Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

Gear up: 5 superfood pre-workout snacks

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Let’s be honest: We put a lot of thought into the things we will eat following a solid sweat session, like a well-rounded dinner with roasted potatoes and grilled chicken or that brownie you’ve had your eye on for the last few days. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about.

But what about the things we eat before we work out? The truth is, the right pre-workout food choices can help fuel your body, making for more efficient and energized exercise.

Want to know what snacks will gear you up for a cardio day or pumping some iron at the gym? Check out these workout snacks that will not only get you moving, but also provide a powerhouse dose of superfood ingredients.

Pumpkin Seeds: It might be tough to believe given their size, but pumpkin seeds are packed full of nutrients, ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein and zinc. Magnesium, in particular, can help promote flexibility and improve bone integrity and strength.

Try it! Go Raw Pumpkin Super Chips (gluten-free, wheat-free, nut-free, non-GMO) $5.49

Blueberries: These vibrant beauties contain flavonoids — natural compounds that protect the brain’s memory-carrying cells (neurons) from the damaging effects of oxidation and inflammation.

Try it! Pure Organic Wild Blueberry Bars (certified organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and vegan food bars) $2.19

Pistachios: These little guys offer a nutritious punch of protein, healthy unsaturated fat and fiber, making them a perfectly balanced pick for noshing before exercising. They are also a great source of vitamin B6, which helps keep your immune system running strong.

Try it! Sahale Snacks Pomegranate Pistachios Premium Blends (gluten-free, cholesterol-free and no trans fats) $31.73 (pack of six 4-ounce bags)

Dark Chocolate: A healthy dose of the dark stuff can help boost your mood and improve blood flow. It’s also packed with antioxidants that can help prevent cell damage and even cancer. Look for high-quality dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa.

Try it! Clif Mojo Bar Trail Mix Bars in Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt (gluten-free, 3 grams of fiber, low glycemic) $17.95 for a box (12 bars per box)

Chia: Like chocolate, chia seeds are packed with antioxidants, but they also boast a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein. Research has also shown that chia seeds can help improve exercise performance in the same manner as sports drinks – without all the added sugar.

Try it! Purely Elizabeth Pumpkin Fig Ancient Grain Granola (gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, free of refined sugar, non-GMO and no artificial colors or flavors) $7.99 (12-ounce bag)

Of course, if you’re like me, pre-workout snacks don’t always jibe with my digestive system. In that case, Holistic Life Coach Sheila Viers says it’s important to “fuel your workout without weighing you down.”

“Aim for a combination of easy to digest protein plus carbs about 15 to 30 minutes prior to your workout,” she said. “My favorite is a half a scoop of protein powder mixed with 4 ounces of coconut water or you could also use milk (skim, 1 percent or dairy-free).”

Viers said if that doesn’t do the job, then try a few bites of food, like half a banana with a smear of almond or peanut butter, a few whole food (minimally processed, preservative-free) crackers with peanut butter or yogurt with a few blueberries or a drizzle of agave nectar.

“Overall, I tell people to worry less about what the experts say is the right thing to eat (since new research is always showing something different) and instead focus on what you need to do in order to feel your best and have a great workout.”

Tell me: What’s your favorite pre-workout snack? Email me with your ideas!

Gluten-free & vegan

Makes 24 single servings


2 cups gluten-free brown rice cereal

2 cups gluten-free oats

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 tablespoon vegan butter

1/2 cup dried sour cherries

1/2 cup vegan, gluten-free chocolate chips


(1) Lightly brush two 12-cup mini muffin trays with safflower oil (or use cooking spray) and set aside. 

(2) Measure brown rice cereal, oats and sea salt into a medium bowl and set aside. 

(3) Place brown rice syrup and butter into a small saucepan and warm over low heat until the butter is melted, stirring constantly. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir. 

(4) Fold in dried cherries and chocolate chips. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups. Press the mixture into the cups using the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at

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