Nutrition Expert Has A Warning About TikTok's Viral Pre-Workout Snack

TikToker @Ko0maaa went relatively viral with his July 25 post, which shows him eating a pre-packaged Rice Krispies Treat and then setting a personal record in the weighted squat exercise at the gym. He blew past his previous record of 335 pounds and squatted 365 pounds, right after eating that humble block of rice cereal.

Before you run to the supermarket to stock up on Rice Krispies Treats, you should realize this one TikTok video does not qualify as a science experiment. By conducting just the single trial, our workout guy couldn't have controlled for other factors that might have helped him on that day. Besides, the placebo effect has been proven over and over again to be real (via Lifehacker). That Rice Krispies Treat might not be a pre-workout miracle snack; rather, it might have motivated our TikToker to work that much harder toward his goal.

We asked Dr. Elizabeth Klingbeil, a registered dietitian nutritionist who works as an assistant professor at Johnson & Wales University, what science has to say about the value of a Rice Krispies Treat before a workout. We also asked her to describe the ideal foods to consume for gym fuel.

Rice Krispies Treats have some pluses and minuses as a pre-workout snack

Dr. Elizabeth Klingbeil says Rice Krispies Treats have certain advantages, along with some disadvantages, as a pre-workout snack. The good news: the Treats are primarily rice, which Dr. Klingbeil said was "a great source of carbohydrates for athletes." They provide enough carbs to fuel a workout while being low in fiber. "Carbohydrates that don't contain fiber are preferred prior to exercise, to allow the stomach to empty and prevent any gastrointestinal issues during a workout/performance," Dr. Klingbeil said. Carbs are really the most important component of a pre-workout meal, and Dr. Klingbeil explained why: "Carbohydrates are what produce glycogen in our body, which is fuel directly used by our muscles for energy during exercise."

So you could do worse than a Rice Krispies Treat before hitting the gym ... but you could do better, too. "Although the treat contains adequate carbs, it is lacking protein and is fairly high in added sugars," Dr. Klingbeil said. "Protein is essential for strength athletes to maintain muscle mass and increase sports performance."

Sugar is a carbohydrate, of course, but should be consumed in moderation before a workout. "Sugar is not necessarily a bad thing before a workout, but you can have too much," Dr. Klingbeil said. "A large intake of sugar prior to a workout can interfere with sports performance and muscle recovery/gain."

Some snacks would work better than Rice Krispies Treats before the gym

If Rice Krispies Treats aren't the best pre-workout option after all, despite what a certain viral TikTok suggests, then what exactly should we eat prior to exercising at the gym? Dr. Elizabeth Klingbeil cited the Sports Nutrition Care Manual's recommendations for strength athletes in particular. Generally speaking, the pre-workout meal should be high in quality carbohydrates, contain a moderate amount of protein, and be low in fiber and fat. If a Rice Krispies Treat sounds good to someone who's about to head to the gym, then Dr. Klingbeil recommends some rice cereal with low-fat milk.

Other good options include juice, fruit, granola bars, a bagel with peanut butter, cheese and crackers, and yogurt. Dr. Klingbeil recommends having the pre-workout meal four hours to one-half hour before exercising, depending on the workout and how sensitive your stomach is. "If you are snacking less than an hour before your workout, aim for liquids such as sports drinks or a low-fat meal replacement," Dr. Klingbeil said.

In a follow-up TikTok, @Ko0maaa described his complete pre-workout regimen on that fateful day when he set a new personal record in the squats. He ate chicken, rice, and oatmeal an hour and a half before the gym, and took a dose of his usual Bucked Up brand pre-workout formula. The new wrinkle in his preparation was the Rice Krispies Treat. Who knows? Maybe the sugary carbs in those treats made a difference. Our TikToker would need to run some more experiments.