How Should You Eat Before and After Exercising? | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

How Should You Eat Before and After Exercising?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • Consuming the proper foods is essential to a successful workout.
  • Food is fuel to the body, and you should make sure you are consuming the right balance of carbs, proteins, and fats before and after exercising.
  • Eating before and after a workout helps your body burn calories more efficiently and repair muscle damage.

What and how much you eat before and after exercising are important elements to a successful workout.

Proper nutrition lets you meet your goals and recovery more quickly.

Eating before you exercise gives you the necessary energy to work out, and eating after you exercise helps you restore your body’s needed resources.

However, you can’t just consume mindless calories. You need to pay attention to what you are putting into your body.

If you are also looking for a consistent exercise routine, look no further. Go PRO today for access to certified personal trainers, workout plans, and more.

Why Is Food Important for Your Body Regardless of Exercise?

Many people eat a few times a day and do not think much about why they are doing it except that they are hungry or it is their regular scheduled time to eat. However, food is more than just something to stop the grumbling in your stomach especially when it comes to exercising.

Food is how we get energy and nutrition. It provides us with our protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. Food is what our body uses to repair damaged muscles and cells, and it is how we have the strength to move throughout our day.

It is impossible to live without food, although you can go for several days without it because your body will resort to living off stored fat and other necessities while it waits for proper nourishment. Of course, even skipping a single meal is not recommended because it is not the way your body is supposed to work.

Without food, you can become irritable, lethargic, weak, and unable to think clearly. You also lower your body’s natural defenses of immunity which makes you more prone to getting sick.

Food also helps maintain your body’s core temperature, which keeps you from hypothermia or heat stroke.

To fuel your body properly and consistently, you should eat several small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals.

If this is not possible with your schedule, then you need to at least make sure you eat before and after exercising to maintain your stamina.

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What Are the Best Foods to Eat Before You Exercise?

In order to properly burn calories when you work out, you need to eat carbohydrates ahead of time. If you do not eat prior to exercise, you will not have enough energy to exercise efficiently.

While it is true that if you do not eat before you exercise your body will resort to burning stored fat as fuel, this is an insignificant amount compared to how much better your body will perform if it uses glucose taken from fresh carbohydrates instead. You need to be sure to eat the right foods that will give you energy.

Your body digests different components at different speeds, so depending on your schedule you need to change your meal accordingly:

  • Carbs take two hours to digest
  • Protein takes three hours to digest
  • Fat takes four hours to digest

If you can plan on eating a large meal a few hours before working out, be sure to consume a balanced meal of whole grain carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Thirty minutes before exercising, eat a snack that is high in carbohydrates but does not have protein or fat.

Foods that are high in fiber are best avoided prior to exercising because they can cause bloating.

High carb sports drinks are good if you do not have time to eat before your workout. Drink this right before your workout as a last resort option if you are unable to eat the proper carbohydrates before you exercise.

What Are the Best Foods to Eat After You Exercise?

When you are done exercising, your body is going to go to work repairing any resulting damage, such as microscopic tears in your muscles from weightlifting. In order for your body to repair itself, you need to give it the right foods.

Eating a balanced after-exercise snack that contains complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat will give you the amino acids, energy, and other nutrients that you need in order to continue on with your day.

It is best to eat something within the first 30 minutes after your work out, so keeping some stock items on hand can be helpful.

Sports drinks are easy to put into your gym bag and contain carbs and protein to help in the recovery process.

Nutrition bars are also easy to stash away, but be sure to read the labels to make sure the nutrition bar you are eating really is a balanced meal. Some of them are mainly carbohydrates and the protein portion is negligent.

If you have the opportunity to eat something more substantial shortly after you exercise, you can opt for something like:

  • A bagel with peanut butter
  • A turkey sandwich
  • Eggs and toast

The goal you are reaching for as an after exercise meal is a balance of carbs and protein, so any healthy choices that take both of those into consideration will work.

Some people do not feel hungry after working out and may be discouraged to eat right away. However, your body does need this instant fuel source to go to work repairing itself and maximizing your work out.

Therefore, it is essential to eat some sort of snack immediately after working out, even if it is a simple trail mix of dried fruits and nuts.

It is important to eat properly before and after you exercise in order to maximize your workout and to help you achieve your fitness goals. If you feel like you are not maximizing your potential in your workouts Go PRO today for access to certified personal trainers, workout plans, goal trackers, and more!

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