Should I Eat Before or After Exercise?

Eat too much, you may get cramps, and feel sluggish.  Eat nothing or too little, you could get light headed, pass out and have a bad workout.   So what am I suppose to do?

Experts recommend to make the most out of your workout-EAT!  Now this doesn’t mean to go eat a double cheeseburger or full McDonald’s breakfast. What you eat and at what time will affect your exercise.

 If you eat a heavy meal prior to your gym visit, you can get an upset stomach, diarrhea or nausea.  This is because; your digestive system and muscles are fighting for the same energy sources in your body.

If you don’t eat anything or too little, you will have low blood sugar, which will make you weak and have slower reactions because your body has no energy to work off of.  When you expend energy by exercising, you need to consume extra energy to fuel the activity.  It is not true that you will burn more fat if you exercise on an empty stomach!

What to do?

  • Time your meals.  If it is meal time, plan to eat a big meal at least 3-4 hours before your workout.  You can eat smaller meals 2-3 hours before.  If you plan on exercising within the hour (in the morning after you wake up for example), eat a smaller meal to raise your blood sugar.  (Oatmeal, banana and peanut butter)
  • Snack.  For some people, they get a better workout if they consume some calories before they exercise.  If you haven’t had anything to eat within 3-4 hours, you will get better results if you put food energy in your body.   This can be a light snack to provide you energy and increase blood sugar.  Examples; protein bar, granola bar, banana, yogurt cup, cheese stick.
  • Eat after your workout.  Within 2 hours of your workout, eat a meal with carbs and protein.  This will replenish your muscles and help with tomorrow’s soreness.

 What should you eat?

  • Eat carbohydrates.  Your body stores excess carbohydrates as glycogen, primarily in your muscles and liver. Your muscles use stored glycogen when needed for energy during your workout.  Choose good carbs; whole wheat bread, and pasta, veggies and rice.
  • Avoid high fiber foods. For some, high fiber foods (beans, lentils, bran) can cause gas and cramping, which is no fun for you or the people working out next to you.  Avoid high fiber, 2-3 hours prior to your exercise.
  • Avoid sugars.  Again for some people, if they eat foods high in sugar (fructose) before a workout, they can get diarrhea and cramping when doing high intensity exercise.
  • Avoid fats.  Some fats are good, but a meal heavy in fats prior to exercise will just sit in your stomach and be uncomfortable. Fats take longer to digest than carbs and proteins.

Bottom line; when it comes to eating and exercise, everyone functions differently. Pay attention to how you feel during your workout and which pre- and post-exercise eating habits work best for you.  

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2 thoughts on “Should I Eat Before or After Exercise?

  1. Pingback: The Best Time to Exercise « Healthy In Chicago

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