The Reason People On TikTok Eat Rice Krispie Treats Before Working Out

Rice Krispie Treats have been trending on social media as a pre-workout hack, but why exactly are influencers hyping up this nostalgic food? Beyond being a convenient snack that you can buy in huge packs and easily consume on the way to the gym in combination with an electrolyte or pre-workout drink, the reason is simple — simple carbs. Rice Krispie Treats are a good source of easily digestible carbohydrates, making them an ideal fuel for intense workouts.  

Take TikTok user @hakuvein, for example. His video, with roughly half a million likes and counting, follows him as he snacks on two Rice Krispie Treats in his car, hits the gym, and then shows off his toned arm muscles. He owes his "pump," in part, to Rice Krispie Treats, but some commenters aren't so convinced. Some believe his claim is exaggerated and think the benefits are all in his head. Others mention that Rice Krispie Treats aren't magic, and other foods like bananas and gummy bears work just as well, if not better. So, who's right?

What makes a good pre-workout snack?

A quick review of the science of workout nutrition might help settle this debate. The best type of pre-workout snack depends on when you eat it and what type of exercise you're doing. According to a 2018 review article, your body uses two main sources of fuel to power exercise — carbohydrates (in the form of blood sugar and muscle glycogen) and fats (in the form of fat in your blood and body fat). It pulls from each of these stores in different proportions based on how long and intense your exercise is. 

For quick, high-intensity exercise (think interval training or a short run), your body uses mostly carbs. That's because they are quick and easy for your body to break down. As your exercise intensity decreases or exercise time increases, your body will start to use more fat. Generally, experts at the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommend a snack of just simple carbs if you're eating within an hour before your workout. That's because simple carbs (like Rice Krispie Treats, white bread, and fruit juices) are easy to digest and high on the glycemic index, giving your body the energy it needs.

Alternatives to Rice Krispie treats before working out

Both the commenters and the poster on this TikTok trend have valid points — Rice Krispie Treats can serve as a decent pre-workout snack thanks to their simple carbs, but they're not uniquely effective compared to similar foods. According to the USDA, one 11-gram Rice Krispie bar has about 8 grams of carbs with minimal protein and fat. For comparison, one banana has about 26 grams of carbs, also with minimal protein and fat. The experts from the ISSN study recommend about 30-40 grams of carbs for your pre-workout snack. With this in mind, you might have to eat multiple Rice Krispies or combine them with another carb-rich food to notice a difference in your workout performance.

If you've eaten a meal with carbs and protein within two to four hours of your workout, your energy stores are probably already topped off, so you may not need a pre-workout snack. If it's getting close to your workout time and you haven't eaten in a while (or if you could use an energy boost), you can definitely eat some Rice Krispie Treats. If you'd like a pre-workout snack option with more vitamins and minerals, fruit juice, fresh fruit, dehydrated fruit, granola bars, sweet potatoes, bread, or pasta can also work. Ultimately, the best choice for a pre-workout snack is whatever keeps you energized and ready to tackle your fitness routine, whether that's a couple of Rice Krispie Treats or PB or jam-loaded pieces of toast.