This is a question we get asked quite a lot. When is the best time to eat before a workout.You want to make sure you’ve got energy for your workout but you don’t want to be overdoing it either; feeling sick, sluggish or if you’ve got a weight loss goal smashing through your calorie target.People train at different times too so what we’re really talking about is making sure you’re fuelled.
Keep it simple
While you will always hear contrasting arguments a lot of what is been debated is the talk of athletes or bodybuilders. These are circles where 95% of the picture is already perfect and they’re arguing over the last 5%. When you’re at the top of your game that 5% can be the difference between a win or loss but for the rest of us it’s not worth getting out of bed for. I’m much more interested in what’s practical and applicable. The human element.
With that said there’s a few different options but I also want to make a few assumptions.
– No-one should be starving themselves to lose weight. If you’re going to the gym and your only nutrition for the day is an apple you’re most likely going to have a bad time.
– You should be eating regularly. I don’t mean 6 meals a day but breakfast lunch and dinner isn’t unreasonable. If that’s difficult we need to look at strategies to make it easier; learning a few quick easy meal ideas or batch cooking.
The only exception might be if you’re following a specific protocol such as intermittent fasting but in that case this article isn’t for you.
Under these assumptions most of your needs will be met in your meals and what we’re really talking about is a little boost.
Food for energy
Food is divided into 3 categories; carbs; fats and protein.
Carbs are our body’s main source of energy. Fats slow digestion and and protein is essential for muscular repair. Prior to a workout carbs are going to be our best bet. Carbs can be broken down further into sugars which burn much quicker so the food choice is going to depend on when we’re eating it before a workout.
Before a workout (pre-workout)
2 – 3 hours before you’re better looking at your brown carbs. Rice, bread, pasta are all good choices.
As you get closer to the workout you want to look at faster released carbs which is where you might look look at white carbs; potatoes, white bread, white pasta.
Finally, 60 minutes – right before a workout you might want to look at incorporating some sugars. This is where fruit might be a good shout or some old favourites like a slice of bread and jam.
After a workout it’s all about repair and refuelling. Protein is what your body will be craving. There’s a lot of research around the ‘post-workout’ window which comes largely from bodybuilding and says you should have a shake within an hour of working out to stop your muscles breaking down.
A protein shake is a good idea here (made with water or almond milk as cows milk is higher in sugar and fats and also not everyone’s stomach agree with it) but also getting something in with your evening meal an hour or two later is just as good.
Snack Ideas (pre workout)
– Breakfast Bar (belvita, soreen bar, special k bar)
– Pot of porridge
– Apple + a teaspoon PB
– Bread & Jam / Banana (1 slice)
What’s best is always an individual question so the answer varies. The main thing is to ensure you’re fuelled for your workouts, how you manage your calories is down to what works best for you. You can try fuelling up before the workout 2-3 hours before and slow burning carbs will work best or a smaller snack. The same goes after some will find a protein shake is enough, some will enjoy a fuller meal. Experiment and stick with the option that works best for you.