Food provides us the fuel to exercise. We need energy to be able to perform at our best. Nutrition plays a critical role in our fitness journey. Clients often ask when is the best time to eat….before or after the workout?? There are several factors to consider when deciding which approach is best for you, because of course there is no straight answer to this question. Feeling totally full before a jog is never a good idea. On the other hand, feeling ravenous before a jog might make you more irritable then motivated to sweat.
Carbohydrates are probably the most controversial nutritional fitness topic, but they are the main source of energy for our bodies. We need them in order to sustain a quality workout, but that doesn’t mean we should have a plate of spaghetti or baked potatoes at free will. In summary, “You want every gram of carbohydrate you consume to be utilized as an immediate fuel source or to restore glycogen levels—you don’t want it to be stored as fat. Don’t eat more carbs than you need and don’t worry about spreading them evenly throughout the day. You can eat the majority of your carbs around your workout” (
Ideally, we are eating our snacks or meals every 2-3 hours, so if we were to workout 2 hours after having a snack, we wouldn’t need to eat again before the workout. On the other hand, if you have not eaten for several hours, then a snack before the workout is in order. For example, if the last time you ate was dinner and you are a morning workout person, a light snack would help energy levels to be able to sustain your workout. This snack should be 100-200 calories, and should have a small amount of carbohydrates and protein. For me, a rice cake with almond butter does the trick. When lifting weights, the body usually requires more energy so certainly have a snack at least 2 hours prior is necessary. A protein shake or 1/2 Quest bar are my go-to lifting snacks. Fast absorbing protein, particularly Whey sources, are best because they contain higher levels of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).
After a workout, there is a 60 minute time window that our muscles are vulnerable and ready to absorb nutritional components, which means, “They absorb carbohydrates readily to replace lost glycogen, energy stored in your muscles, as well as amino acids found in protein to help repair tissue you break down while working out” (
http://www.livestrong.com/article/399834-is-it-better-to-eat-before-or-after-a-workout-to-lose-weight/). When our muscles repair, they grow. More muscle means a higher metabolism.
Set yourself up for optimal results by meal planning and having snacks available to help you strategize your approach. Don’t go all day at work without eating for several hours then head to the gym with no fuel. My approach is to eat half my snack before and half after. So I might drink half my protein shake before or during, then the other half after. Or I might eat half my Quest bar before then the other half after. That way, my body has fuel before and is also receiving the BCAAs and protein after for muscle repair.