Should I eat before or after a workout?

Opinions on this topic are varied and across the board. There are many leading authorities who suggest that not eating before a workout is ideal; and there are just as many other leading authorities who suggest that it is best to eat properly prior to working out. The one thing most agree on is that you must consume adequate nutrients after a workout is complete in order to replenish the body. Ultimately – it’s really up to the individual to determine what works best for them. Here are some of the leading thoughts on this topic.


Arguments for not Eating Before a Workout

Some argue that by not eating prior to a workout the body will be forced to burn more fat. The thought is that if the body has no fuel to consume, it will turn to burning away fat in exchange for energy. Some studies have indicated that by eating, especially carbs, before a workout it will cause the body to reduce the amount of fat that is burned. For many, this works since they are likely to see faster positive results. After you have “fasted” overnight particularly, the body’s supply of insulin is low and the adrenaline is high. This ratio can make the job of breaking down more fatty acids much more efficient.


Arguments for Eating Before a Workout

Even though there can be some benefit from working out especially early in the morning prior to eating, there are also a lot of reasons for eating before you workout especially if you are going to participate in a super intensive workout including cardio or heavy weight lifting. When you eat, the body breaks down the ingested food and turns it into glucose. This becomes a form of stored energy that is called glycogen. Glycogen is stored in the liver and the muscles. In order to have enough energy for a workout session the body also has to have enough glucose that is readily available.  Eating before a workout can help prevent the body’s glucose level from dropping. If you frequently feel weak during a workout or feel weakness so that you are not sure if you can continue, it is likely that you are either not eating enough or eating incorrectly before a workout session.


Arguments for Eating After a Workout

One thing is for sure, and that is that your body needs sustenance following a workout. Most agree that you should eat within half an hour after you’ve finished the workout and whether it is a snack or a meal it should contain easily digested proteins.  About 15 to 25 minutes after an intense workout the blood sugar levels can drop. This can cause nausea, lightheadedness, faintness or dizziness. Some research indicates that .3 to .6 grams of carbs per pound of body weight should be consumed within 2 hours of endurance workouts. This is important for building up the glycogen stores for future training. If you wait more than 2 hours your body may store only about 50 percent less glycogen. Using up carbs by working out stimulates the body to produce more insulin which helps the muscles create more glycogen. It is very important to eat after a workout in order to replenish the body.


Listen to Your Body!

Ultimately you will be the one to decide which method works best for you. If you find that you lose steam or have very little energy if you do not eat before a workout, then allow time to eat prior to working out. Just remember that you need carbs and protein primarily before a workout, and less fat and fiber. You’ll want to give your body time to digest the food before starting an intense workout or you’ll risk digestive problems that can be very disruptive to your routine.


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