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Should I Eat Before Exercising?

in Southfield, MI

Should I Eat Before Exercising?

Are you getting the most from your workout? If you don’t eat before exercising, then the definitive answer is no. 

Of course, there are many factors. 

Obviously, you don’t want to scarf down a burger and guzzle a Coke before stepping onto the treadmill. That’s a recipe for cramping and intestinal distress – which is going to do NOTHING for your workout.

So what’s the optimal way to fuel up for your next workout?

Timing Matters 

It’s important to understand there are general timeframes to follow when eating before exercising. These may not be something you’ve previously considered.

For example, if you’re an early morning workout hound, you’re likely heading into your workout with your fuel gauge on empty. It’s better if you can eat a small snack 30 minutes before you start moving. So that could mean getting up a half an hour earlier.

The same rule applies to those times you workout in between meals. Grabbing a snack in the 30-60 minute range before exercising is going to give you the energy you need without making you sick. 

Meanwhile, if you’ve just consumed a meal, it’s strongly recommended you let your body rest 2-3 hours before working out. 

These are guide posts though. Since everyone is different, these timeframes may require some trial and error. You may find you don’t need a full 2-3 hours after eating a meal. Or perhaps you need more than 30 minutes after a snack.

So Then What Should You Eat Before Exercising? 

When we mentioned snacks above, we weren’t talking about a bag of Doritos or M&Ms. Better options would be:


Sports drink or diluted juice

Peanut butter sandwich

Fresh fruit

Energy bar

Fruit smoothie

Granola bar

Whole-grain crackers/bread

Sports drink or diluted juice

This is only a small list of options. And it includes items with different ratios of carbs, protein, and fats. Macronutrients in food have specific roles depending on your body, as well as the type of exercise you’re doing. 

Which ones are best for you will come down to those factors.

We’ll look at the three major macronutrients that make up food and how they impact the sort of exercise you do.

1. Carbs 

Despite the fad diets that try to tell us otherwise, carbs are not the enemy. In fact, their relationship with glycogen makes them rather desirable among those looking for better performance during short workouts with a lot of intensity. 

The body processes and stores glucose into glycogen stores in the muscles. These stores are the main source of energy for muscles during exercise. They’re limited, however. And as they become depleted, output and intensity lessen.

Carbs increase glycogen stores and the utilization of them. As such, it’s not unusual for hardcore fitness enthusiasts to carb-load. This consists of consuming a high-carb diet for up to week to maximize glycogen stores. 

In the case of longer and less intense exercises, carbs are used differently though. How they’re used depends on the type of training you’re doing, the intensity of it, and your overall diet. 

2. Protein

One of the objectives of an intense workout is to damage the muscles just enough so that they’ll grow back even stronger as they heal. The process by which protein is produced to repair this damage is called muscle protein synthesis.

Many studies show that eating protein prior to exercising can increase muscle protein synthesis. In addition, consuming protein can improve anabolic response (muscle growth) and muscle performance, as well as increase strength and lean body mass. 

Depending on the workout, protein may be combined with carbs to attain optimal performance.

3. Fat

Similar to carbs, fat often gets a bad rap. That’s unfortunate though because it’s fat that the body wants as fuel for longer and lower intensity workouts.

This does not mean consuming saturated or trans fats though. Yogurt and peanut butter are prime examples of foods with healthy fat that also offer a boost of protein for staying power.  

Regardless of whether it’s fat, protein, and/or carbs that you choose as your fuel, always be mindful of portion size. Too much can leave you feeling sluggish, while too little may not give you the energy you need. You may have to experiment to find the right amount for you. 

Post Exercise Nutrition

Giving your body fuel for exercise is crucial. But so too is replacing glycogen stores to help your muscles recover afterwards. Be sure to eat something with both carbs and protein within two hours of finishing your workout.

And amidst all this talk of eating, don’t forget to keep drinking fluids. Fluids are vital before, during, and after working out to prevent dehydration.

Are You Getting The Most From Your Workout?

If you’re a fitness enthusiast who’s looking for ways to improve your workout, it’s clear there are important reasons to eat before exercising. 

Proper nutrition will help you perform better and recover faster each time you exercise. It will also minimize muscle damage. 

Along with getting the proper fuel, you may also want to add additional movement methods to your routine. Contact us today to see how Pilates and GYROTONIC® can complement your current exercise regimen for a stronger and more well-rounded workout.