If you are pursuing a fitness-focused lifestyle, it is important that your exercise regimen and nutrition are working in tandem to keep you performing well. Exercise strengthens your body, but it is nutrition that fuels your workouts. Achieving your fitness goals is not only about killing it in the gym, but providing energy for your body to keep going.
But eating right isn’t just about what to eat to for fuel, but when.
While making time for exercise in your day, the common problem is whether to eat before or after working out. When you choose to eat around a workout may affect the results that you experience from your exercise.
Read on for what and when to eat before or after a workout
Eating before a workout
Since food is fuel, it is important to eat something before a workout. Providing your body with the right nutrients before exercise will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better. To be exact, your muscles need the following fuels for exercise: glucose (from carbohydrates), acids (from fat), and amino acids (from protein).
Glucose is stored as glycogen in your muscle cells, which is used for quick-burning energy. Fatty acids are stored as triglycerides, which are used for long duration, lower intensity energy. And, amino acids are stored within the muscle tissue as protein, which builds muscle. Getting these important nutrients into your body before your workout will give you the power to keep moving.
When to eat before exercise?
It is recommended to eat a meal that is high in protein and complex carbohydrates 2-3 hours before exercising. For those that prefer smaller meals, try to consume a meal of simple carbohydrates 1 hour prior to exercise. Not sure which is best for you? Think about how long it takes for your body to digest most meals, and go with that. Remember, if you food doesn’t have time to digest properly, you may experience cramping.
For others, it is more comfortable not to eat before a workout. Not eating before a workout means you are exercising in a fasted state. Some studies report that if you workout in a fasted state, your body’s ability to use fat for fuel increases. However, working out on an empty stomach does not necessarily mean you will lose more weight or body fat; it can actually be detrimental to your body.
What to eat before exercise?
When choosing a pre-workout meal to help improve performance, it is important to aim for a balance of protein and carbohydrates. These particular nutrients are the dietary compounds that the body needs in large quantities to function correctly.
Carbs are an essential energy source to maintain performance. Protein supplies amino acids, and both are essential for a range of bodily functions, including the building, maintenance, and repair of muscle fibers. However, because fat is slow to digest, break down, and store, It is not recommended to consume foods that are high in fat before exercise.
Foods to eat 2-3 hours before exercise: high-protein oatmeal, fresh fruit, bliss balls, bagels, and energy bars.
Foods to eat 1 hour before exercise: fresh fruit, smoothie, energy bars, and trail mix.
Eating after a workout
Whether or not you eat before a workout, you should eat afterwards (even if it is a snack). It is necessary to eat after a workout in order to replenish the glycogen (carbs) that have been depleted and restore the amino acids (proteins) needed for a speedy muscle recovery, especially if you are weight training.
If your fitness goals are muscle or weight gain, you should eat right after a workout for a quick refuel to help your body recover faster and prevent the loss of muscle mass. If muscle or weight gain isn’t a fitness goal, you do not need to eat immediately after a workout.
It is not recommended to avoid food after a workout (especially if you chose to exercise fasted) because it may cause low blood sugar, light-headedness, muscle loss, and cramping.
When to eat after exercise?
After using up its available energy, your body needs to be refueled. Most nutritionists recommend eating something within 30 minutes after a workout to maximize the recovery benefits and regain your energy.
In particular, if you exercise in the morning and then don’t eat for a few hours, your body doesn’t have energy stores to work with. That means you’ll have low energy until you get some fuel to power through the remainder of the day.
What to eat after exercise?
The same nutrients you need to eat to fuel you workout, also helps with recovery. Amino acids can be used to build up proteins, while carbs can replenish your body’s glycogen stores food after exercise can help aid in recovery.
Foods to eat after exercise: quinoa bowl, rice, pasta, grilled chicken with roasted vegetables, salmon, avocado, nut butters, and trail mix.
So, should you eat before or after exercise? Well, that depends on your body — so listen and learn from it! You are the best judge when it comes to deciding whether to eat before or after a workout. Everyone is different, so make sure to do what feels right for you. If you would like further guidance, consult a licensed nutrition for further help with your pre- and post-workout nutrition.