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Should You Eat Before Or After Working Out At The Gym?

The nutrition coaches at Rising Legends weigh in on this timeless fitness debate!

It’s crucial for gym enthusiasts to remember that exercise is just one important part of maintaining your overall wellness and fitness, because dieting is also a key component of your workout routine as well.

We take nutrition coaching very seriously at The Rising Legends Academy of Fitness, because we understand how what and when you eat makes a significant difference in terms of how you’ll feel during your gym workouts—as well as how well you’ll recover afterwards.

So, should you eat before or after working out at the gym? The answer to this question can often depend upon your unique workout schedule, but there are many benefits associated with eating both before and after exercising.

Below we’ll be diving deeper into the following nutrition topics:

  • Nutrition science terminology
  • What you should eat prior to working out
  • What you should eat after working out
  • Is it better to eat before or after going to the gym?

Nutrition Science Terminology That You Should Know

There’s no denying just how complex energy creation and usage is within the human body, and every fitness enthusiast should brush up on their nutrition science in order to understand the field’s fundamentals.

When it comes to understanding what you should be eating before and after going to the gym, you’ll need to know the following terms:

  • Glucose: Your body’s main source of energy that’s technically a carbohydrate-derived type of sugar.
  • Carbohydrates: A type of macronutrient that comes in the form of starches, fiber and sugars.
  • Insulin: A pancreatic hormone that helps your body utilize its glucose reserves for workout energy.
  • Glycogen: A type of glucose that’s typically stored within your muscles for extraneous uses, including workouts. 
  • Protein: One of your body’s essential nutrients that help you repair and build muscle tissue. Protein is crucial for regulating your hunger levels on a daily basis, building muscle, maintaining healthy weight and muscle recovery.
  • Protein Synthesis: The process in which amino acids are combined together to form proteins. Although your body naturally produces amino acids, there are certain amino acids that you must acquire through your diet.

Benefits Of Eating Before Going To The Gym

It’s important to note that it’s possible to feel sick and sluggish if you eat a large meal a bit too close to your workout time; however, if you don’t eat enough before going to the gym, it’s possible to feel lethargic and lightheaded.

This is why it’s often recommended to eat a meal around 3 to 4 hours prior to working out. You can save some healthy snacks for about 1-2 hours prior to exercising, and these snacks should be easy on the stomach.

Recent fitness research has found many benefits of eating prior to working out, including improved aerobic exercise performance. This is particularly the case when you want to focus on your endurance through prolonged workouts. This essentially means that eating before going to the gym can help you work out longer, which can help lead to better exercise results!

Some healthy food options to consider before going to the gym include:

  • Sandwich featuring lean protein, whole-grain bread and a side salad
  • Lean protein, brown rice and roasted veggies
  • Avocado toast, fruit cup and egg omelet
  • Grain bowl
  • Turkey burgers
  • Protein smoothie
  • Cup of oatmeal topped with sliced almonds and banana
  • Greek yogurt and fruit
  • Whole-grain cereal

Benefits Of Working Out On An Empty Stomach

Many fitness specialists also recommend exercising fasted, or on an empty stomach. This usually means about 8 to 10 hours of fasting prior to exercising, which is often a good option if you plan on working out early in the morning.

A lot of workout enthusiasts prefer exercising on an empty stomach, and this is partly because it’ll force your body to burn fat for fuel—as opposed to burning glucose. This can lead to faster weight loss and other common workout goals.

Nutrition research is mixed when it comes to verifying whether or not exercising on an empty stomach burns more fat. One nutrition study shows that fasted exercise can help increase an individual’s insulin sensitivity, which essentially means that your body can more effectively convert your glucose levels into functional energy.

The big caveat with fasted exercise is that it can potentially increase your cortisol levels, which can inadvertently lead to issues like high blood pressure and weight gain over longer periods of time. This is why it’s absolutely critical for those working out on an empty stomach to pay close attention to how they’re feeling during and after exercising.

What You Should Eat After Going To The Gym

Once you’ve worked up a heavy sweat and your body is ready to restore its energy levels after going to the gym, you’ll need to refuel with a recovery snack that’s high in protein.

It’s important to remember how your muscles will experience micro-tears during strength training exercises, and protein is what helps repair and rebuild your muscle fibers. This is why a lot of fitness specialists recommend eating a protein-packed snack around 30 minutes to an hour after you’re done exercising in order to support your workout recovery.

Carbohydrates are equally important after you’re done working out at the gym, and high-carb foods can replenish your body’s energy levels. So the harder you exercise, the more carbs you’ll ultimately need. Some healthy carb options to consider after working out include:

  • Bananas
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Apples
  • Oats
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Berries
  • Greek bowls
  • High-protein smoothies
  • Protein bars

Should You Eat Before Or After Working Out At The Gym?

So, is it ultimately better to eat before or after working out at the gym? The short answer is both.

Your body undoubtedly has unique needs at different times of the day, and exercise and dieting is different for everyone. The most important thing to remember is that food is so much more than calories—it’s your fuel. By focusing on nutrient-dense foods that power you through your workouts and support your daily recovery, you’ll generally be fine no matter what time of day you eat.

It’s also important to maintain healthy nutrition habits, even on days when you’re not exercising. When it comes down to it, the question of whether you should eat before or after working out at the gym is all about your personal preferences of how you’d like your body to feel before, during and after each workout session.

Always listen to your body and be patient with your fitness journey, because it can often take people a little bit of time to figure out what exactly works best for them.

And the great news is that our team is here to help you make the most of your dieting strategy through out nutrition coaching services that directly coincide with our personal training and group training programs!

Reach Out To Rising Legends When You Need Nutrition Coaching Support!

It’s normal to be confused about what and when you should eat on the days you plan to go to the gym, and your nutrition is a key component toward reaching your fitness goals and results.

Rising Legends is the leading fitness academy in the Nyack, NY area, and our industry specialists are here to help you maximize your fitness journey’s results through personalized training sessions and comprehensive nutrition coaching.

We’re always here to help when you need nutrition support, and we look forward to seeing you at the gym!

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