Should I Eat Before or After a Workout?
You’re about to hit the gym – but you haven’t eaten yet. Should you eat now or save it for a post-workout feast?
Here’s what you need to know about fuelling and refuelling your body.
Before a workout
Unless you want to sell yourself short of a good workout, you need to eat before you put on your trainers. Without food to fuel your body, muscle tissue is converted into glucose, giving you the energy you need at the expense of muscle building or weight loss. This will also negatively affect your metabolism and could potentially lead to injury, as a result of fatigue or light-headedness.
You don’t need to sit down to a three course meal before a workout, but you do need to ensure you’re fuelling up with the right balance of carbohydrates and protein.
The key to releasing a steady stream of energy during a workout comes down to a mixed bag of complex and simple carbohydrates. Slow digesting carbs offer long lasting energy, perfect for those low intensity or longer workout sessions. Wholegrain oats are rich in beta-glucen, a fibre that keeps your blood sugar on even grounds. Additionally, healthy sugars from dried fruit provide a quick energy boost.
Be sure not to shy away from your fruit – many people try to avoid loading up on high carb fruits, however protein won’t break down fast enough to become your workout fuel. Carbs from fruit break down quickly, while their protein is used later to prevent muscle damage.
After a workout
Eating after a workout isn’t optional – unless you want to undo your hard work.
After an intense workout, your body is in recovery mode, and it needs the right fuel to rebuild its glycogen stores, and repair and regrow muscle proteins. Eating the right balance of nutrients (particularly carbohydrates and protein) after a workout will help the body to:
- Decrease muscle protein breakdown
- Increase muscle protein growth
- Restore glycogen stores
- Enhance recovery
If you do not eat after a workout, you may experience fatigue and low blood sugar, a result of neglecting your body of the essential electrolytes it needs to work efficiently. Additionally, if you’re pumping out a heavy weights session, you’re tearing your muscle fibres. In order to effectively rebuild these to become stronger, you need to be feeding them with a balance of protein and carbohydrates.
If you can, eat something within 30 minutes after finishing your workout (or, if you’re on the go, a protein shake immediately after your training session).