May 22, 2024

Pre-Workout Snacks by Heather Mangieri, MS, RD, CSSD

“What should I eat before I work out?”  

Eating before meals, as opposed to skipping meals has been show to improve performance. The goal of the pre-workout meal/snack is to provide fuel for your workout, guaranteeing that you’re neither hungry nor left exercising with a large quantity of undigested food in the stomach.

The best pre-workout snack will depend on a few things:

Individual Goals- weight loss, fat losses, gain strength, improve speed, etc.
Duration of Exercise- 30 minute workout versus a 3 hour workout
Intensity of Exercise- high intensity (can’t talk) vs. low intensity (can carry on a conversation)
Type of Exercise-strength versus endurance
Individual Level of Training- novice versus elite athlete

Many of my clients tell me they prefer to work out on an empty stomach. If your goal is only to burn calories or lose weight, that might actually work. But if your goal is to get faster, stronger, build muscle or perform better, it’s time to start focusing on a pre-workout nutrition plan.

To gain a performance benefit, here are some general guidelines when choosing a pre-workout snack:

-High in carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, pasta, tortillas, rice, cereals, fruits and vegetables. Eating carb-rich foods before you exercise can help supply energy, and maximize muscle glycogen stores.

-Small amount of protein.

-Keep the pre-workout meal low in fat and fiber. Meals high in fat and fiber take longer to digest, which may cause fullness and other GI (gastrointestinal issues) such as nausea, bloating, cramping and general discomfort.

-Hydrating foods are great to provide some additional fluid. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, smoothies and yogurt make good options.

When exercising in extreme conditions or for long duration, choosing salty foods will help prevent sodium depletion. Good choices are chicken broth, pickles, olives or pretzels.

Most athletes don’t like to exercise with a belly full of food, nor do I recommend it. When it comes to portion size, the closer you are to the workout, the less food you consume. The more time that’s available the more food you consume. For higher intensity workouts, be sure to leave more time for digestion. If you hit the gym before breakfast, try eating something small, such as a banana or another easily digestible carbohydrate, 30 minutes before you start. But be sure to have a balanced breakfast as soon as your workout ends. If you know your stomach can’t handle solid food before a workout, opt for a smoothie or sports drink for the added carbohydrates.

We’re all different when it comes to the types of food we tolerate before exercise and the amount of food we eat will also vary based on our individual needs. It’s important to practice pre-workout fueling until you learn what works for you.

Example of pre-workout snacks (1-2 hours before a workout):

1/2 turkey sandwich with an orange
Yogurt with a few crushed almonds & dried fruits
Cereal with milk
Toast, bagel or English muffin with nut butter and jelly
1/2 PB & J sandwich
3-4 fig Newton’s or other small low-fat granola bar

Remember that we all need different amounts of food. If you need help determining your own individual needs, consider consulting a sports dietitian. Check out to help locate a sports dietitian near you.

Heather Mangieri is a national media spokesperson, registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition CheckUp in Pittsburgh, PA. For more information visit You can follow Heather on Twitter @nutritioncheck and join her facebook community at

Beans Offer Big Benefits by Heather Mangieri, MS, RD, CSSD

If you’re not eating beans you’re missing out.  While they’ve long been known as a healthy food, they’re receiving more recognition recently.  Research has shown that including beans as part of a healthy eating plan may slow the progression of certain chronic diseases, as well as help satisfy hunger levels while eating fewer calories.

How can one food offer all of these benefits?


Beans are a nutrient rich food.  

Nutrient density is all about getting the biggest nutrient bang for your calorie buck.  And beans have it.  They’re a beautiful balance of high quality complex carbohydrates and protein, all while providing a great source of fiber, folate, iron, magnesium and potassium. Research in both children and adults has shown that people who eat beans get more of these key nutrients in their diets than people who do not eat beans.

Beans are warriors when it comes to weight management.

Their high fiber and water content help us feel full faster and help maintain that satiety between meals. Including beans in a weight loss plan can help prevent hunger even when calories are cut.

Beans work to combat chronic disease.

Everyone’s eating plan should include foods that help slow the progression of chronic disease.  And you guessed it- beans are a winner here too.  Unlike meat-based proteins, beans are naturally low in fat, are free of saturated fat and trans-fat, and are a cholesterol-free source of protein.

Research shows that a diet including beans may reduce blood cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease.  In addition, studies have linked beans to lower risk of hypertension and some types of cancers.  And all of the soluble fiber in beans works to slow the rise in blood sugar after we eat, making them a perfect food for those with diabetes.

All of those health benefits are great but there’s more. Beans are also cost-effective and convenient.  Anyone who claims it’s expensive to eat healthy surely hasn’t been cooked with beans.  One can of beans (even organic varieties) provides 3 ½ servings and can often be found for just over a buck.  That’s only about $0.40 per serving.  You can pump up the protein content of any dish by adding beans.  Because they are so versatile, they go great in soups, stews, salads and chili but also mix well with greens and a variety of grains.  Homemade hummus or bean dips taste great paired with raw vegetables.  Just one Tbsp. of hummus adds flavor to wraps and sandwiches or works great as a flavor topping for fish, chicken or other protein picks too.

Try this super easy, turkey and bean chili:


1 Ib. lean white meat turkey
3 tomatoes, diced
1 green pepper, diced
½ onion, diced
1 can kidney beans
1 can tomato sauce
1 pkg chili season mix
1 Tbsp oil


1.)    Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions, peppers and turkey until the meat is well browned and the onions are tender.
2.)    Mix in the diced tomatoes, beans, seasoning mix and tomato sauce and bring to a boil.  Cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve.

Optional: omit the canned tomato sauce and use an additional diced tomato.

Heather Mangieri is a national media spokesperson, registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition CheckUp in Pittsburgh, PA. For more information visit You can follow Heather on Twitter @nutritioncheck and join her facebook community at

Balanced Breakfast by Heather Mangieri, RD

5 Balanced Breakfast Picks by Heather Mangieri, RD

Though you probably didn’t hear it here first, it’s worth repeating; breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And although so many of you know this, you’re still coming up with cop-outs that stop you from eating this morning meal.

Studies show that breakfast eaters have better concentration, attention span and memory which means better overall work performance. Plus, it’s been shown that those people that skip their am fuel are 75% more likely to be overweight than regular breakfast eaters.

The best bang for your breakfast buck is a balance of protein, healthy fats and slow digesting carbohydrates that contain fiber. That’s easier said than done for breakfast-skippers. If you’re ready to commit, start small. A wedge of cheese and a piece of fruit is a good start, and you can build from there over time. Once your internal hunger clock has been reset and you crave food in the morning, you can build a better breakfast.

Here are a few ideas:

1.) Veggie omelet- Sauté a variety of vegetables in a pan with a little olive oil.  Once they are soft, transfer the veggie mixture to the inside of your omelet along with the 2 Tbsp feta cheese.  Balance it out with a side of berries and a slice of whole grain toast.

2.) Breakfast Wrap- Fill a whole wheat tortilla with black beans, 1/3 c whole grain rice and 2 Tbsp avocado and 2 Tbsp Salsa. Balance it out with a side of fruit.

3.) Greek yogurt- Mix some slivered almond and berries (or dried fruit) into 4 ounces of Greek yogurt. Balance it out with some low-fat granola or a whole wheat mini-bagel.

4.) Breakfast Sandwich- Layer 1 fried egg, 1 slice ham, 2 tomato slices, and 1 Tbsp hummus between a whole wheat English muffin. Serve with ½ banana.

5.) Hot Cereal- Make a meal of out your basic bowl of oatmeal by swirling in a mix of walnuts, dried prunes and cinnamon. Balance it out with ¼ cup cottage cheese for some added protein.

Heather Mangieri is a national media spokesperson, registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition CheckUp in Pittsburgh, PA. For more information visit You can follow Heather on Twitter @nutritioncheck and join her facebook community at