Best Time to Eat Before a Workout to Fuel Your Body

Jeff Baldelli
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Why is eating before workout important?

Getting a pre-workout meal in your stomach is important as it allows your body to start preparing for the workout that is to take place in the next few hours.

Your digestion system needs the food that you’ve eaten several hours before. The fuel that your body can derive from the food you’ve eaten must have ample time to be used for your workout.

Eating the right foods and drinking the right fluids before a workout is especially important.

Not eating before a workout can lead to some undesirable effects such as:

  • Lack of energy
  • Poor concentration
  • Preventing gains in muscle mass
  • Reduced endurance level

What Will Happen if I Don’t Eat before a Workout?

If you don’t eat any meal/small snack 2 hours prior to a workout, then your body might start to deplete itself for the fuel it needs. Your body starts to eat its own muscle mass and even its own fat to provide the adequate oxygen and fuel your body needs.

This is why it’s important to eat some form of protein-rich food within a few hours before you begin a workout to prevent this from happening.

Though some exceptions apply, most people will respond favorably to having some form of carbohydrates and proteins in their pre-workout meals.

You asked: how long should I wait to work out after eating?

The scientific research says: you should wait at least an hour after eating.

When it comes to your pre-workout meal, the general rule is to eat as little as possible without feeling starved. This means that if you eat 2 Big Macs at lunch, your pre-workout meal should consist of something small like a piece of fruit or a small yogurt.

If your pre-workout meal is too large, it will take too long for your digestive system to finish breaking it down, and you’ll feel starved and lethargic while exercising.

As for how long you should wait between when you eat and when you exercise, a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism recommended waiting at least 1 hour before exercising.

Although there isn’t any evidence that waiting 3 hours or even 3 days would improve your performance, waiting 1 hour shouldn’t affect your performance. In fact, the recommendation was made after looking at the physiological changes that occur during digestion.

However, in the context of burning calories, research has shown that consuming a carbohydrate-based meal within 1 hour of going for a run can have some benefit. This is because consuming a meal before exercise will cause your body to burn more calories during exercise because it needs to digest the food.

Best foods to eat before workout

Some people like to eat a snack before a workout, some don't.

There is no official scientific evidence as to what time of day is the best for before a workout snacks.

But, It is generally agreed, that if you eat too much in the morning, you will likely feel sleepy during the workout.

So the best time to eat the pre-workout snack is 2 hours before the workout.

If you don't want to eat food 2 hours before, then simple have a sports drink, it will also help to fill you up.

What foods should you eat before workouts?

Pre-workout snacks are the most essential type of food because of when you should eat them and what they do for your body.

Pre-workout snacks are so important, and your body needs that energy before working out.

According to a study done at Baylor University, "carbohydrate is the most important nutrient to fuel the pre-exercise period because it causes a rapid rise in blood glucose."

The best foods to eat before a workout are simple carbohydrates, because they "provide a rapidly available supply of carbohydrate to the muscles," according to another study by the American Dietetic Association.

So, this is why the pre-workout snack should be made of simple carbohydrates, which, when combined with the protein, causes an insulin release.

Fruit and yogurt

Throw a banana, fruit, and yogurt in a blender to make a quick, creamy smoothie. This fruit and yogurt combo helps give your body the fuel it needs to have a great workout.

Plant-Protein Combo

Eat a plant-based protein and complex carb snack prior to your workout session. One of the best plant-protein snacks is a cup of lentil soup. If you don’t like lentil soup, try eating a fruit first, then plant-based protein and carbs.

Whole Grain and Protein

One of the best ways to fuel up for your workout is to eat a half a cup of quinoa and a half a cup of black beans. The combination of protein and complex carbs will help give you the energy you need to have a great workout.

Mistakes to Watch out For

There are many mistakes people make when they start with cardio. Some of them just don’t work as effectively as others. Here are some of the biggest mistakes people make when they start their exercise regimen:

Not Changing It Up

Many people get into a routine with their cardio, and they stick to it religiously. Like we mentioned earlier, cardio isn’t very effective as a serious fat-burning method in terms of minutes to calories burned. So, one way to make it more effective is to change things up.

Oats

Oats are a great option for a pre-workout snack because they contain slow carbohydrates to fuel you for the long haul.

Oats have a combination of soluble and insoluble fibers, which both aid in digestion and can help you feel full.

Oats also contain a bunch of vitamins and minerals such as iron, which helps transport oxygen, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus, which are all essential for optimal health.

Insoluble fiber is also high in the indigestible carbohydrate cellulose, which helps exfoliate your colon to keep it operating smoothly.

Lastly, the beta-glucan fiber in oats is known to lower LDL or bad cholesterol in your body.

Green Tea:

Green tea is known to be an antioxidant powerhouse. With some research suggesting that green tea could be beneficial to your overall health, it’s no wonder that green tea makes for a great pre-workout snack.

Green tea contains Polyphenols, which are known to act as antioxidants in your body. When you’re exercising and breaking down your body for energy, you’re also burning away the proteins in your body.

When this happens, free radicals and oxidative stress are formed. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals to help reduce the oxidative stress in your body.

Fish:

Bananas

When running a marathon, one of the most common mistakes people make is eating a heavy meal right before they run. This can negatively affect your performance for two reasons. First, a big meal can leave you feeling uncomfortably full which can cause you to slow down as you digest your food. Second, a heavy meal can cause slight cramping in your intestine which means that your body has to expend energy to digest your food instead of using it to carry you to the finish line.

Instead, make sure to eat a light meal 2 – 3 hours before you start running. A simple sandwich and some water or Gatorade will do just fine. By eating a light meal before your workout, you’ll keep from worrying about your food spoiling in your stomach which could lead to abdominal cramps.

But you do have to consider what you’re putting into your body when you’re eating a few hours before you run. Some of the worst foods to munch on before running include fried foods, sugary foods, and heavy proteins. So if you’re throwing down some Chicken McNuggets three hours before you run, don’t be surprised when you feel sluggish on the course.