Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand to improve and sustain your overall health. But did you know that these two factors have a direct effect on each other? The quality of your workout depends on how well you fuel yourself before and after the session. Conversely, working out regularly can impact how your body positively digests the foods.
However, the age-old question still remains: when is the best time to eat if you’re exercising?
Eating Right Before Working Out
When it comes to following an exercise routine, when you eat is almost as important as what you eat. To be able to perform at your optimal level, it is important to consume a balanced meal containing protein, fat, and complex carbs before every workout. However, this meal should be taken at least 2 to 3 hours before you exercise for the best results. This gives your body adequate time to digest the food and prepare your body for the workout.
It may not be possible to get a proper meal 2 to 3 hours before working in some cases. For instance, if you work out first thing in the morning, you’d have no way to take a full meal beforehand. Therefore, if you don’t have enough time, having a decent pre-workout meal can be helpful. However, the closer you eat to your workout, the smaller and simpler your meal should be to prevent discomfort and lethargy during the session.
Ideally, it would help if you had a meal at least 45 minutes before your workout. If you only have 45 to 60 minutes before your workout, opt for easy to digest foods, such as carbs and small amounts of protein.
Sometimes, you have absolutely no time before your workout. It could be because you forgot to have a meal in time or your regular schedule is such that it doesn’t fit a mealtime before your workout. So is it safe to work out without having anything to eat in such situations?
The simple answer is: yes. In fact, a lot of people even believe that working out on an empty stomach is actually more beneficial. While this isn’t entirely true, there are some facts that back this theory.
Fat and carbohydrates are your body’s primary sources of fuel. Fat is stored in fat tissues as triglycerides. On the other hand, carbs are stored in your muscles and liver as a molecule known as glycogen. In addition to that, carbs are also available in the form of blood sugar.
It has been observed that blood sugar is higher before and during exercise if you eat soon before working out. So when you consume a meal high in carbs before working out, the pre-workout snack is used as the primary energy source during exercise. However, when you exercise on an empty stomach, your body’s energy needs are met by the breakdown of body fat.
A study with 273 participants found that people who exercised on an empty stomach burned more fat during the session. However, glucose and insulin levels were higher during non-fasted exercise.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your workout is more effective when you’re hungry.
Considering that your body burns more fat for energy when it is in a state of fasting, it is natural to think that it will lead to higher fat loss over time. Your body may indeed have different reactions depending on when you ate before working out, but these effects are almost immediate.
Despite some evidence that shows minor benefits of exercising on an empty stomach, there isn’t any strong evidence that fasted exercise leads to higher weight or fat loss. In fact, some studies have shown no difference in long term weight loss among people who exercised after eating as compared to those worked out fasted.
However, there are absolutely no harms in working out on an empty stomach. So if you are in a hurry and don’t have much time before exercise, don’t try to munch on something quickly. Workout as you are and then have a high protein meal afterwards.
Ultimately, there isn’t the best way to eat when it comes to exercise. As long as you’re eating a healthy and balanced meal and avoiding junk food and refined sugar, your workouts should be effective as well. Just make sure not to eat anything heavy right before you work out, and you won’t suffer any issues.