NutritionFit Knowledge

Should I Eat Before or After Workouts?

Exercising regularly and eating properly are essential to staying healthy and both these factors go hand in hand.

To perform an optimal workout, it’s about more than just working hard, nutrition comes into play in a big way. And one of the biggest questions out there is should I eat before or after workouts?

The simple answer would be both. But there’s way more to it than that.

Working out fasted i.e., without eating has many potential benefits and if you spend five minutes online searching whether to eat before or after workout, then you’ll know that so many people swear by it. But then again, working out fueled i.e., eating before the workout is an absolute must for so many.

Every nutritional plan has its pros and cons, and the strategy you should adopt depends on various factors including genetics, metabolism, age, and even just plain old personal preference.

So, should you eat before or after workouts? Well, there’s a couple of things you should know before you decide. We’ve rounded up everything you need to know to decide whether fasted or fueled workouts are best for you, looking into the latest research to bring you the most informed answer you can have!

So, should you eat before or after workouts? Let’s find out.

Fasted or Fueled – Should you Eat Before or After Workouts?

To understand which workouts will be the best for you, it’s helpful to know how your body regulates energy. When it comes to getting in a good workout, it’s all about energy, so it’s best to find out whether to eat before or after exercise will benefit you.

The primary source of energy for your body are carbohydrates and stored body fats.

Simply put, when you eat before a workout – fueled workout – your body takes energy from the carbohydrates you consumed. That’s a massive plus for so many, as the more carbs you have, the more energy your body has to bur so you can work harder. Win win right? Well…

On the other hand, when you work out without eating – fasted workout – there aren’t sufficient carbs to meet the energy demand. So where does your body get it’s energy from? You’re going to love this: In the right situation,  your body can start to burn stored fats to get the required energy.

Let’s take a closer look at whether to eat before or after workouts.

A Fasted Workout Burns More Fats

A fasted workout burns more stored fats than a fueled one. In fact, when on a fasted workout, your body can burn 20% more fats than it’d burn on a fueled one. (1)

Some studies have shown that exercising without eating is more beneficial for burning fats than exercising on a full stomach. (2)

Now, this might lead you to think that a fasted workout is better for weight loss. But hold on.

Although more fat is burned during a fasted workout, this effect may only be temporary. It is not certain that a fasted workout will lead to a loss in overall fat in the long term (3). So, while it seems like it’s the answer to all your weight loss prayers, you might want to take a different approach.

This fat-burning and weight-loss factor also depends on sex, and unfortunately, it’s not the best news for you ladies out there looking to lose weight.

In women, studies showed no difference in body composition between those who performed fasted workouts and those who performed fueled workouts. (4)

For weight loss benefits you should simply aim to achieve a calorie deficit through a healthy calorie controlled diet paired with plenty of exercise, irrespective of whether you want to eat before or after workout.

What we suggest is that you shouldn’t be going for fasted workouts solely for losing weight as there isn’t much of a difference between the weight loss benefits of fasted and fueled workouts (5). Some people may honestly just prefer workout out fasted and if that’s the case, go for it. But never put your health at risk if you feel faint or unwell if you don’t eat before a workout.

No matter whether you decide to eat before or after workouts, always think about how you feel and make sure you’re looking after yourself and your body. That’s what this is all about after all!

A Fueled Workout Improves Performance

For so many of you, when it comes to whether to eat before or after workouts, we know you’ll be screaming before. And, sure enough, eating before a meal can be beneficial for improving your workout performance.

As carbs are the main source of energy for your body, eating a pre-workout meal, composed mainly of carbs, provides you with extra energy.

One study showed that eating carbs in the hour before working out may be beneficial for exercise performance. (6)

But there’s one more thing to note.

Eating before a workout has been shown to have a positive impact on long term exercise, however shorter exercise periods, being in a fasted or fueled state may not make much difference (7). So, if you’re thinking about a long term workout, think cycling, running or anything along those lines, a quick pre-workout snack might do the trick!

If I Don’t Eat Before A Workout, Will It Impact My Performance?

Now, considering that a pre-exercise meal boosts athletic performance, you might wonder if not eating before a workout may degrade your energy.

To answer your question, there is some research to say it might.

For long-duration exercises, eating beforehand would improve performance. But for exercises lasting less than an hour, eating before or after the workout would not have much effect on performance. (8)

Even if you’re looking to go for high-intensity interval training, your performance won’t be affected whether you’re in the fasted or fueled state. (9)

Your body has its stores of energy. It is due to these stores that it can perform optimally even in the fasted state. When you work out without eating, your body utilizes energy from these stores.

Therefore, a fueled workout is better for long-duration exercise. But for shorter durations, being in a fasted or fueled state wouldn’t matter much for performance. (10)

Should I Eat After A Workout?

Should I eat before or after Exercise

After a good workout session, it’s always beneficial to eat a nutritious meal. Whether you eat before the exercise or not, eating afterward is helpful for your body to recover and adapt.

Your body needs proteins and carbohydrates after a workout to regenerate the glycogen that has been consumed. For this purpose, eating a meal rich in carbs and proteins will be very beneficial.

Carbs replenish the glycogen stores of your body, whereas proteins help in the recovery of muscles. (11)

If you eat before a workout, the nutrients ingested may be present in the blood even after exercise. In this case, eating or not eating afterward may be of little difference.

But if you exercise in the fasted state, you must eat something afterwards. This will reduce the protein breakdown within your muscles, which may make them stronger. (12)

However, we recommend you to ALWAYS eat after a workout, irrespective of whether the workout was fasted or fueled. So, when it comes to whether to eat before or after workouts, you know that eating after is always a good shout.

Some foods which we recommend for a post-workout meal include:

  • Nuts
  • Yogurt
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Chocolate milk
  • Chicken or turkey
  • Protein shakes or bars
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Fruits and leafy green vegetables

The question that would follow is how soon should you eat after a workout?

If you did a fasted workout, we recommend you to eat within a few hours after the workout is done. This will help your body top up on protein and the energy depleted in the workouts.

Alot of people think they should be downing a protein shake straight after a workout due to the mystical ‘metabollic window’. However, this is pretty much just a locker room myth. Some evidence suggests that eating immediately after a workout would be beneficial, while most show that theres no harm in waiting for several hours. (13)

Should I Eat Before or After Exercise – It’s Up to You!

Both fasted and fueled workouts have been shown to have their own set of pros and cons. So, really, when it comes down to whether to eat before or after workouts, it can often come down to what makes you feel good and ready for a workout.

To determine which one is best for you, the most important factor is personal preference. Instead of going for the option which looks more promising, you should adopt the one which suits you the best.

Many people feel lethargic and lightheaded during an exercise without eating something. If that’s the case with you, we recommend you to go for fueled workouts to energize yourself and perform optimally. If you like the energy, you can even try a pre-workout supplement to help you along the way. We recommend Black Wolf personally.

On the other hand, some feel nauseous or sluggish if they eat soon before an exercise session. In this case, fasted workouts may be the best for you.

What’s important is that you consume adequate nutrients according to your workout routine. Whether you prefer to eat before after workouts – or both – is a personal choice.

Just remember to listen to your body and make your choices depending on what will give you the best, most rewarding workout.

Should I Eat Before or After Workouts – The Final Word

We’ve rounded up the science behind whether you should eat before or after a workout and have reached the following conclusions:

While fasted workouts burn more fat, this does not guarantee a more fat loss in the long term.

For short-duration exercises, eating before the workout is of little importance. However, fueled workouts are beneficial for long-duration activities.

Whether you eat before an exercise session or not, we recommend you to always eat afterwards as that is helpful for the recovery of your body.

At the end of the day, personal preference is the main factor for deciding whether you should eat before or after workout.

gymgirlfit

gymgirlfit was created by health and fitness enthusiasts, with backgrounds in powerlifting and writing. We've written for a number of well-known fitness publishing companies.

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