Should I Eat Before I Work Out?

Strong man holding large kettlebells

The answer to this question varies depending on an individual’s goal. Bodybuilders or people undergoing training for a competition will have different dietary requirements as compared to those who are trying to lose a few pounds and tone their body.

However, the fundamental rule to be followed, irrespective of your goal, is to consume fewer calories than you burn, if you want to lose weight.

Those aiming to gain weight should consume more calories than they burn. Attention needs to be paid to the kind of food to be eaten, how much and whether it should be eaten before training.

Several dieticians and doctors stress on the importance of eating before training, but still some of us may not have an answer to the question ‘Should I eat before I train?’ as this view also differs due to different opinions. This question also includes views on what time frame should be kept between your meal and the workout.

Achieving the right balance

A majority of the dieticians and doctors suggest that you must not eat a heavy meal right before training. This is because in such a situation, the body concentrates more of its energy on digesting all the food. Simultaneously, training uses energy (calories), and if you have not eaten anything before your training, you may not be able to work out at your optimal level.

Some people believe that if they have fat that they need to get rid of, then they can miss out on a pre-workout meal and their body will use the fat for energy. However, this is not true. The body stores fat, as a survival mechanism, and this cannot be used for training sessions. The body will burn muscle prior to burning fat, and this may not be what you are aiming at if you plan to tone your body. Hence, it is recommended to eat food before training.

It is necessary to eat something before training if you want to improve your muscle to fat mass ratio, as not eating will only result in the utilization of muscle mass. Therefore, starving your body prior to training is actually counterproductive. With regards to what to eat before training, ensure that it is something light, nourishing, easily digestible and balanced like carbohydrates, protein and a small amount of fat. You should eat about an hour or two prior to the training session.

Food low in fibre is a good choice

Food comparatively low in fiber is also good as this is easily digestible and allows the body to focus more on the workout. Avoid consuming simple sugars such as candy an hour before training as they can result in low blood sugar levels during the workout.

Moreover, drink lots of water (20 ounces) one or two hours prior to training to hyper hydrate your body and allow sufficient time for adequate hydration and urination. Water is a vital ingredient for optimum physical activity and maintenance of normal body temperature.

Carbohydrates provide quick energy

For some, carbohydrates are good since the body digests them more easily than proteins, but for others, proteins work just as well. Whether engaging in aerobic training such as swimming or biking or an anaerobic activity such as weightlifting or rigorous sit-up and pushup workouts, food having a high content of complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain pasta, rice, bread, and fruits and vegetables are the best sources of energy.

‘Should I eat before I train?’ and what should be eaten before training is something that needs a bit of experimentation to get the right combination.

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