Is It Better To Eat Before Or After Your Workout?

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September 21, 2022 - Updated September 21, 2022

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For many of us, the timing of our daily meals tends to fit around our other commitments – whether that’s lifestyle choices, work schedules or family plans

We know that a balanced and nutritious diet is important for our overall health and to support our fitness goals, but does the timing of our meals have an impact on workout performance and recovery

The truth is, it depends! While there are benefits to eating before or after a workout, there is no single solution that applies to everyone. In this article, we’ll delve further into the benefits of pre and post-workout meals - so you can find what works best for you!

Why eat before or after a workout?

Food provides us with the essential energy we need to carry out our daily activities, including our workouts. Eating before we work out provides our body with the fuel it needs, while eating post-workout allows us to replenish our body with the energy and nutrients spent during training. When deciding if a pre or post-workout meal best suits you, you should consider the timing of your meals, your preferred training style,  the duration of your workout and the type of food you’ll be eating.

The timing of your meal

If we’re eating a pre-workout meal to fuel our body with the energy it needs – we need to give the body enough time to digest and absorb it. As a rule, if you’re consuming a large meal before a workout you want to give your body at least 2-3 hours to start digesting the food. If you’re opting for a smaller meal or snack, give yourself at least one hour before your workout. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is some benefit to consuming a small amount of carbohydrates and protein after a workout, especially if you’re not planning on eating a large meal within two hours of training. If this is the case, a small snack shortly after you finish working out is recommended.

Your training style

What and when you eat will be influenced on how you plan on working out. If you’re planning to complete a 30-60 minute high-intensity workout or cardio session you’re going to be predominately using stored glycogen as a fuel.  

To ensure you have enough stored glycogen you may want to consume a small number of simple carbohydrates before you train, such as a piece of fruit or fruit smoothie, instant oats or toast with a banana. 

If you’re eating a  meal a few hours before your workout, try and include some lean protein as well as some longer-lasting carbohydrate sources like brown rice, traditional oats or sweet potato. 

Enjoy strength training? There is some evidence to suggest protein consumption before a strength session can further stimulate post-workout protein resynthesis, improving the rate at which our body can repair our muscles and recover from training. Just keep in mind that meals with higher levels of fat and protein will take longer to digest and may cause an upset stomach or irritation during your workout. If you’re eating a meal with high levels of fat and protein, try and schedule it in a few hours before you train.

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Meal suggestions to get you started

Not sure where to get started when it comes to pre and post-workout nutrition? Here are some meal and snack suggestions!

Pre-workout meals and snacks

If you’re eating 2-3 hours before you workout 

If you’re eating one hour before you workout

Post-workout meals and snacks 

If you’re eating a meal immediately after your workout 

Other post-workout meal ideas

Unlock hundreds of recipes in the Sweat app

And fuel yourself forward

Find what works for you

Making sure you’re consuming the right foods at the right time may improve your energy levels during your workouts and assist your training performance. However, it’s also important to understand that if you’re completing less than 60 minutes of exercise a day – your overall daily nutrition may be the most important consideration to prepare yourself for your training. 

If you find it difficult to eat before or after a workout, it doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle, or your body doesn’t respond well – that’s okay! You need to find what works best for you and simply prioritising a healthy, balanced diet may be all that’s required to help you smash your health and fitness goals. 

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A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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