A Guide to What to Eat Before and After a Workout


A Guide to What to Eat Before and After a Workout

Fitness gurus who know their stuff tout the same adage, which is that you build muscles in the gym and you reveal them in the kitchen. In other words…what you eat matters. Not only does what you eat matter for your body sculpting journey, but what you eat also matters in terms of how your body responds to your workout. Learn what a good pre workout meal is (and when you should eat it), if you should eat before or after a workout at all, and if you should ever workout on an empty stomach with this helpful guide.

Should You Workout on an Empty Stomach?

Before delving into the “what to eat”, let’s address whether or not working out on an empty stomach is a good idea. There are two truisms to working out:

  • Burning calories during cardio workouts can fuel weight loss
  • The body needs energy to burn calories, build muscle, and fuel workouts

So, which is it?

Deciding to workout on an empty stomach really depends on what kind of exercise you’re doing. If you’re doing a cardio workout such as running or jump roping or cycling that won’t exceed an hour, then you can amp up your metabolic burn by doing it during a fast.

However, a huge caveat to that is to know your body. Exercising, especially while fasting (such as first thing in the morning) can lead to dizziness, low blood sugar, and light-headedness. If you’re not accustomed to cardio and fasting, or if you have a medical condition, this is ill-advised.

Further, if your workout involves weight training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), or anything revolving around sculpting your muscles, you need to put fuel in your tank.

how long to eat before workout

What’s a Good Pre-Workout Meal (and When Should You Eat It)?

Pre-workout fuel needs to give you energy for whatever activity you’re doing. Again, some activities require more fuel to start and some, such as training for major events like marathons and triathlons where you’re in the work for 60-plus minutes, merit fueling up mid-workout.

Typically, though, your meal schedule prior to a workout should look like this:

  • Large meal: Allow 3 to 4 hours to digest before working out.
  • Small meals: Allow 1-3 hours before working out.
  • Snacks: Eat 30-60 minutes before working out.

When it comes to snacking, reach for a high-carb (15-25 grams) snack before workout. Further, you want something, no matter when you eat before a workout, that’s easily digestible. This means look for foods that are low in fat and fiber if your goal afterward is a workout.

Here are some options for what to eat before working out that will give you energy, help you build muscles, and not make you feel bloated.

  • Bananas top the list as a snack, a smoothie or protein shake additive, or a yogurt mixer. Why? Bananas have more carbohydrates than other fruits, so they keeping you going longer. Add some peanut butter or eat a few spoons of hummus if you also need a kick of protein with this snack.
  • Protein shakes are also great. These are perfect small meals that are packed with protein, carbohydrates, and amino acids.
  • Oats and whole grains topped with dried and fresh fruit, honey, and other healthy options (such as chia seeds or hemp hearts) give your body sustained energy.
  • Boiled eggs with wheat toast pack a protein and carbohydrate punch.
  • Unsweetened yogurt and fresh fruit hydrate you and fill you with loads of protein.

Notice that all of the foods you’ll want to eat before your workout look like breakfast foods. While these are traditionally foods eaten as part of a healthy breakfast, the real key is that they’re easily digestible. They provide tons of vitamins and nutrients without weighing you down…literally.

Do You Eat After a Workout?

We’ve answered the question of do you eat before a workout with a resounding yes, but now many wonder…do you eat after a workout? The answer is also yes. While there might be some naïve assumption that not eating ensures you burn calories longer, this is untrue.

Eating after a workout to refuel helps you seal in all of the progress you made during your workout. For example, a HIIT strength training class needs to be topped off with a meal containing a lot of protein. This facilitates muscle recovery and muscle building. It also helps your body refuel depleted glycogen.

Your post-recovery meal, which should transpire within two hours of your workout (it can go longer if you had a large meal before working out), should consist of a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The ratio for your post-workout meal nutrition is important. Specifically, you should consume:

  • 20-40 grams of protein.
  • A 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein (ex: 30 grams of protein and 90 grams of carbs).
  • Healthy (not saturated) fats.

A few post-workout meal ideas may include:

  • A protein bar with a glass of chocolate milk and a handful of nuts.
  • An egg over smashed avocado on whole grain bread.
  • Seared tuna with a serving of fresh fruit and avocado.
  • Chicken over spaghetti with a drizzle of olive oil.

Lighter fare may include pita and hummus, a protein shake, a quinoa bowl with fruit, nuts, and berries. There are a plethora of delicious options.

carbs before workout

Hydrate Before, During, and After Your Workout

Lastly, in addition to eating before and after a workout, you should hydrate before, during, and after your workout. Staying hydrated will keep your body well-lubricated and will enable you to keep going. Fueling up with electrolytes after your workout is also a good idea especially if you’ve done a cardio workout.

While many see working out as a way to burn calories, it’s really more than that. It’s part of building your temple. You have to have a strong foundation, which comes in the form of great nutrition before and after a workout. If you fuel your workouts, you’ll be rewarded with healthy muscles and a higher metabolism that will keep you going for the duration.

Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of any weight loss journey. Eating before your workout and eating after your workout will help you go longer and stronger during your workout. If you need help supplementing your weight loss journey and are curious about the revolutionary Spatz3 gastric balloon, contact us for more information.

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