Best Keto Pre-Workout Snack and Meal Options in 2020

The best keto pre-workout snacks and meals are the ones that adequately fuel your routine without kicking you out of ketosis (at least for more than an evening) and leave you feeling at the top of your game. When fueling for the gym on the keto diet, every individual is a little different. But that doesn't mean there aren't some basic guidelines to follow.

Best Pre-Workout Keto Snacks and Meals

 

The best keto pre-workout snacks and meals are the ones that adequately fuel your routine without kicking you out of ketosis (at least for more than an evening) and leave you feeling at the top of your game. When fueling for the gym on the keto diet, every individual is a little different. But that doesn't mean there aren't some basic guidelines to follow.

Understanding your needs based on the way you train, your own metabolic patterns, and the basic guidelines we'll lay out can help you stay true to your low-carb diet while still maintaining or growing muscle mass and burning fat in the gym.

What you eat before you hit the gym is an important detail in your training efforts. Proper fueling will give you the energy and stamina you need to reach your goals. Let's dive in.

17 Keto Pre-Workout Snack Ideas

There are so many options out there for ready-made keto snacks now that this diet has surged in popularity. Health food companies have scrambled to create the perfect keto snack for any situation so that keto dieters are always prepared. Some of these also happen to be great for pre-workout snacks. 

When hunting for the perfect snack, whether you're making it yourself or buying something in a package, you want to ensure that it has the following:

  • Healthy fat: MCT oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado/avocado oil, grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Healthy protein: almond butter, macadamia butter, coconut butter, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, whey protein isolate, or pea protein powder 

The carbohydrate count and quality will depend on your personal workout style and metabolism. In some cases, you'll simply add some glucose powder to your protein shake. In other cases, you'll want to add a handful of berries to your yogurt or smoothie, and in other cases, the naturally-occurring carbs in nuts will be enough to fuel your workout. Just make sure that anything you make or buy contains either no added sweetener or only keto-friendly options like stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol.

Snacks to Buy

1. Superfat Keto Nut Butter

SuperFat Keto Nut Butters

Superfat Keto Nut Butter achieves the right balance of protein, fat and carbs through their strategic blend of nut butters, MCT oil, and pink Himalayan salt. These snacks portable and convenient for on-the-go fuel, and since they're individually packaged and sealed, they're perfect for throwing into your gym bag on days you can't make something at home.

2. Stoka Bars

Stoka Bars

Stoka Bars are higher in fat than most of the other bars on this list. Coming in at 22 grams of fat per bar on the upper end and nine grams of protein, this bar is also very well-suited for pre- and post-workout nutrition.

3. Just the Cheese Bars

Just The Cheese

Just the Cheese Bars have just one ingredient: cheese. Dehydrated cheese is shelf-stable and easy to grab on the go. It's also a great low-carb, high-fat, high-protein option with zero carbs, 12 grams of fat, and eight grams of protein per serving.

4. Perfect Keto Snack Bars

PerfectKeto

Perfect Keto snack bars are geared toward keto athletes. Ingredients include healthy nuts, MCTs and collagen protein. Also individually packaged, these bars work great on-the-go. 

5. Team Keto Shakes

Team Keto Shakes

While protein powders require a little bit more planning than a bar or nut butter, you can keep a blender bottle in your gym bag for an easy drink on the go. Just add water. Team Keto Shakes provide healthy fats and 12 grams of protein from grass-fed whey in every serving.

6. Think! Keto Protein Bars

Think Keto Bars

Think! Keto Protein Bars are perfect for both pre- and post-workout nutrition. They're calibrated in perfect macro proportions for the keto diet and offer fast-acting whey and milk protein isolates to help you fuel up for serious work at the gym. 

7. Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars

Bulletproof Collagen Bars

These bars by the Bulletproof Executive are higher in carbohydrates than most bars on this list, so proceed with these only when you plan to really sweat it out at the gym. They have 12-15 grams of fat per bar, 12 grams of protein and range by flavor from seven to 15 grams of carbs.

Snacks to Make at Home

8. Homemade Keto Granola

Keto Granola

Granola works at any time of day, not just breakfast. Make this keto granola recipe ahead for a ready-to-go snack filled with nuts, healthy fats, seeds, and coconut flakes any time you need it.

9. Full-Fat Greek Yogurt Parfait

Keto Greek Yogurt Parfait

This delicious recipe Health Starts in the Kitchen combines keto ingredients for a satisfying snack pre-gym. Full-fat, plain Greek yogurt is high in protein and low in sugar. Add in a handful of berries and toasted nuts, and you have yourself a winner.

10. Simple Avocado Egg Salad

Avocado Egg Salad

This recipe by Inspired Taste spices up the simple act of mashing an avocado into a hard-boiled egg or two by adding in some mayo, celery, and herbs. This super simple snack just takes a minute to make if you've already boiled your eggs and provides endless satisfaction with all the healthy fats and proteins you need to fuel your workout.

11. Chocolate Almond Butter Collagen Fat Bombs

Chocolate almond butter

Fat bombs are the easiest way to get a burst of keto nutrition if you're wanting to make something at home. There are endless options and recipes to choose from, but this from What a Great Grandma Ate one is great because it features almond butter, coconut oil, and almond butter—all excellent sources of good quality fat and/or protein for your pre-workout. 

12. Paleo & Keto Chocolate Milkshake

Keto Milkshake

Gnom Gnom Paleo came up with the perfect pre-workout smoothie if you add in the "optional" collagen peptides for protein. This one only takes a few minutes to make but is packed with powerful micronutrients and healthy fats from the coconut milk and avocado. 

13. Coconut Milk Strawberry Smoothie

Coconut Strawberry Smoothie

This is a great option if you're concerned about glycogen stores during your workout. Packed with strawberries, healthy fats from coconut milk and protein from almond butter, this delicious treat from Low Carb Yum will hit the spot. The strawberries add 10 net carbs, so adjust to fit your needs.

14. Cookies and Cream Fat Bombs

Cookies n Cream Fat Bomb

Another great fat bomb recipe featuring a bit of extra protein, this one by Butter Together Kitchen adds in a bit of caffeine to turbocharge your workout. A bit of instant coffee not only adds some nice rich flavor, it also helps keep your energy up at the gym.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Nuts - Nuts are powerhouse foods full of both protein and healthy fat. A small handful is enough to boost your energy levels and get you moving. For the best keto nuts to consume, read here
  2. One or two hard-boiled eggs - One egg contains 6.3 grams of protein and 5.3 grams of fat, depending on the size of the egg.
  3. Ham and Cream Cheese Roll-Up - If you are a sandwich lover, you have to get creative when following a keto diet. Take a couple of thinly sliced pieces of ham, spread cream cheese over them and roll them up for a high protein and fat snack good for strength training.

12 Keto Pre-Workout Meal Ideas

If you're in the camp that needs to eat a few hours before your workout and would rather eat a meal than a snack, the best plan of action is to eat a keto meal packed with healthy fats, protein, and veggies. If you're planning to stick with the SKD, your veggies should be leafy greens or other low-carb veggie options cooked in coconut oil, ghee, or butter. If you're planning to go with the CKD plan, you'll want to add in some sweet potato or other starchy vegetables to get your carb-count up pre-workout. Fruit works too. 

We've put together six breakfast ideas and six lunch or dinner ideas to help you get started.

Breakfast Ideas

1. Keto Breakfast Egg Bites

Keto Breakfast Egg Bites

If you're a fan of the Starbucks sous vide egg bites, you'll love this keto version by FlavCity. Bake a batch and you have breakfast ready for a few days in a row. These yummies feature eggs, full-fat cottage cheese, and sugar-free bacon, all excellent sources of fat and protein to fuel your morning gym session. Change the flavor by adding in some cooked veggies like spinach or bell peppers before your bake.

2. Keto Noatmeal

Keto Noatmeal

Oats are off-limits on the keto diet, but a hot breakfast cereal doesn't have to be. This recipe by Healthy Sweet Eats helps you stick to the keto plan with ingredients like hemp hearts, almond flour, shredded coconut, and flaxseed. These ingredients all pack a micronutrient punch in addition to supplying your breakfast with a healthy dose of protein and omega fats.

3. Keto Breakfast Sandwich

Keto Breakfast Sandwich

This creative take on a keto breakfast by Hey Keto Mama uses keto-friendly breakfast sausage as the bread. Add your favorite veggies to the omelet to take it up a notch in nutrition. 

4. Keto Waffles with Coconut Flour

Keto Waffles

Waffles are such a great treat, not just because they’re delicious, but because you can enjoy them at home or on the go. This keto version by Easy Keto Living features coconut flour, heavy cream, and eggs with a twist of sweet with keto-friendly chocolate chips. Grab these and go for your pre-workout breakfast. 

5. Keto Burrito

Keto Burrito

Ditch the Carbs spreads a tasty 2-egg omelet with cream cheese, herbs, and spices out into a thin “tortilla” for the perfect keto burrito vessel. Add your favorite keto-friendly fillings like avocado, bacon, and low-carb veggies, and you have the perfect keto pre-workout meal.

6. Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Keto Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Twosleevers found a way to pack a delicious breakfast muffin with healthy fats and protein with ricotta cheese and almond flour. Give this sweet dessert a try if you’re looking for a portable keto breakfast before you hit the gym.

Lunch or Dinner Ideas

7. Keto BLT with Cloud Bread

Keto BLT on Cloud Bread

If you thought you were out of luck in the bread department on the keto diet, think again. Cloud bread is a super easy way to get a bread-type sandwich vehicle back into your life. It's also a great way to add protein, healthy fat, and fiber into your meal without the carbs. Diet Doctor uses cloud bread to make the perfect BLT to fuel your afternoon routine.

8. California Turkey and Bacon Lettuce Wraps with Basil-Mayo

Keto California Wrap BLT

This delicious turkey wrap by Iowa Girl Eats is so convenient for lunch you might forget it’s keto. Using lettuce as a tortilla, this tasty recipe features an easy homemade mayo, sugar-free bacon, and high-quality turkey.

9. Blackened Shrimp, Asparagus, and Avocado Salad with Lemon Pepper Yogurt Dressing

Keto Blackened Shrimp with Asparagus

Cafe Delites tells us that this salad takes a mere 10 minutes to make. It packs a powerful lean protein punch with shrimp and healthy fats from avocado and yogurt dressing. With all these veggies, you’ll be sure to stay on top of your workout within hours of this meal.

10. BLT Chicken Salad-Stuffed Avocados

BLT Chicken Salad in Avocados

Chicken salad is the perfect pre-workout meal. It’s high in protein and healthy fats, and if you add in chopped celery and seeds you’ve got a mix of micronutrients too. The Garlic Diaries kicks chicken salad up a notch by adding bacon, lettuce, and avocado. 

11.Italian Chicken Meal Prep Bowls

Italian Chicken Meal Prep Bowls

Eazy Peazy Mealz isn’t a keto site, but this recipe was so good (without the optional brown rice) that we had to include it on this list. Anything with the right macros that can be prepared with one pan or pot is great for the busy keto athlete. This healthy mix of low-carb veggies, chicken, and olive oil gives you everything you need to fuel your workout. 

12. Cauliflower Fried Rice 

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Fried rice is a classic one-bowl meal if you add some protein like shrimp, grilled chicken, or a couple of eggs. This one uses riced cauliflower rather than rice to keep you in the keto zone. Top this recipe from Pure Wow with protein and you’re good to go with healthy carbs, fats, and protein for hours.

Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Keto Dieters

If you’ve been considering supplements to enhance your performance or enhance your keto efforts, we have a few recommendations for you. These recommendations are geared specifically for active keto dieters who are wanting a boost in the gym.

Exogenous Ketones

Exogenous Ketones

Exogenous ketones can help you get into fat-burning mode more quickly, especially when coupled with exercise. They’re also a great source of energy during your workout. Approved Science makes a great one that gets five-star reviews from keto experts across the web.

Creatine Monohydrate Powder

Creatine Monohydrate Powder

Creatine is an amino acid great for both pre- and post-workout nutrition. Studies show that it may improve performance during high-intensity workouts as well as and endurance training, which is great if you’ve found your performance slipping on the keto diet. Our favorite comes from Thorne. It’s NSF-certified and has only one ingredient: creatine monohydrate. 

Caffeine

Caffeine

Caffeine actually increases the production of a ketone called beta-hydroxybutyrate. We mentioned added caffeine in one of our recommended smoothies, and that’s why. Caffeine can not only enhance the effects of your keto diet plan, but it can give you a boost of energy in the gym. And it’s a lot less expensive than exogenous ketones. Try making your own fatty coffee, or go for Bulletproof Cold Brew with collagen.

When to Start Exercising

In the initial stages of most diets, regardless of the tactics, experts recommend that you temporarily ratchet down with your exercise routine. That's because most diets for weight loss, including the ketogenic diet, ultimately involve at least some form of calorie restriction, and working out is very calorie-intensive. The wisdom goes that if you work out hard at the same time as you begin restricting calories, you'll have powerful cravings that will sabotage your ability to stay on-plan. 

In fact, while a calorie deficit is important for weight loss, working out will almost certainly require you to up your food intake (specifically protein) in order to maintain your muscle mass. Plus, exercise makes you hungry for more calories in general. 

But the type of food you're eating is super important, as is the timing and nutritional content of your pre-workout snack or meal. If you've been doing the keto diet for a while (at least one month) and you're ready to get back into a good exercise routine, start slowly, and listen to your body.

Timing Your Pre-Workout Snacks and Meals

When you fuel will at least partially depend on your own body type and how you react to food in your stomach during a hard workout. If you're they type who gets easily light-headed and weak, you might want to fuel as soon as 30 minutes to one hour before hitting the gym. If you're a type who gets queasy, experiences indigestion, or can feel food sloshing around in your belly at the gym, you might try eating up to three hours before your workout. 

In the case of the former: those who need some calories pretty close to your workout, you're probably better off with a snack than a full meal. Snacks can range from a quick keto bar or fat bomb to a mini-meal. In the case of the latter, those who need some time between eating and a good workout, you might have a little more wiggle room with a full keto meal.

Type of Keto for Your Workout

When talking about the keto diet, most people are referring to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD). The standard version of the diet is a very low-carb plan in which 70% of your calories come from healthy fats, 25% come from proteins, and 5% come from carbs. The goal of all forms of the ketogenic diet is to reach a state of ketosis so that your body switches from burning glycogen (stored glucose) to burning ketone bodies. Your body makes ketones with both dietary and body fat, so the idea is that once your body starts burning fat for fuel, it'll burn through your dietary fats and move on to your body. 

Mild to Moderate Workouts

The SKD is a great option for mild- to moderate workouts. Low and slow workouts like yoga, long walks or bike rides, light jogs, swimming, or a low-impact sport like pickleball are all perfect candidates for those looking to keep moving on the keto diet. It's when you start upping the intensity that you might need to make an adjustment. 

The adjustment period and method is entirely individual. You might do just fine upping your intensity on the keto diet, but as you work harder, your body might begin to demand more glycogen than your diet provides, and you could run out of gas. 

Moderate to High-Intensity Workouts

The two alternative forms of keto are called targeted keto (TKD) and cyclical keto (CKD). Both of these options involve eating more carbohydrates before a hard workout in order to fuel your muscles with glycogen and keep your performance level high.

In the case of the TKD, you'd want to fuel with a really easily-digestible carbohydrate (like plain glucose powder) immediately before a workout (no more than one hour), and you'll want to start small and gradually build up to what you feel your body needs. The goal is to hit your "target" glycogen needs without going too far into a surplus and staying out of ketosis for a long time after your workout is over. The other target is the timing itself. If you're doing a few high-intensity workouts per week, you'll only want to use the TKD on those days and drop back to the SKD for the other days of the week.

The CKD is geared more toward extremely active athletes who do a lot of high-intensity interval training or high-endurance sports. Think Crossfit, MMA fighting, distance cyclists, and triathletes, just to name a few.  For this type of high-fat plan, you're choosing more healthy carbs on the days you plan to go hard at the gym. The timing is a little more lax than the TKD (just needs to be the same day you hit the gym hard), and the foods you'd eat are slower carbs, including sweet potatoes, winter squash, legumes, or whole grains. 

For those on the CKD plan, on the days you're cycling, your ratios are basically the reverse of the SKD: 60-70% carbs, 15-20% protein, and 5-10% fat. On your non-workout days, you'd go back to the SKD. This is essentially the closest thing to "carb-loading" that the ketogenic diet can offer to athletes.

In the End... Effort + Time = Results

Perfecting your keto meal plan is a process, but achieving perfection might not even need to be the goal. Everyone has a different set of circumstances and goals on the keto diet, but if you put in the effort over time, you’ll reach your goals. Pre-workout nutrition is one of many details to pay attention to along the way. 

By first focusing on healthy fats, proteins, and low-carb veggies before you even consider hitting the gym, you’ll get yourself started on the right track. Once you’re fat-adapted and feeling the clean energy generated by ketones, you’ll be ready to hit the gym and start tweaking your plan to optimize performance. Take your time and listen to your body. It’s the best messenger you have to measure success.

 

     


    Author: Toni Sicola

    Published:  Apr. 8, 2020 

    Toni is a wellness professional with a Master's in Integrative Health, is passionate about spreading health, happiness, and personal fulfillment to as many people as possible. She has a professional background in health and wellness, dietary supplements, and nutrition, and embarks every day to live a well, balanced, happy life.

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