It can be a tough situation when it’s time to train at the gym, but you don’t have much time to get a meal in beforehand. That’s when quick energy via a grab-and-go snack can help you get through your sweat sesh with some protein to help retain muscle and some carbs to lock out that last deadlift without the barbell slipping from your fingertips.
It’s hard to find the best snack that serves these needs. Many options on the market claim to be an ideal pre-workout snack, but boast too much fat, have an ingredient list that could slow digestion, or produce a “heavy” feeling in the belly that can make lifting uncomfortable. To help you decide on the ideal options, consider our top picks to get you to your next workout:
Best Pre-Workout Snacks
- Best Pre-Workout Protein Bar: Authentic Bar
- Best Meat Snack: Paleovalley Grass-Fed Beef Sticks
- Best Snack for Vitamins and Minerals: Paleovalley Superfood Bars
- Best Crunchy Bar: Promix Puff Bar
- Best Digesting Bar: ZonePerfect Protein Bars
- Best Caffeinated Snack: AMPower Energy Bars
Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended to diagnose, prevent, and/or treat health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine. Individual needs for vitamins and minerals will vary.
Best Pre-Workout Protein Bar
Your pre-workout snack should be enjoyable and something to look forward to. This pre-workout protein bar even gets the nod over a protein shake because it is satiating and often tastes better.
Jacked Factory’s Authentic Bar really tastes better. It comes in five flavors — Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Coconut Cashew, Kitchen Sink, Mint Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Candy. Other high notes include the fact that these bars are made with “real” ingredients, are soy-free, and are made without artificial flavors or sugar alcohols.
Authentic Bars are made with whey protein isolate, and contain 14g to 17g of protein per bar, depending on the flavor you choose. They are available in five unique flavors and range from 240 to 280 calories each.
Who Should Buy Authentic Bar
- People who want delicious-tasting pre-workout snacks.
- Folks who don’t want any artificial flavors and/or sugar alcohols.
- People who don’t want to or can’t eat soy.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Authentic Bar
- Anyone on a strict cut who may want lower-fat, higher-protein macronutrients.
- Anyone allergic to nuts. All of Authentic Bar’s flavors contain tree nuts.
Flavor meets function to produce these candy-like bars that are also free of artificial flavorings and soy. With 14 to 16 grams of protein, they pack a nice punch before a training session. Twelve to 13 grams of fat is on the high end for some, but, on the whole, we think they hit the spot.
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Best Meat Snack
If a carnivore’s snack catches your fancy, it would be tough to beat Palevalley Grass-Fed Beef Sticks. Made in the USA from grass-finished beef and organic spices, these sticks are naturally fermented to match a paleo dieter’s dream.
Paleovalley Grass-Fed Beef Sticks
Due to Paleovalley’s fermentation process, each stick contains gut-friendly probiotics. If you are someone who cares about how the cows are treated before slaughter, Paleovalley ensures their cattle are never fed grains and are pasture-raised. That better treatment leads the cows to provide higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
These 100 percent grass-fed beef sticks are naturally fermented and comes in five different flavor options. Each stick packs a balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Who Should Buy Paleovalley Grass-Fed Beef Sticks
- Those who enjoy the taste of meat before training.
- Anyone who follows a paleo diet.
- Folks who value the humane treatment of grass-fed, grass-finished cows.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Paleovalley Grass-Fed Beef Sticks
- Anyone who follows a vegetarian or vegan diet.
- Those who would prefer having a snack more like a protein bar and less like beef jerky.
If you are on the market to get a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, Paleovalley has you covered. Don’t go for the overprocessed beef jerky alternatives when you have a complete pre-workout snack like this available.
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Best Snack for Vitamins and Minerals
The Paleovalley Superfood Bar is made with certified organic, antioxidant-rich superfoods and is cold processed. Naturally low in sugar — four grams per bar — they are also from gluten, grain, soy, and GMOs.
Paleovalley Superfood Bars
There are two flavors available — Dark Chocolate Chip and Apple Cinnamon — which provide 180 and 190 calories, respectively. With only nine grams of protein per bar, it’s not the most protein-dense pre-workout option available, but it makes up for it by packing 250 milligrams of potassium and 45 milligrams of Vitamin C.
These nutrient-dense bars are made with 100 percent grass-fed bone broth protein. They are gluten, grain, soy, and GMO-free and only have four grams of sugar.
Who Should Buy Paleovalley Superfood Bars
- Those who want to keep their sugar intake low.
- Anyone who wants a boost of Vitamin C.
- People who want a lower-calorie pre-workout snack.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Paleovalley Superfood Bars
- Folks who prioritize high protein pre-workout snacks.
- Anyone who suffers from peanut allergies.
Even with only two flavors, you can’t really go wrong with either if you are on the market for a vitamin-rich pre-workout snack. The protein is lower than comparable options on the market, but the lack of sugar-alcohols is something to praise.
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Best Crunchy Bar
Texture can be the difference maker between enjoying your pre-workout snack and just getting it down for the fuel it provides. We sought out snacks that have some crunch to them, and Promix delivered in spades. If you enjoy gooey, crunchy textures reminiscent of a Rice Krispie® treat, Promix bars offer it in a 150-calorie bar alongside 15 grams of protein.
Promix Puff Bar
Promix also claims that they won’t melt in transit, so toss these in your gym bag when traveling. They’re also made using premium ingredients like raw cacao and cocoa, grass-fed whey, coconut oil, and tapioca. You can buy four flavors: Snickerdoodle, Vanilla, Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Chips.
These crunchy bars are reminiscent of a rice crispy treat that's packed with protein and absent all that unwanted sugar. They're a nice change from normal chewy protein bars.
Who Should Buy Promix Puff Bar
- Anyone who values minimal sugar content.
- Folks who like having a wide variety of flavors.
- Those who plan to train while traveling.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Promix Puff Bar
- Anyone who is bulking up and needs a higher-calorie bar.
- Folks who don’t want a crunchy bar.
- People who want more than 15 grams of protein per serving.
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Best Digesting Bar
If you get excited at the thought of crushing a granola bar right before a training session, then Zoneperfect delivers that experience while also packing 15 grams of protein. Combine that with the addition of 18 vitamins and minerals, and you’ve got a well-rounded pre-workout snack.
ZonePerfect Protein Bars
The macronutrients are balanced well by Zoneperfect across their five flavors — Chocolate Almond Raisin, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cinnamon Roll, and Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk. They aren’t compatible with folks who have nut allergies, but the lack of sugar-alcohols makes it a better fit for those looking for a pre-workout snack that won’t be tough to digest while deadlifting and squatting at the gym.
These protein bars pack a larger dose of vitamins and minerals compared to most competitors on the market. They have a chewy texture similar to a dense granola bar and are offered in over a dozen flavors.
Who Should Buy ZonePerfect Protein Bars
- Those looking for a high-protein pre-workout snack.
- Anyone who values the eighteen vitamins and minerals included.
- Folks who enjoy consuming cold pre-workout snacks.
Who Shouldn’t Buy ZonePerfect Protein Bars
- People who want to keep their sugar intake low — these bars have sixteen grams of added sugar.
- Anyone who has a history of thyroid issues.
This a solid grab-and-go option before heading to the gym. Considering it has a granola bar texture, it can be quite a tasty option if chilled in the fridge beforehand.
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Best Caffeinated Snack
If you want an extra shot of caffeine before hitting the gym, look no further than AMPower Energy Bars. Each bar contains 100 milligrams of caffeine alongside 21 grams of protein.
AMPower Energy Bars
Although these bars are gluten and GMO-free and consciously don’t contain much sugar — just two grams per bar — they do include three grams of sugar-alcohols, making them difficult to digest for some people. Still, 230 milligrams of potassium and 90 milligrams of calcium is a nice addition, and the 11 grams of fat should keep you feeling satiated while training.
These bars provide 20 grams of protein, 22 grams of carbohydrates, and 230 calories. They are gluten-free and include three grams of sugar-alcohols.
Who Should Buy AMPower Energy Bars
- Those who like a dose of caffeine before training.
- People who appreciate the lower sugar content.
- Folks who want a high-protein pre-workout snack.
Who Shouldn’t Buy AMPower Energy Bars
- Those who dislike consuming sugar-alcohols.
- Anyone who wants their pre-workout snacks to be caffeine-free.
Comparing these bars to other protein-dense pre-workout snacks will show a lot of similarities in the macronutrient breakdowns. The main difference is the addition of caffeine by AMPower. If you like yourself a cup of coffee in a pre-workout, this is surely the pick for you.
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What To Consider Before Buying
The best strategy for pre-workout nutrition is to get a dose of protein and an even higher dose of carbohydrates, which will help with muscle growth and energy levels. Fat and fiber aren’t inherently bad pre-workout, but they slow digestion — this is why they can be great for satiety at other times of the day but not always ideal for when you want your snack to digest quickly. Many bars contain sugar-alcohols, which are a great way to add sweetness without calories, but a small minority find them hard to digest.
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Protein, carbs, and flavor are the priorities when it comes to an ideal pre-workout snack, and we think we’ve provided the best options to give you some energy for your next gym session. Just make sure you chat to a doctor before making any big changes to your diet or supplement regimen.