In today’s article I'm going to answer the question, should you be eating before a workout or after?
It's been my experience most people get paralysis by analysis when trying to answer questions like this.
And so you'll often hear a lot of conflicting information out there makes it hard for you to figure out if you should be eating before a workout or after...or both?
I’m going to simplify it for you. What you want to have for a pre workout meal. Also, What you would want to have for a post workout meal.
Should You be Eating Before a Workout or After?
Weather you should be eating before a workout or after will depend on your goals.
Today I’m going to be looking at what to do with your pre-workout and post-workout meals if your goal is to lose weight or just general fitness and health.
Should You Eat Before a Workout or After?
So the goal of your meal before workout is to give your body enough energy to get through your workout.
The vast majority of people should be getting a meal in before there workout. There are some circumstances where it might be appropriate to skip a meal before a workout or perform what’s called a fasted workout.
What I would suggest when looking at what you should be eating before a workout is to experiment and play around with trial and error to see what works best for you.
Over the years, I found a lot of clients react very differently to pre-workout meals.
Some people do well having a full meal an 1.5-2 hours before a workout.
Meanwhile, other clients prefer a small meal 1-2 hours before a workout.
Finally, I even have clients who feel their best when they eat in the 3-4 hours before a workout.
Take home message here is different people deal best with different timing for eating before a workout.
Best Pre-Workout Meal Guideline
So I’ve established I don’t think there is a blanket response to answering the question “when should I eat before a workout?”
However, I'm going to give you clear guidelines to help you figure out what to eat before a workout for weight loss.
First, make sure to get a lean protein.
As you can see on the graphic on the screen. Here's a list of different lean protein foods. For female about one palm-sized serving is a rough guideline for males about two palm-sized servings.
This is a starting point. Again, everybody is different. You’ll need to adjust to figure out a good pre-workout meal for your body (I’ll cover making adjustments later in this article).
Second, I’d suggest you get what we call smart carbs at Optimal Body.
Smart carbs are focused more around whole Foods sources of carbohydrates.
For a female, about one scoop down handful, for a male two scoop down handfuls, again you can see a list of these types of foods on screen. And again, this is a starting point.
Number three, keep it pretty low in fat.
Number four, have some vegetables. I’d suggest about a first size serving for females or 2 fist size servings for males.
Finally, number five, eat to 80% full if you're looking to lose weight, and make sure you're really good and hungry, before having your meal before exercising.
With following all those guidelines, you're going to make sure you're getting what your body needs to have enough energy to get through your workout.
I want to reiterate the last point about eating the 80% full and making sure you're really good and hungry before eating.
If you're looking to lose weight, you're trying to get into a energy deficit or burn out more calories that you're consuming. That's really key to making sure you're getting into this energy deficit with the different serving sizes I suggested on there keep in mind, that's our rough starting point.
Again, different people are going to digest food differently, you might need to adjust that up or down. You can do this based on your own hunger and satisfaction levels as well as paying attention to how you feel during your workout. See the infographic below to help with proper hunger and satisfaction levels.
Adjusting for the Best Pre-Workout Meal for You
If you feel like the food is sitting there in your stomach, you kind of feel heavy, try decreasing everything just a little bit and keep playing around to figure out how much you need to be feeling your best.
Make very small adjustments when playing around with your pre-workout meal. Play around with both the timing of when you have your meal before exercising and what you have for that pre-workout meal.
Small adjustments is how to figure out the best pre-workout meal for you.
What to Eat After Exercising
Next, we’ve covered what about your post workout meal or what to eat after exercising.
I’m actually going to have the exact same suggestion as your pre-workout meal.
Keep it super simple.
Serving of lean protein (as outline above)
Serving of smart carbs (as outline above)
Serving of veggies (as outline above)
Keep fat consumption minimal
Adjust based on eating to 80% full
I can't stress this enough, eat to 80% full and make sure you're really hungry before you eat.
If you're trying to lose weight, it's all about controlling how much food is coming in and making sure you're nourishing your body while you're doing that so you can stay healthy.
One common mistake with post workout meals with people trying to lose weight is the idea you need to have a protein shake after your workout.
For the vast majority of people, what I find happens is happening is they're having that protein shake before they're actually physically hungry.
Then they have their normal meal a couple hours after that and again they are really good and hungry because they had their protein shake earlier.
Even though it might even be healthy food they're getting more calories which is pushing them out of being in an energy debt. This causes them to stop losing weight or at least stop losing weight as quickly as they could be.
Best Post Workout Meal for Weight Loss
If you want an ideal post workout meal for weight loss you have to make sure you wait until you are really get good and hungry before eating.
If you're not sure how to regulate hunger and satisfaction levels, we have that video that explains how to do that.
Post Workout Protein Shake
One final note with the protein shakes, although I said they aren’t required protein shakes can be a great way to get in all those different components I’d outlined for what to eat before or after a workout.
Again, I want to stress whole foods are always going to be a better option.
But getting protein from a protein powder with minimal ingredients is always a better option than not getting enough protein.
Also, you can work in some whole foods into your protein shake with some fruit or vegetables, thrown into the shake.
To conclude, eating before workout or after which is best?
It's not that one is better than the other.
What I'd suggest doing is making sure you're getting well rounded meals like I have outlined earlier in this article to make sure you’re nourishing your body.
Essentially, keep it simple and adjust based on how you're feeling.
If you're getting weak, you're getting shaky during your workouts, good chance you might need a little bit more food and/or eat a little bit closer to your workout.
On the other hand, if you're feeling full or bloated or just getting indigestion or other negative symptoms, you're probably getting a little bit too much food or eating too close to your workout.
Try decreasing how much of each type of food you’re eating in your pre workout meal just by a little bit.
Play around, figure out what works best for you.
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