Is it Better to Eat Before or After a Workout?

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The best times of day to eat and the best times to exercise are commonly discussed topics. Some say it’s best to work out on an empty stomach and some say that it’s actually better the other way around. There are so many opinions out there that it can get confusing. We asked the experts for their opinion. 

“My belief and my experience is that you should always have a little something in your stomach before you work out,” says fitness expert Kira Stokes. The common misconception is that people think they’re going to burn more fat by working out on an empty stomach, but the reality is that if you have nothing in your body, your body actually pulls protein out of your muscles. “You’ll end up losing your muscle mass which can slow down your metabolism.” 

But you don’t have to have a large meal before you workout, in fact, it’s best not to. What you really need is a little fuel, a snack if you will. It’s best to fuel up with a combination of complex carbohydrates and proteins. Stokes’ go-to pre-workout snacks include half an apple or banana with some almond butter, a half-cup of oatmeal with a few crushed walnuts or almonds or a small sweet potato and five almonds.

However, what you eat and how much really all comes down to the individual. “What is right for one person may not right for another,” says celebrity trainer Joel Harper. “I’m a big believer on trusting how you feel. I would recommend experimenting and seeing what works best.” That said, Harper says that everyone should wait at least 30 minutes after eating to work out.

To really see results though, both Harper and Stokes agree that eating something after you workout is crucial. “You want to get protein in your body within 30 minutes. Your body needs and wants it,” says Harper. Stokes recommends refueling with a small protein shake made with a scoop of vegetable based protein, a handful of your favorite fruit, some water and ice. 

A good rule of thumb to follow is to eat more complex carbohydrates than protein before a workout. “Too much protein can sit heavy in your stomach and you’re really drawing energy from the carbs not the proteins,” says Stokes. Afterwards, eat something that is more protein than carbohydrates. 

In the end, what you actually eat and how efficiently and effectively you exercise is really what will give you the results you want.