Is Eating Before or After the Gym Better?

What seems to be a back and forth dilemma for those who work out.  Do you eat before your workout, or after your workout or both?  Diet goes hand in hand with exercising when speaking to living a healthier lifestyle.  It is an essential role in not only your health but optimizing your working out experience as a whole.  The easiest answer is, it just depends on the type of exercise you intend on doing as well as personal preference.  Working out is a broad statement, which could be composed of intense aerobic exercising, weight training, or a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout.  Your body will breakdown the nutrients differently based on what you are participating in.  


Eating Before a Workout

When you eat before a workout, your body is essentially breaking down the sugars (carbohydrates) in order to fuel or energize you.  If the intention is for a longer, high calorie burning workout, it may be to your benefit to eat prior to your workout.  Unsure of what to eat or how much or how soon before you should eat?  A good alternative to consider is a protein shake meal replacement.  Not to be confused with a protein shake which is intended to provide a high dosage of amino acids to your body, a protein meal replacement shake is packed with protein but also various other nutrients to supplement the loss of consuming an actual edible meal.  This would include a balanced mix of healthy carbs, fats and protein to compensate for the lack of actual food intake.       


Fasting Before a Workout

If you choose to not eat before working out, you may not have as much energy if you would if you did however, your body will end up consuming your body’s fat reserves as fuel.  While this may sound ideal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that body fat will be decreased by not eating as your ability to burn off that energy is dependent on the type of workout, duration, and how much energy is exerted.  If you are doing a shorter exercise routine, then eating prior may not affect your performance level much.    


Eating After a Workout

The need to consume lost calories burned from a workout soon after will aid in muscle and cell recovery, especially after hard burning exercise.  While there may not be a specific time frame, the consensus seems to be that the sooner you can, the better for your body’s cells.  This would especially be important if you did not eat beforehand, or did what is called work out fasting.  By restoring nutrients back to the body after a hard workout, you can assure that your muscles will be able to recover faster and better.      


Depending on the duration and how hard you intended on hitting your muscles, it’s not likely you will need to eat both before and after.  If you chose to do either one, a great alternative would be to incorporate a protein meal replacement shake as it provides all the necessary nutrients to your body in a much quicker fashion without feeling too heavy or full.  The reality is, there’s no right or wrong way to go about it as everyone’s body types are so unique and workout choices also vary.  Listening to your body and how your energy levels react, how your muscles feel will be a good indicator of how and when you should fuel it.  Before and after matters to an extent, but what matters most is what you are putting inside your body.  Not all protein meal replacement shakes are created equal, ensure that you are avoiding ingredients such as excess sugars, oils, corn syrup and preservatives if you are able to.  Just because something is touted as healthy does not always mean it is.