow to chill for a couple of hours. Remove the pan from the freezer and cut the mixture into bars (or squares). Wrap each bar in plastic wrap and return them to the freezer or refrigerator to enjoy before a workout.
To decrease moisture, these bars can also be dehydrated overnight in a dehydrator or “baked” at an oven’s lowest temp with the door cracked open for roughly 3 hours. For an even simpler method, you can also roll the mixture into balls after pulsing in the food processor.