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It’s not surprising that one of the most frequent questions we hear is: what should I eat when working out? And then comes the natural follow-up: when should I eat? Unfortunately, what sounds like a simple question has a lot of different opinions and viewpoints from nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and the fitness community. So we’re here to give you some information to help you decide: should I eat before working out?

The Consequences of Not Eating Before a Workout

When you exercise, the first energy source that your body consumes is glycogen, a molecule that comes from carbohydrates and is stored in your muscles. When you perform high-intensity exercise, like the HIIT classes at Fit Body Boot Camp, most of the energy for your workout comes from glycogen stores and blood sugar levels. So, if you haven’t eaten any carbohydrates for a long time before your workout, you could be low on energy, and the quality of your workout could suffer. And let’s face it – if I’m not going to get the maximum benefit out of my workout, I’m not interested!

There has been some speculation that if you work out on an empty stomach, your body will start to burn your fat stores for energy, and you can more easily and quickly lose body fat. But, there have been no consistent findings that support this idea. In fact, some studies argue that your body could start to burn your muscle for energy instead, eliminating some of your hard-earned gains.

Some people swear by working out without eating before because it feels better. But for most people, eating something beforehand will give you the energy you need to tackle your workout and feel great doing it.

Eating Before Your Workout

When determining what to eat before your workout, consider the following tips.

Watch Your Portions

This tip has nothing to do with calories and everything to do with comfort. When you eat, your stomach immediately begins to break down the food into energy that it can use. If you eat something small, you limit the amount of work your stomach does to break it down, reducing the level of activity in your stomach.

Eating a large serving of food before a workout can leave you feeling full and cause your stomach to feel upset or uncomfortable. Small snacks like an apple, a banana, or some toast are perfect choices for a light snack before hitting the gym.

Aim for 30 Minutes Before

Thirty minutes is the ideal time to eat before working out. Even if your snack is small, eating it while you’re walking into the studio doesn’t give your stomach time to digest the snack or settle down. On the other hand, if you eat about 30-45 minutes before your workout, your stomach will have plenty of time to settle down and absorb some of the glycogen and sugars to use as energy.

Stick to Foods You Know

Many people, especially when they are returning to fitness or beginning their fitness journey, add new foods or snacks into their diet. And that’s great! But, right before your workout is probably not the best time to try foods, in case they disagree with you. No one wants an upset stomach as they’re about to exercise. Stick to the foods you know, and try out other snacks or foods when you have time to see how it feels in your stomach.

Eating After Your Workout

Whatever you do beforehand, eating after your workout is essential to recovery. Eating a meal balanced in carbohydrates and fats with high protein is essential for muscle repair. Hydrating and replacing your electrolytes is equally crucial.

You may have heard members of the fitness community say that you have to chug a protein shake immediately after your workout. This is a great way to ensure you get enough protein in your diet, but there is little research to support the idea that you have to ingest the protein right after working out. According to the Mayo Clinic, you will get the most from your meal as long as it is within 2 hours of finishing your workout.

Whether you decide to eat before your workout or not is determined by how you feel—feeling full and queasy? Try to add more time between your snack and workout. If you follow the tips in this article, you can fuel your body to tackle your workout with energy.