Fact or Fiction: You should eat before you workout

It’s been debated in the fitness community for years: to eat before you workout, or not? Some argue that you need fuel to get you through the workout, while others believe that a fasted workout can help you burn more calories. First things first, you need to eat before you workout (1). You need food in your system to help boost your performance, and without it, you may not be able to power through your full workout. 

However, there are a few factors that are important to consider when it comes to eating before a workout. Before a workout, you’ll want to consider how much to eat, what to eat, and how long before a workout you should eat.

The amount you eat before a workout depends on what type of workout you’re doing. Especially when you’re doing cardio, you’ll want to focus on getting in carbohydrates. However, the type of carbohydrates you eat are dependent on when you are eating them. If you are eating 3-4 hours before your workout, you’ll want to focus on complex carbohydrates (2). This is because your body will have enough time to break down the carbs successfully. Then, your body can utilize them properly during your workout. 

Some examples of complex carbs you could eat a few hours before a workout are:

  • Bagel with cream cheese
  • Oatmeal 
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain bread
  • Sweet Potatoes

Well, what if you’re getting in a morning workout? It’s not likely you’ll want to wake up at 4 a.m. to have a bagel to prepare yourself for your 8 a.m. spin class. So, when you’re eating something 1-2 hours before your workout, you’ll want to focus on simple carbohydrates. It won’t take your body as long to digest these carbohydrates, so you can use them as energy far sooner than their complex counterparts.

Simple carbohydrate examples:

  • Banana
  • Protein bar or granola bar
  • Yogurt 
  • Dried fruit

The other nutrient you’ll want to make sure you eat before a workout is protein. Your body needs protein to help repair muscle, as well as producing new muscle (3). So, there’s a reason gym buffs love to have their daily protein shakes- you need the protein to stimulate muscle creation and get more toned. Eating 20-30 grams of protein before you hit the gym can boost your muscle synthesis for hours after you eat. This means it’s extremely important for you to get both your carbohydrates and your protein in order to reach your fitness goals.

Some good protein choices before a workout:

  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Turkey
  • Salmon
  • Nuts

It’s crucial for your health to properly fuel your body before a workout of any kind. Without it, your body won’t have the energy to properly perform. This could make you feel sluggish during and after a workout, which could even cause you to be discouraged. When you’re on a workout routine, you need to make sure you’re eating enough calories. Some people may think the only way you can lose weight is to eat less, but that is not true. If you are exerting more energy, you need to be intaking more so that you are properly fueled. Bottom line: the more you exercise, the more you need to eat.

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