To Eat or Not to Eat Before a Workout: Fitness Fuel Q&A

Rynnie Cotter

Woman sitting on floor in gym eating banana next to barbell with weights

Should you eat or not eat before a workout? The short answer to the fitness fuel dilemma: it depends.

Ready for a longer answer?

Here we go!

To Eat Before a Workout

Many fitness experts, including the ones here at Sworkit, recommend that you eat a little something before each workout.

What you choose to eat will depend largely on your personal preferences and the type of workout you plan to engage in.

Foods for Cardio

If you’re planning a cardio blast, conventional wisdom has always been that you should eat carbs. The evidence, though, points to a different fueling strategy.

Choose a pre-workout meal that’s low in fat and sugar, moderate in protein and high in carbs, like a smoothie made with almond milk, banana and berries. (Health)

About twenty minutes after your cardio workout, be sure to re-fuel, prioritizing carbs and protein.

Foods for HIIT

Eating before high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be a bit of a mixed bag. While your body does need the fuel, the types of exercises you’ll be doing makes it more likely that you’ll feel ill heading into the workout with a full stomach.

If you are going to eat in preparation for high-intensity training, allow enough time between your fueling session and your workout to reduce your chances of experiencing nausea or cramps. While everyone’s body may react differently, we recommend eating at least 60 to 90 minutes before your workout.

As for what foods are best to fuel a HITT workout, we recommend any combination of the following:

  • Raw vegetables (carrots, celery, broccoli)
  • Dried cranberries or raisins
  • Lunchmeat slices
  • Chocolate chips
  • Mini pretzels

Remember to eat these foods in combination for the best effect.

Foods for Muscle Building 

If your workout will be focused on strength training, you will want to prioritize protein in your pre-workout food consumption.

When we do strength-training exercises such as lifting weights, we create small tears in our muscle fibers. When you rest, your body repairs those micro-tears, building up your muscles bigger and stronger than they were before—and it needs protein to do it. Go for sources of protein that are easy to digest like nuts, Greek yogurt, a slice of turkey, a hard-boiled egg, or a glass of regular or soy milk. (Self)

While there are definite health benefits to fueling pre-workout, there are also legitimate reasons why you may choose to abstain.

Female runner tying her shoes preparing for a run a jog outside

Not to Eat Before a Workout

There are certainly times when it’s appropriate to abstain from eating before a workout.

Some people wake up very early in the morning and work out immediately. Whether they’re lifting weights or heading out for an early morning jog, they find that they have neither the time nor the inclination to wake up even earlier in order to eat and allow their bodies time to adjust before they begin working out.

The same can be said of people who hit the gym on the way home from work in the evenings. They may find that what is best for their schedules and their bodies is to train first and fuel afterward.

If that describes you, we understand. Just know that if you don’t eat before you work out, it’s doubly important that you take time to do so later.  Even if you’re eating to lose weight, you still need to give your body the nutrients it needs to recover.

We Can Help

Whether you choose to eat or not eat before a workout, the key is to know your body, what it’s capable of, and what conditions help you reach your best workout potential.

Here at Sworkit, that’s exactly what we want to help you discover.

We’re more than simply a fitness app. We’re real people committed to helping you stay fit and active no matter the special circumstances.

Try Sworkit for free today!

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