With a variety of conflicting advice online, you might wonder what to eat before the gym and what to eat after the gym. Then, there’s a matter of timing. We all lead busy lives, leaving many of us wondering, how long after eating should I go to the gym? Should I wait 30 minutes? An hour?
What To Eat Before The Gym
Porridge With Fruit
For a bit of pre-workout fuel, porridge with fruit is an easy go-to. Before the gym, you’ll want to consume carbohydrates, which turn into glucose in the body and fuel our muscle cells. This is why many endurance athletes perform “carbohydrate loading” before a big race. In many ways, carbs act as a performance enhancement, providing us with quick energy.
A fruit smoothie, such as bananas, milk, strawberries, and yoghurt, can also offer a wonderful pre-workout meal. Again, adding a scoop of protein powder, such as whey or collagen, may also have benefits. Other types of smoothies include berry smoothies, mango smoothies, banana and peanut butter smoothies, and more. Go with what you have in your fridge or freezer or with what your taste buds desire.
If you’re really tight on time or don’t have access to a kitchen, nuts, like almonds or cashews, might be the best thing. The only thing you want to be careful about here is digestion. Some people might find the high-fat content upsets their stomachs, meaning this is best to have at least an hour or more before you hit the gym.
What To Eat After The Gym
Scrambled Eggs on Toast
The one side of the equation for having a post-workout meal is replenishing any muscle glycogen, and the other side is providing protein for muscle recovery. Scrambled eggs on toast has got it all.
Many experts in sports and fitness nutrition will argue eggs don’t provide enough protein. Yet, this actually comes down to how many eggs you have. Four eggs offer almost 30 grams of protein and plenty of micronutrients. Have two on each piece of toast, and you have the perfect post-workout meal.
Turkey Club Sandwich
Salmon and Sweet Potato
Salmon and sweet potatoes offer tons of nutrition for exercise and overall health. While this meal may take a bit more effort and time to make, you can also plan it ahead of time as part of a structured meal-planning regime. This meal has a good amount of protein, healthy fats, and carbs, helping bring your energy levels back up to par. It also contains micronutrients, like vitamin A, helping to boost up your immunity.
One cup of Greek yoghurt packs a powerful punch with 20 grams of protein. For optimal macronutrient balance, add a bit of fruit to the mix. This can help improve your energy levels, ensuring you don’t feel super rundown after your gym session. Adding antioxidant-rich fruit, like blueberries, can also reduce any inflammation caused by exercise.
When To Eat Before Hitting The Gym
By now, you likely know the answer to the question, “Should you eat before the gym?” So, now, when should you eat?
When to eat before the gym comes down to a few different factors. If you’re working out first thing in the morning, then you likely only have a few minutes beforehand. This usually means that a quick and small carbohydrate-filled snack, like a banana, about five to 10 minutes before your workout will suffice.
However, if you have more time to plan and eat, a pre-workout meal one to three hours beforehand is best. And yes, this may take some meal planning or scheduling. Yet, this gives your body time to digest, which means you’re less likely to experience stomach issues, and it also provides you with the fuel you need to perform. Ultimately, this is the best-case scenario.
If you’re coming up to your workout time and you haven’t eaten in the past few hours, grab a small 100-200 calorie snack within 30 minutes before working out. It’s further important to note the exact pre-workout meal timing may vary from person to person. Again, you’ll want to experiment initially and find what works best for you.
What Should You Avoid Before The Gym
On the flip side, you should avoid a couple of things before the gym. These include energy drinks and high-fatty foods, and here’s why!
This simply isn’t the best way to fuel up before a workout. It provides ample sugar but also excess calories that you probably don’t need. Many energy drinks also contain a high amount of caffeine and other chemicals, which may irritate the stomach and cause issues during your workout.
Fatty foods digest much slower than carbohydrates, meaning they can sit in your digestive tract for longer and can cause stomach issues when working out. This is why they aren’t often recommended to consume before the gym. At the same time, if you have a small amount of fat in your meal and are eating it a few hours before your workout, you should be fine.
Water: Hydrate Before, During, and After
Proper hydration is key for feeling good and achieving your fitness goals. Adequate water intake is recommended before, during, and after your workout to replace fluids lost via sweat. Ideally, we don’t want to wait until we’re thirsty to chug back some water, as this often means we are already dehydrated. Instead, bring a bottle of water with you to the gym, and also aim to drink at least half a litre or more before your workout.
Protein Shakes: Before or After the Gym?
This may come down to a personal preference. Some individuals find having a protein shake before their workout helps them stay satiated throughout it. Yet, others might find a protein shake causes stomach issues when they begin moving, making it a better option for afterward. The best advice is to experiment and figure out what works best for you and your body.
Ultimately, with protein, total intake matters most over nutrient timing. At the same time, if you can get a bit of protein in before and after your workout, this is ideal. Whether you have a protein shake before or after is up to you, and there is not necessarily any right or wrong way to go about this.
Why You Should Eat Before The Gym
When it comes to what to eat before the gym and why, the main reason is to ensure you have the energy levels to fuel your workout. This is why primarily carbohydrates are encouraged, along with a bit of protein. Carbs provide energy, in the form of glucose, for our muscle cells, guiding us to perform at our very best.
How Long Before The Gym Should You Take Creatine Supplements
The best time for taking creatine is about 30 to 60 minutes pre-workout. This supplement often comes in a powder form, which can quickly be mixed in water. However, you can also purchase creatine as a capsule or tablet, if preferred. If you’re really set on changing your body composition, this is definitely a supplement you’ll want to consider!