Eating Before Workout: Is It Necessary?

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: Mar 24, 2015 | Last Updated: Nov 22, 2018

Eating Before Workout

You may have heard that it is not advisable to engage in a workout on an empty stomach. However, this doesn’t that you should overindulge before hitting the gym. There are several things that determine the quality and quantity of the food you should consume before exercising. Your exercise routine, time of the day, your health condition and preparedness are some of the factors you should put into consideration before filling that pre-workout plate with foods to maintain your energy needs. Eating the right food before a workout is necessary to help energize your exercise.

What to Eat for Energy and Endurance?

If you want to give a boost to your energy and endurance, aim for foods containing quality carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats and lots of fluids. Carbohydrate foods like cereals, pasta, fruits, vegetables or bread are good sources of quick energy required by your muscles when exercising. Protein is essential for your muscles and blood cells as it helps in the delivery of oxygen and other essential nutrients. On the other hand, lots of fluids like water or fresh fruit juices ensure that your body functions are performing at their level best.

What is Ideal Pre-Workout Meal?

Ideal Pre-Workout Meal

It is difficult to point out a particular pre-workout meal that will help boost your performance at the gym or any other exercising ground. However, you should go for foods that are low in fat, low in fiber, moderate in carbohydrates and protein and ones that contain lots of fluids. Don’t skew away from your regular diet but instead go for a meal made from familiar foods that you cope well with.

Timing Is Critical

In reference to Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, CSSD, pre-workout meal shouldn’t make you feel stuffed but you should always take something. You time it whichever way you like, although the meal should be made simpler as you get closer to a workout. If you plan to exercise 2 to 3 hours after a meal, focus on eating a more complex meal that takes longer to break down consisting of lean protein, fat and fiber. This will ensure that you will have enough time for your food to get digested and absorbed from your gastrointestinal tract into your blood, according to Sass. However, consume something that quickly get digested and absorbed if you chose to eat within anhour before a workout. Consumption of foods that take longer to digest shortly before a workout can lead to cramps and sluggishness, according to Sass.

Pre and  Post Workout Facts

Evaluating Intensity

You shouldn’t think that because you are placing your sports shoes justifies you to overindulge in hearty snacks. Your effort and the commitment you put in your workout should dictate what you should take before you start exercising. If you are to engage in intensive workouts, you should consume a smaller meal since you want to channel all the energy to your performance and not for digestion purposes. According to Chris Mohr, RD, PHD in Exercise Physiology, there is no need to shove food into your mouth to fuel up if you are planning to engage in a lower intensity exercise, such as a 30-minute walk in the morning.

What If You Eat Less Than You Burn?

Eating fewer calories than you burn in every workout session is a key to promoting weight loss and muscle building. Avoid the temptation of passing by the gym’s café before and after exercise for a meal containing more calories than you will burn or have already burnt. You can choose a single sports drink or a smoothie to replace calories that you will burn at the gym.

Must Watch – What Is The Best Pre Workout Meal?

What are the Benefits of Eating Before Exercises?

Eating before exercises has several benefits to athletes and people undertaking demanding training regimes. It prevents the feeling of lightheadedness and lack of energy commonly experienced the next morning after training. Researchers have demonstrated that people who eat before workouts tend to burn more calories than those who don’t. This is in reference to a recent report published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, which showed that more calories continue to be burnt after the workout in people who eat something prior to exercises. The report also suggested that skipping a meal prior to exercise can contribute to an increase in loss of muscle mass due to increased loss of nitrogen.


It is advisable to consume something before engaging in a workout for energy supply and prevention of muscle loss. Timing is very important when choosing your pre-workout meal. Go for foods that take longer to digest if you will start exercising in 2 to 3 hours. Alternatively, select foods that are readily digestible and easily absorbed if you are to work out in an hour after eating. Some of the best pre-exercise snacks you should try include oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, whole-grain cereals, yam, or sweet potatoes if you have a time window of at least 2 hours before working out. Easily digestible foods include fruits, banana or homemade protein shakes.

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