Although it can be tempting to skip extra calories, you may need to eat before working out as the food fuels your workout, maximizing your results and the effort you can put into it. If you are wondering “should I eat before a workout?” then simply remember that fueling your body correctly will lead to a more intense and effective workout. As a bonus, eating before working out prevents you from getting low blood sugar, which could lead to fatigue and lightheadedness. Despite that, you need to know what to eat before going to gym to get the best results.
Why Should You Eat Before a Workout?
If you find yourself wondering if you should eat before working out, the quick answer is yes. Your body needs to absorb some sugar as it will convert this into fuel during training. If you don’t have sugar in your system, your body will take your muscle tissue and turn that into energy, which is something you don’t want to happen. In fact, the Strength and Conditioning Journal recently conducted a study looking at cyclists who fasted or ate before training. Although fat burn was equal, those who fasted before training got 10 percent of this burn from protein, such as muscle mass.
The goal when exercising is to work out as hard as possible for as long as possible. But this simply isn’t possible without the right fuel. Instead, you will lack energy and may even feel dizzy.
What to Eat Before Going to Gym?
When to Eat
Expect your blood sugar levels to dip within the first 15 to 20 minutes of your workout, leading to dizziness, tiredness, or fainting. To prevent this, have something a half hour to hour beforehand.
What to Eat
The ideal answer to what to eat before going to gym is a snack between 100 and 200 calories. Aim to get a mix of lean protein, quality carbs, and heart-healthy fats as well as fluids. Hydration not only makes exercising easier, but it also increases its effectiveness. Aim to drink 16 to 20 ounces water within one or two hours before your workout. Here are some good food choices to fuel your workout:
Bananas contain fast-acting carbs that will give you the fuel you need for working out. Their potassium content helps maintain the functioning of nerves and muscles. Eating a banana is easy before an early-morning workout.
The fiber content in oats helps your body steadily release carbohydrates into the bloodstream, giving you an energy supply during the entire workout. You can even make overnight oats so you don’t have to worry about prepping them in the morning.
■ Fruit Smoothies
Fruit smoothies offer plenty of benefits, making them a perfect option for what to eat before going to gym. They are digested rapidly, contain simple as well as complex carbohydrates, and include high-quality protein. These simple carbohydrates will fuel your first 15 or 20 minutes of the workout and the complex ones will provide energy after a half hour or so, giving you enough fuel to keep going.
■ Toast with Eggs or Nut Butter and Fruit
Aim to eat a whole-wheat English muffin or bagel with a bit of protein. The protein can come in the form of eggs or your favorite nut butter, such as peanut, cashew, or almond.
■ Other Options
If you don’t have any of the above foods to eat before your workout, you can try a peanut butter sandwich, yogurt, energy bars, low-fat granola bars, or whole-grain crackers or bagels.
What to Avoid
If you prefer to eat something not on the above list before your workout, then just remember a few important factors. Never eat fatty foods before your workout if you can avoid it as fat will leave your stomach slowly, leading to sluggishness, fullness, and even cramping easily.
More Things to Consider
If you don’t have time to eat before exercising, you may be wondering if it’s bad to exercise with your stomach empty, particularly during the morning. In reality, it will depend on your exercise. A light jog or brisk walk will probably be okay with just some water. If you are doing more intensive exercise, however, you will need to eat at least some carbs that are easy-to-digest, like toast, half a bagel, a cup of fruit, or a banana to give your body fuel.
What to Eat After a Workout
After figuring out what to eat before going to gym, many people wonder should you eat after a workout. The quick answer is yes, as your body needs to refuel, although if your body does fine without food following a workout, you can occasionally skip the post-workout snack.
The most important thing to do after your workout is rehydrate. You usually lose around 4 cups of fluid during each hour of exercise, which means you should try to drink 16 to 20 ounces water as soon as you can after your workout to speed up recovery. Drink more if you sweat heavily and if you need to replace lots of fluids, consider something with electrolytes.
When planning what to eat after your workout, remember not to go overboard with the calories; instead aim for eating around 50% of your calories burnt from the workout. The meal should be about 60 percent carbs as this replaces muscle fuel. Opt for 25 percent protein to repair muscles and 15 percent fat (or less).