Here’s Your Guide To Eating (Or Not Eating) Before Working Out
To eat or not to eat? That is the question for countless gym-goers out there who are concerned about properly fueling their bodies for tough workouts. And it’s certainly something worth pondering since the decision you make can dramatically impact your athletic performance.
The answer, of course, isn’t a straight “yes” or “no.” But here are three easy questions you can answer to arrive at the right food-workout combination for you.
What time of day do you exercise?
If you’re a rise ‘n’ run sort of fitness junkie, it’s okay to hold off on breakfast until after your morning workout if you keep it under 60 minutes. Your body is already in a fasting state from a night of sleep, and when that carries over into your exercise session, your body can be much more efficient in burning fat rather than losing both fat and muscle mass. It also means you can avoid potential cramps or waiting for your food to digest in the wee hours of the morning before finally getting a move on. But if you wake up ravenous, it won’t hurt your fitness to down a half of a banana before heading out the door.
Now, if you exercise at any other time of day, it’s important to fuel your body within two hours of your workout — no question about it. If you don’t provide your body with the energy it needs to make it through your sweat session, you’ll either likely call it quits too early on account of fatigue or end up injuring yourself. So whether you sneak out of work for a lunchtime spin class, lift weights for your version of happy hour or are considered the token night owl of your local gym, plan accordingly and make sure you down some healthy carbs and a bit of protein before you go full throttle into your workout.
What are you trying to achieve with your fitness?
If your goal is to lose weight, take a note from the morning exercisers. Moving earlier in the day before you have breakfast is going to be the most efficient way to preserve the lean muscle mass you’re creating and shed unwanted body fat simultaneously. And then enjoying a nutritionally-dense yet portion-controlled breakfast within an hour of that workout will prevent you from getting hangry throughout the rest of the day.
If your goal is to gain muscle, you need to fuel up first. Your muscles can’t grow if they have little-to-no energy to work with during exercise. It’s that simple.
And if you’re trying to just maintain your hard-earned figure, go with how you feel personally. If you’re hungry, have a small, healthy carb-based snack that’s easy to digest. If you’re not, then set off for your workout knowing that a solid post-workout meal will be waiting for you when you get back.
What kind of foods are you choosing?
Not all foods are created equal in the eyes of the human digestive system, and that rings especially true when factoring fitness into the equation. If your breakfast typically consists of a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, you definitely want to wait to down that baby after exercising. But things like fresh fruit, a handful of nuts, a piece of toast of your favorite pressed juice will likely sit just fine in your stomach without leaving much time for digestion.
With that said, it’s still a matter of personal preference. Even lighter, healthy options can still create that undesirable sloshy feeling in your stomach that makes some people cringe just by thinking about it. So if food is the biggest turnoff ever when thinking about your fitness routine, make sure you log your sweat sessions first thing in the morning so you can just stop stressing the eating question altogether.
There’s one thing everyone should do before their workouts, and that’s hydrate. Even if your alarm goes off before the crack of down to bust through a five-mile jog, you should down a glass of water (or two) before getting started. Nothing feels worse than working out in a state of dehydration. Plus, it can be an easy way for people who want to fuel their workouts, but are afraid of eating too much before moving to kill two birds with one stone. Gatorade is just as magical before your workout as it is during and after.