Short answer: It is best to do both! Eating before a workout serves a very different purpose than eating after a workout, but they are both equally as important.
Eating before and eating after exercise is equally important for performance, fitness, health and well-being. However, how to eat depends on many factors such as; how long you are going to exercise, type of exercise, your individual exercise experience, health factors that may play a role in how you process food. Nutrition plays a key role in building fitness, performance and for you to achieve your desired results. Therefore, it is really essential to take time and prepare and plan your pre and post-workout meals. This will enable you to get maximum results from all your fitness efforts.
Eating Before Exercise: Morning exercisers are especially guilty of exercising on an empty stomach. If you hit the road without any breakfast, you'll be running on fumes, not fuel. It's like choosing not to put gas into your car before driving to work. A few gallons will get you further than if your tank is on or below empty. What you eat before exercise is really important because it can affect your whole workout. Food is fuel so it is very important to eat before exercising.
Eating before a workout is important for the following reasons:
- Fuels your muscles - both with food eaten in the days before as well as the hour or two before.
- Settles your stomach and avoid hunger.
- Helps prevent low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) symptoms can include dizziness, nausea, and headaches
- Fortifies your mental state by knowing that your body is fuelled.
What you eat and how much you eat depends on your individual requirements. This can vary from person to person. It also depends on the sport, exercise, activity you are participating in. To determine what is best for you and how much and what to eat is to experiment to see what works for you. Your choice and preferences of food can vary depending on the time of the day, type of exercise, sport and exercise intensity.
I recommend as a general rule of thumb you follow the following guidelines:
Eat a balanced diet every day: This ensures your body is fuelled and ready to take part in exercise. Incorporate a variety of wholesome foods into your daily choices; carbohydrates, protein, fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and water. Carbohydrates are a source of instant energy, proteins build and repair muscle, and fats are a source of long term energy. Choose foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, pasta, chicken, fish etc.
Consume good pre-exercise snacks: A pre-workout meal should consist of mainly easy to digest, carbohydrate type foods in order to supply the energy requirements for the upcoming workout or activity. Be sure not to forget about fluids and keeping the body hydrated. To prevent dehydration when exercising - drink sufficient water before, during and after exercise. Eat your pre workout meal about 2 hours before your workout. If you have to eat directly before your workout try a small piece of fruit, banana, an apple or a small handful of almonds.
What Should You Eat After a Workout?
There is one hour window of time, right after the workout, which is important from a replenishing standpoint. A post-workout meal should provide protein in order to provide the body with the building blocks used to rebuild muscle tissue and help the body recover from the exercises performed. You want to consume your post workout protein meal within that one hour time frame. As mentioned already, remember to continue to hydrate with water. Post-workout meal examples are chicken with brown rice, yogurt with almonds, or a protein shake with a banana.
If you don't have a nutrition plan for your fitness schedule then you are doing yourself a pretty big disservice when it comes to getting the results that you desire. If you workout while you are starved, you simply won’t have the energy for your body to gain and reach maximum fitness and results. If you exercise for a long time without eating, you will limit your ability to burn calories and maintain intensity. If you don't feed your muscles and replenish your energy stores after exercise, you won't have the necessary building blocks for recovery.
As you can see, when it comes to getting fit, nutrition is just as big a part of the equation as exercise. It is important to feed the body well throughout each and every day and not just before or after your workouts. This ensures you are providing your body long lasting energy so you can enjoy a great feeling during and after your workouts and to get your desired results!
Author: Dal Dhaliwal – www.daldhaliwal.com