Should you eat before or after a workout?

2 June, 2023 / words by IALH Editorial Team

Written by Imane Dodo

Image via Pinterest

Huns, we have all been there. Standing in front of the refrigerator and not knowing whether or what to eat before or after your workout. This is a complex debate but the short answer is you should eat before and after your workout. The long answer (as you already expected) is that it depends on your preferences, goals, and workout. That being said, there are some principles that can guide you through the most optimal way to fuel around your workouts so let’s get into it.

Fuelling before and after your workout is important because each serves different purposes. Eating before provides you with the fuel required to power through the workout while fuelling after helps with recovery. While eating is important, the even more critical aspect is consuming the right food to help you reach your goal, feel good and perform.

Fuelling before your workout for performance

Imagine going on a road trip and not fuelling your car to take you there. That wouldn’t get you very far right? Think of your body as the car and the food as the fuel. Generally, you should consume food that gives you the energy you need before working out, preferably two to three hours (can be less if your snack is smaller). It is even more key to eat before workouts that are more demanding on your body in terms of length and intensity.

Some studies show that not eating before lower impact workouts or shorter workouts does not make your workout less effective. This is when your preferences kick in. Some people get nauseous eating before a workout while some others cannot move without a pre-workout snack. The story is different however for longer duration exercise, where you should definitely fuel before to provide your body with the energy to get through the workout. Overall, there is limited evidence to show that exercising fasted improves the body’s ability to burn fat, so you may as well eat before the workout. Not fuelling before your workout could also impact your muscle growth. As the building block of muscles, it is beneficial to have some protein before exercising.

Eating the right amount at the right time is the solution ladies. The closer you are to your workout, the less amount you want to consume to avoid any uncomfortable stomach situation. Your plate should include complex carbs and some sort of lean protein. Limit fat and fibres, which digest more slowly and can lead to discomfort during workouts. Whole Grain toast with peanut butter & honey, oats with honey and cinnamon, banana & peanut butter, dates and cashew are amongst my fave easy pre-workout snacks.

Eating after your workout for recovery

You should definitely eat after any workout, especially if you did not eat before the workout. While fuelling before a workout gives more room for flexibility, eating after is critical for muscle recovery. In simple terms, working out damages your muscle tissues, which need to be repaired with nutrition and rest after the workout. This tearing and repair is a natural process behind muscle growth and development. Grab a quick snack or a smoothie/protein shake if you find it difficult to eat post exercise, 15-30 minutes after your workout to limit cramping, soreness and tightness. Make sure you also hydrate properly. This little bite can be followed later on by a bigger meal with complex carb, fibers and protein.

Keep your meals simple to increase your chance of not binging on the first piece of junk food you find at home because your healthier meal would take too long to make. Some of my favourite post-workout snacks include avocado toast, yogurt/granola and green smoothies.


IALH Editorial Team


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