Meal timing before and after a workout can be tricky: How to time your pre-workout fueling and when should you enjoy a post-workout meal?
There are generally two ways you can go with your post-workout nutrition:
- Ravenously head straight for the fridge for a post-workout chow down.
- Want nothing to do with food after a workout, at least for a little while.
Both camps have their causes, but whichever you fall into, keep one thing in mind:
When you eat is crucial.
Here I shed light on six common questions about eating before and after a workout.
Should You Eat before An Early Morning Workout?
Many athletes love – or have a love-hate relationship with – pre-dawn workouts. But when you’re waking up at 4:30 to be out the door by 5, should you really force yourself to scarf down a banana and some toast before getting on the move?
That depends as every individual is different when it comes to what the digestive system can or can’t tolerate before a workout.
In other words, apply the “you do you” mentality here.
Should You EAT Before an Endurance workout Session?
If you have a two-hour run ahead of you, it’s a bit more important to prioritize fueling beforehand than it is for a 30-minute easy run, yoga class, or elliptical workout.
In general, if you’re going to be out for longer than an hour doing an endurance activity like running, it’s a good idea to have some easily digestible carbohydrates beforehand. For example, you can pick a banana or toast with dried fruit or jam.
Should You Work out on an empty stomach?
If you’re only planning to work out for an hour or less, you can usually get away with minimal fuel beforehand, especially if food tends to bother your stomach.
But, if you choose fasted workouts for reasons other than a sensitive digestive system, be aware of the pros and cons of your plan and intention:
- If you work out on an empty stomach, your body uses more fat as fuel, as opposed to carbohydrates. This is one common reason why people try this tactic.
- Running on empty – especially for longer runs or hard workouts – is stressful on the body and may not lead to performance enhancement.
Wherever you fall on the digestive spectrum, try different strategies to figure out what works best for you – comfort wise and energy wise – before and during your workouts.
How to determine your workout meal plan?
The first way to plan your pre- and post-workout meals is trial and error.
The second approach requires a little math:
- In general, for an endurance activity, you want to take in about 0.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight if you have one hour or less beforehand. (To get your weight in kilograms, divide your number in pounds by 2.2.)
- If you have more time beforehand, like up to a few hours, you can go up to about 2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. (When you have enough time to digest, you can include a bagel with peanut butter, oatmeal with fruit, or eggs and toast.)
Despite these equations, you don’t have to be exact or bust out your calculator, Trial and error is just as important to see what sits in your stomach well and energizes you during activity.
What Should You Eat Before A workout?
Eating the right foods at the wrong times can seriously mess up your workout. Even the “right” foods can be wrong right before a workout.
This seems obvious, but even if you’ve found that tried-and-true pre-workout meal, eating it too early or too late can definitely affect your performance.
Having a higher fat meal right before a workout can cause GI distress because it’s more difficult to digest. The same goes for higher fiber meals, like lots of vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
Not eating enough carbohydrates before a workout can leave you feeling a bit depleted even before you start.
Simple carbs include:
- White bread
- English muffins
- Dried fruit
What should you eat after your workout?
You may be one of those athletes who can’t even look at a smoothie, salad, or pizza after your wrap up your workout, but one of the best ways to promote muscle recovery and replenish your glycogen stores is to refuel – at least with a little something – within 30 minutes of finishing your workout.
If you can’t stomach a sandwich or a brunch buffet, grab a protein shake or smoothie to sip on until you’re ready for a full meal.
My favorite post-workout meals include:
- Eggs and avocado toast
- Pizza with veggies on top
- Salmon with sweet potato and broccoli
- A smoothie with Greek yogurt, berries, banana, and greens
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.