If you think of a pre-workout snack, globs of peanut butter don’t really come to mind. Instead, we’ve been taught that eating a nice amount of carbohydrates for fuel prior to exercise will help us boost our performance and last longer during a workout.
But if you’re on the keto diet, you’re heavily restricting carb intake and loading your body with fats, which might not be the optimal conditions for hitting the gym. Out of the three macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbohydrates—fat can be the slowest to digest, sticking around in the stomach for a longer period of time than carbs. And that can make it harder to work through that set of burpees.
“Training on a keto diet may require you to eat longer before your workout than you’re used to,” says Seattle-based dietitian Ginger Hultin and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
So what keto-friendly foods should you eat before working out?
Well, you don’t want to shove a huge intake of fat into your belly before heading to the gym, but you also can’t fill up on carbs. The good news is, there are some lower-carb choices that will keep you in ketosis, while adequately fueling you to go harder and longer.
1) Keto “Fat Bombs”
Yes, fat is in the name, but these are pretty small, so they won’t overwhelm the system—and they do offer some carbohydrates.
“You can buy them in the store or easily make them at home,” Hultin says. They’re little balls or small bars that contain nut butter, coconut oil, some no-carb sweetener like stevia and cocoa powder.” Depending on the flavor and recipe, they could also contain a variety of nuts, seeds, and spices.
2) Keto Bars
There are keto-specific protein bars that make nice pre-workout snacks. These are easy to take on the go—you can just stash them in your gym bag.
3) Fresh Berries
Most fruit isn’t really keto-approved, but berries in moderation are. “For a natural boost, I suggest grabbing a small serving of fresh berries pre-workout,” Hultin says. “Relatively low in net carbs, berries offer complex carbohydrates and antioxidants to fuel your workout.”
Feel free to pair with yogurt, nut butter, or some cheese for a bit more sustenance.
4) Greek Yogurt or Cottage Cheese
“A high-fat dairy product like yogurt or cottage cheese can provide a low level of carbohydrates, the fat you need on this diet, and a nice source of natural protein to fuel your workouts,” Hultin says.
Read the ingredient label carefully to avoid added sugars, though. If you get a plain, unsweetened and full-fat dairy or coconut product, it can be a convenient and tasty keto-friendly option.
By Isadora Baum