Being physically active is one of the best ways to boost physical and mental health, no matter what type of diet you follow. And there’s no exception for people who follow a keto diet that consists of high fat, low carb, and moderate protein.
Looking for some inspiration about how to fuel yourself properly before a workout while practicing keto or simply while cutting down on carbs? We’ve got some helpful tips to keep in mind—plus some drool-worthy recipes to keep you fueled up and satisfied.
3 Things to Consider When Selecting Your Pre-Workout Snack
Get Your Timing Right
Because fats take a longer time to digest than other macronutrients, you’ll probably want to consume a ketogenic snack a little further out from your gym session than you typically would for a carb-focused snack (which experts suggest consuming around 45 to 60 minutes pre-workout). Otherwise, you may find yourself dealing with uncomfortable issues like sluggishness or stomach cramps during your workout.
So, try eating a keto snack as part of a regular meal about 2 to 4 hours before your workout, according to Mayo Clinic. Of course, if you’re trying to stave off hunger pangs which could distract you from your workout, you may opt to have a keto snack up to an hour before hitting the gym—just pay attention to how it makes you feel.
Don’t Overdo It
Switching your body’s primary fuel source from carbohydrates to fat—which is achived primarily through a ketogenic diet—is shown by scientific evidence to boost human health. One 2001 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition even found that consuming a more fat-heavy diet may boost running endurance. A more recent review published in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine concludes that following a keto diet isn’t detrimental to moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise, plus it offers additional benefits to the active person thanks to keto’s varsity-level ability to promote fat loss.
But remember: fat takes a bit longer to digest than carbs. So, in addition to optimizing the timing of your pre-workout snack, be sure to optimize the size of your snack, too. If you’re within the hour or two window of your workout and simply starving, go ahead and eat your keto snack—just make the portion size a bit smaller. You can always consume more fat later on during your post-workout window.
Keep in mind, if your workout lasts less than 60 minutes, any food you eat right before your workout likely won’t give you much added energy anyway, even if it’s all carbs. And while the research is mixed, some evidence suggests that working out in a fasted (unfed) state may be beneficial for muscle strengthening and fat burning. But, fasted workouts aren’t safe nor enjoyable for everyone, so adding a small keto snack pre-workout can be a great way give you the energy you need to train effectively.
Remember to Hydrate
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, you should aim to drink about 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before your workout, in addition to consuming water throughout your training session. Reason being? Your body simply can’t perform at its best unless it’s properly hydrated, and working out while dehydrated can lead to problems like cramps, dizziness, and fatigue.
As a bonus, drinking water helps your body digest fat more effectively and absorb key nutrients necessary for optimal well-being. Plus, if you’re new to keto then staying well hydrated is a proven way to combat the so-called “keto flu.”
10 Keto Snack Ideas for Pre-Workout
Whether you’re fully committed to a ketogenic diet or simply looking for tasty fat-friendly foods, you certainly have plenty of options for keto snacks at your disposal. In making our list of 10 great keto pre-workout snack ideas, we wanted to focus on snacks you can buy or cook yourself that are as portable as they are delicious and nutrient-packed. Check them out!
1. EPIC Pork Rinds
These aren’t your gas station’s salty snacks! EPIC Pork Rinds are made from pigs raised without antibiotics. They’re a great keto-friendly snack to have before a workout since they’re lightweight, store well, and offer a modest amount of protein, too. Plus, each bag contains 5 servings, so you’ll have plenty to crunch on as you drive home from the gym!
- Net carbs: 0g
- Protein: 8g
- Fat: 4.5g
- Total calories: 80 cal
2. Perfect Keto Bar
These keto protein bars from Perfect Keto don’t contain the typical filler ingredients that other leading protein bars have. Plus, they contain grass-fed collagen, a type of protein that can boost body composition and support strong muscles, bones, and skin.
- Net carbs: 3g
- Protein: 11g
- Fat: 17g
- Total calories: 220 cal
3. SuperFat Coffee + MCT Nut Butter
Consuming caffeine before a workout may boost performance during a variety of activities, including endurance and strength training exercises. Studies also show consuming medium chain triglycerides (MCT) pre-workout can enhance endurance and minimize muscle glyocgen depletion. This makes SuperFat Coffee + MCT Nut Butter a perfect (and portable!) pre-workout keto snack to throw in your gym bag. With only 5 grams of net carbs, no added sugar, and a delicious taste, it’s a great option for any active person on the go, whether they’re “keeping keto” or not.
- Net carbs: 5g
- Protein: 8g
- Fat: 20g
- Total calories: 240 cal
4. Quest Protein Chips
These chips from Quest are another great option because of how lightweight they are, and unlike regular chips they’re super low carb and loaded with protein to support your hardworking muscles. Plenty of flavors to try, too!
- Net carbs: 4g
- Protein: 19g
- Fat: 5g
- Total calories: 140 cal (varies depending on flavor)
5. Iconic Protein Drink
Later in the list we’ll share a homemade shake recipe, but if you’re in a pinch and are looking for a storebought option, try these protein shakes from Iconic. They’re low calorie, low-carb, non-GMO, and made with grass-fed protein—plus they’re lactose-free, for anyone with a dairy intolerance. Simpy add a sprinkle of peanut butter powder if you’re looking for more fat to fuel with.
- Net carbs: 4g
- Protein: 19g
- Fat: 2g
- Total calories: 130 cal
6. Egg Salad With Avocado
Nutrient rich, delicious, and easy to pack in the office fridge, this creamy egg salad with avocado is a decadent spin on an old classic. You’ll need:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Greek yoghurt
- Fresh lemon or lime juice
- Minced parsley, cilantro, dill, or chives
- Salt and pepper
7. Keto Fat Bombs
Fat bombs are a go-to keto snack that you can store in your freezer. If you’re worried about too much fat pre-workout, just eat half of one for a little boost. You’ll need:
- Cream cheese
- Peanut butter
- Swerve sweetener
- Dark chocolate chips (optional)
8. Egg Cups
Egg cups are great because you can flavor them however you’d like, plus they can even be eaten at room temperature so they’re even better on the go than you may think! To make a basic recipe, you’ll need:
- Heavy cream
9. Keto Protein Pancakes
A lot of protein pancake recipes come with not-so-keto ingredients like oats or bananas. This keto protein pancake recipe gives you a tasty snack without the excess carbs. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Protein powder
- Water or almond milk
- Baking soda
10. Homemade Peanut Butter Shake
As promised, here’s a homemade protein shake recipe you can try! Like egg cups, protein shakes are hugely versatile, and you can fill them with whatever keto-friendly ingredients you love. For this peanut butter protein shake (with 172 calories, 15g of fat, 5g of protein, and just 4.7 net carbs per serving), you’ll need:
- Peanut butter
- Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- Sugar-free sweetener
- Heavy cream or coconut cream
- Almond milk (unsweetened)
- Ice cubes
There will probably always be debate about what type of pre-workout food (if any) is best for exercise. But if you do love that low-carb life and are looking for more keto friendly snacks to incorporate into your pre-workout routine, you’ll never be short on choices. Just keep the following bottom lines in mind:
- Fat digests more slowly than carbs. So, if you’re going to have a keto snack before your workout, try to have it at least one hour before you start exercising, and ideally 2 to 4 hours before. If you’re starving and simply need something to eat before you hit the gym, keep your keto snack portion small.
- When choosing a pre-workout keto snack, look for something that’s portable and easy to pack in a lunchbox or gym bag.
- You know your body best—so, pay attention to how you feel during and after your workouts and adjust your snack routine accordingly!
Licensed Physical Therapist
Sara McEvoy, PT, DPT is a licensed and board-certified doctor of physical therapy. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Boston University. Sara is also a professional freelance writer and copywriter. She researches and writes almost exclusively within the health and wellness field.