Eat Before or After Workout?

eat-before-or-after-workoutA few people have asked me whether they should eat before or after workouts and the answer to this question depends on one’s specific fitness goals or at least the goals of that particular workout. The thinking among athletes and bodybuilder has always been that if you want to gain muscle you need to consume calories before and after you workout but if you want to lose weight you should eat some time after you workout. Let’s look at what the studies have to say about this topic.

Not Eating Before Workouts Leads To Weight Loss

Researchers at the University of Sfax conducted a study to see what the effects of eating before a workout and not eating before a workout would be. This study involved 19 men who did aerobic training for 1 month. Ten of them did not eat before they trained and 9 of them did eat before training.

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Throughout the month they reported to a laboratory where scientists measured their progress. After 1 month the researchers found that both groups were able to lose weight but the group that didn’t eat lost more fat. This suggests that if you want to lose fat you may want to avoid eating right before workouts.

Eating Before Workouts Improves Performance

If you are training for an athletic event of some kind then it may be wise to eat before you workout as several studies have shown carbohydrates can improve athletic performance. A study done at the University of Birmingham aimed to see if carbohydrates had an effect on endurance.

girl on recumbent bike

This study involved 8 cyclists who drank either water or solution with carbohydrates before they trained. They found that consuming carbohydrates allowed the cyclist to perform 19% better than the cyclists who didn’t consume carbohydrates. This suggests that eating or consuming carbohydrates can improve athletic performance.

Calories After Workouts Can Improve Performance

Athletes may also want to consider consuming enough calories after workouts. Weight trainers in particular oftentimes make curtain to consume protein and carbohydrates after they exercise to build muscle and make the most of each workout.

A study done at Virginia Tech was designed to see if drinking milk which has protein and carbohydrates immediately after lifting weights caused better results than a drink with only carbohydrates. This study involved 19 men who followed a weight training program for 10 weeks. Some of the men were instructed to drink milk after workouts and others drank a carbohydrate beverage.

person pouring milk

These researchers found that both groups were able to get stronger and lower their body fat percentage but the group that drank the milk gained more muscle mass. These results suggest that it is beneficial to consume both protein and carbohydrates after workouts to improve strength and increase muscle mass.

Calories During Workouts May Also Improve Performance

Most people wouldn’t think to do this but people who really want to improve their athletic performance may also want to consider consuming carbohydrates and protein during a training session. Researchers at James Madison University did a study to see if drinking a mixture of carbohydrates and protein during a workout improved athletic performance compared to a supplement that only had carbohydrates.

This study involved 13 people who exercised on a cycle for as long as they could and every 15 minutes some were given either the carbohydrate plus protein mixture or the carbohydrates supplement.

They found that combining carbohydrates with protein allowed the cyclists to ride 13% longer than carbohydrates alone. These results suggest that consuming carbohydrates and protein during workouts and not just before and after may be helpful.

Based on these studies and many others that have been done on this topic it appears that not eating before workouts is best if you want to lose weight but when it comes to improving athletic performance consuming nutrients before, after and even during workouts is best. Serious fitness enthusiasts usually take supplements that are easy to digest such as ones in liquid form instead of eating solid foods when preparing for or recovering from workouts.

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