The question you’ve been wondering, is it better to eat before or after a workout ?
I am going to answer it for you today in this short article.
It can become confusing knowing exactly what to do. There is so much information out there on the world wide web that you can easily get caught up in not knowing if what you are doing is working or not.
If you don’t know what you are doing is working or not, it can also be incredibly hard to be consistent with a workout or nutrition plan.
I am going to clear up this question top to bottom here for you right now.
All that I ask of you in return is just be sure to read the entire article.
Again, I know it can be very confusing, but I want you to leave here knowing exactly what you should be doing to see the best results.
Dealio? Peachy? Sweet, let’s dive in then.
Is It Better To Eat Before Or After A Workout
The Answer Is… Both!
Yep, you read that rather.
The answer to is it better to eat before or after a workout is both.
But why? What goes into it? What should you be eating?
Do you have to have a protein shake within 30 minutes of finishing your workout or the workout was a waste?
Don’t worry, again, I told you I am going to cover it all in this article!
Let’s cover pre workout first.
Pre Workout Nutrition
Pre workout nutrition can quite literally make or break a productive, efficient workout session.
Some people are going to try and stress to you that “you need to workout fasted so you burn more fat!”.
Their claim is that if you workout on an empty stomach, then your body burns fat for fuel, which means you will burn more body fat.. right?
Well, in theory I understand why you may think this would make sense, but unfortunately this is not the case and here is why.
Just because you are using fat for fuel, does not mean you are burning body fat.
The only way to burn body fat is through eating in a caloric deficit .
Therefore whether you burn fat or fuel or carbs for fuel, that is irrelevant unless you are in an overall calorie deficit.
On top of even when you are in a calorie deficit, working out fasted doesn’t “burn more fat”.
Again, just because you are using fat as a source of energy for the workout, does not mean you are burning stored body fat.
The only way to burn stored body fat is the intensity of the calorie deficit. You would “burn more fat” by creating a bigger calorie deficit, not by working out fasted.
Now that we have gone over the while fasted workouts may burn fat for energy, yet that doesn’t mean it burns body fat, what do carbs do?
Well, great question.
Carbs are your bodies main source of fuel (aka, energy).
What do you think your body uses first when you go to workout, whether it is a run, a weight lifting session, anything?
Carbohydrates, those beautiful little suckers.
Side note : This is why you may have previously felt light headed or burnt out during a workout.
Carbs allow us to keep our energy and blood sugar levels up while working out.
If you do not have them before your workout, it is very easy to have your blood sugar drop, leading to dizziness, light headed, and even fainting.
Therefore, if you can have some carbs before a workout, you are going to give your body more fuel for the workout.
What happens when you give your body more fuel?
You will be able to do more reps, lift more weights, have more endurance, have better stamina, to name a few things.
What do you think all of this is going to lead to if you are drastically improving your workout performance?
You guessed, better results. Think about it, if you are going more weight, more reps, running longer, etc, it only makes sense that your body will change more over a period of time.
Therefore, having some sort of carbs pre workout is going to massively benefit you and your results.
I would try to have 20-40g of carbs pre workout (depending on your current size, goals, etc).
I would work to get these carbs 30-90 minutes before your workout.
Some great forms of carbs pre workout can be
- Rice Krispie treats
- Rice cakes
- Sweet or regular potato
- Cream of rice
To name a few.
This can make sure you get these carbs into your system, have them digest, and give you fuel for your workout to go hulk mode!
You will turn green and all, I promise!
But Wait, Don’t Forget Protein
When it comes to is it better to eat before or after a workout, we just said carbs pre workout is crucial.
Now, let’s not forget our friend protein in the mix here as well.
Carbs are your bodies main source of fuel, but protein is needed by literally every cell in the body to produce it’s functions.
Your body needs protein on a cellular level, but also from a muscular performance level.
Protein has amino acids inside of it that your muscles use to help them grow, repair, and perform.
Amino acids are essentially just the building blocks of protein.
So, having protein pre workout can give your muscles the strength, stamina, and building blocks it needs to not only perform during the workout but also start the recovery process.
You may think Eric, what do you mean recovery process? I am working out!
Yes, yes you are. When you workout you create micro tears in your muscle fibers, yes, you are literally tearing your muscles apart.
You want to be able to make sure you are having a steady stream of amino acids going into your body to ensure that you can repair these micro tears, otherwise you will not be able to recover form your workouts.
If you can’t recover from your workouts, your body will not change.
We will get into more of this in the post workout section, but just know that protein pre workout is incredibly beneficial as well.
My suggestion would be getting anywhere from 20-30g of protein pre workout, again 30-90 minutes before hand.
Some great sources of protein pre workout are
- Eggs / egg whites
- Greek yogurt
- Protein powder ( by far the best tasting one and my favorite is Legion Athletics )
- Beef jerky
To name a few. I actually did a whole video on the best high protein foods, you can check that out HERE if you want.
So there you have it, try to get 20-40g of carbs and 20-30g of protein 30-90 minutes pre workout.
Now, I know you might have some further questions, so let me answer some below.
Yep you read it right, I am going to be talking about the evil salt!
First off, salt is not a bad thing. Especially if you are working out.
Salt is needed for proper hydration, central nervous system function, and muscle contractions.
It should not be talked down upon. You can check with your doctor in regards to your own situation, but myself and a ton of my clients utilize salt to help us with our workout performance.
All of the things I listed above are needed to have a kick a** workout.
Therefore, salt pre workout can be a trick that just may change your workouts.
What is recommended is 1/4 tsp of pink Himalayan salt 20-30 minutes before your workout.
You will reap the benefits of extra endurance, stamina, strength, and more.
You can down it just a straight shot or you can mix it in water or a pre workout. I will talk about pre workouts here shortly!
What If I Workout In The Early Morning?
Ahhh, great question. This is usually why people ask me is it better to eat before or after a workout because if you are getting to super early to workout, you may not be hungry or don’t want to eat.
I totally understand that. Here is what I would say in this case.
Number one, I urge you to TRY something before your workout… Especially carbs.
Even if it is just a half a banana, or one rice cake, or half a protein shake, or some watermelon.
It has just been proven time and time again that having carbs pre workout is going to immediately boost your workout performance, so it is hard for me to argue the research.
Try something small and see if it makes a difference.
What I have noticed with a ton of my online coaching clients is that the same people who “don’t like to eat before their workout” are the same people who just haven’t tried it enough or tried the wrong foods…
No, don’t have an entire pasta dish at 5am.
But, having something small can make a massive difference, and these same people then go on to love their pre workout meal / snack because they notice the massive difference it gives them.
Therefore I would encourage you to try it out at the very least.
Number two, just be sure to have a large dinner with a 20-40g of protein and 20-40g of carbs.
Generally speaking your body is going to use a lot of what you ate pre workout to fuel that workout ahead.
If your body has nothing before hand, it will pull from the next previous meal, which in this case would be dinner.
Therefore if you truly cannot eat pre workout because you get up early, be sure to have a dinner that has a good amount of carbs and protein.
Can I Take Pre Workout?!
When it comes to pre workout nutrition, the thing I get asked more than anything is if you should take a pre workout.
Here is what I think.
Number one, you sure can. If you want to, go for it.
There are a lot of shady, ineffective pre workout companies out there though, so I would go with one that is credible, science based, and lab tested.
I would also go with one that does NOT have a proprietary blend.
This is what a proprietary blend looks like below.
I would go with one that lays out real ingredients and how much of them is inside.
This is once again why I love Legion athletics so much because all of their products are science based, lab tested, and properly dosed. No hiding things or jacking up the prices with inefficient dosage of ingredients.
If you want to check out Legions preworkout, you can head HERE and use my ode “ERIC” at checkout to get 20% off!
Now beyond that what I will say is yes you can take it, but even still, I would still recommend everything I laid out above.
Pre workout is a supplement. A supplement means it supplements your current diet and training.
Therefore giving your body the proper fuel via carbs and protein are going to have a greater impact than just a pre workout alone.
Which is why I still recommend everything I said above whether you are or are not using a pre workout.
Another overlooked component of pre workout nutrition is hydration.
No, I don’t mean just drinking water. Of course water is a part of it, but you want to make sure your 3 electrolytes are getting in check as well.
Those 3 electrolytes are
Your body is going to exert itself, sweat, and use up electrolytes when you exercise.
So, you want to make sure you have proper levels heading into your workout.
We briefly touched on sodium earlier so I won’t cover this too in depth. For sodium, you can simply lightly salt your meals, as well as potentially having 1/4 tsp of pink Himalayan salt pre workout.
For potassium, you can get it from things like bananas, potatoes, or spinach.
You can also get it from coconut water, which is my preferred choice of drink while working out!
For magnesium, you can get it from spinach, almonds, or yogurt.
You could also supplement with magnesium. My preferred form of magnesium is 3-400mg of magnesium citrate 30-90 min before bed.
If you do these 3 things, you will ensure your hydration levels are in check, and once again improve your overall workout performance.
Is It Better To Eat Before Or After A Workout : Post Workout Nutrition
Now that we covered all things pre workout, let’s now dive into our post workout nutrition.
Again, this is just as equally as important as your pre workout nutrition, so keep your eyes peeled.
Importance of Post Workout Nutrition
We talked about how pre workout is going to improve your workout performance, which is going to lead to more results over a period of time.
When it comes to your post workout, this plays an equal role in changing your body.
We now know that when you workout, you create micro tears inside your body correct?
These micro tears need to be healed, otherwise, your body won’t repair the muscles.
If you do not repair the muscles, the muscles cannot adapt and grow stronger or more defined.
People often forget you don’t change your body inside of the gym or when you are doing your workouts.
You change your body outside of the gym when you recover from the workouts.
In the gym you tear your body down, outside of the gym you recover and build your body back up.
Post workout nutrition plays a massive role in this because it can help kickstart that recovery process.
The sooner you get this recovery process kickstarted, the sooner you will be able to recover your muscles, leading to more change!
Before I go any farther, once again, one of the main reasons why I get asked is it better to eat before or after a workout is because you may have heard that to have an effective workout you need to drink a protein shake within 30 minutes of finishing.
Otherwise, the workout was useless and you won’t see any change!
Fortunately, this is not true.
This is something we once believed early on in the gym world, but science has come out to show us it is inaccurate.
The most important thing when it comes to recovering and seeing change is that
- you get enough sleep ( 7-9 hrs per night )
- You hit your protein goal for the day
- You get enough volume in your workouts (sets and reps) and allow your body to recover by taking real rest days
So for that myth, it is debunked.
BUT, with that being said, I think it is still a great idea to have 20-40g of a protein shake, (again, my favorite is Legion Athletics, their flavors are out of this world good!) or some sort of protein, within 30-90 minutes post workout.
Why? Two reasons.
Number one is because you can kickstart that recovery process a bit sooner. It isn’t necessary, but it can’t hurt by any means.
Number two is when you get done working out, you have just expended some energy and pushed your body hard.
Your body is usually going to be craving some nutrients to refuel and recover.
If you go 3, 4, 5 hours without eating, your body is NOT going to like you. It is going to be very hungry and have through the roof cravings.
This is also going to make it harder to stick to your nutrition plan.
Therefore, having 20-40g of protein 30-90 minutes post workout can help with both of these things, leading to more results for you!
Our favorite friend carbohydrates are back!
Yep, you guessed it, you want to be having some carbs post workout as well.
Well once again, carbs are your bodies main source of fuel.
So after a workout, where your body just depleted a ton of energy by doing the workout, you want to be able to refuel that back up.
Carbs are your best friend to do just that.
Second, they also are going to spike your insulin.
Which, no, spiking your insulin is not a bad thing, especially after a workout.
When you spike your insulin, your body pushes nutrients throughout your body. In this case, we are going to be pushing nutrients into those muscle cells that we just worked and tore down.
This is going to ensure new blood, new oxygen, new nutrients gets into those muscle cells to start the repair and recovery process to grow stronger and more defined muscles.
Which again, the sooner you can start this recovery process, the better!
Therefore for those two main reasons, having 20-40g of carbs, with 20-40g of protein 30-90 minutes post workout can be a massive benefit in your journey.
Some great combinations of this can be
- rice crisps cereal with almond milk mixed with protein powder
- Protein shake with fruit
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- Tuna packet with rice cakes
- Rice cakes with cottage cheese
To name a few.
I would urge you to sit down, take some time, and write out a list of your favorite carb sources and favorite protein sources that you may be able to mix together to have a kick a** post workout meal or snack!
Is It Better To Eat Before Or After A Workout : GO EAT!
I hope you enjoyed this article and got something informative from it.
Again, it is important to eat both before a workout and after a workout.
Your body is a machine ( it is so cliche but it is true ). You need and want to make sure you are fueling it properly to have it do it’s job!
Any further questions don’t hesitate to drop below.