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Eating Before Exercise

"Is eating before exercise a good idea?” is a question that comes up often. Many people trying to lose weight are eating healthy and exercising.

These two factors (eating healthy and exercising) are an important part of losing weight.  

So you know you have to eat healthy, but should you or should you not eat before doing your workout?

You have probably read that you should exercise on an empty stomach while others say you should eat something before exercising. 

So which is right and which is wrong? 

Well in order to make the most out of your exercise routine you want to ensure your body is well prepared.

This means fueling it up for your workout routine.

To Eat or Not to Eat Before Exercise

Although exercising on an empty stomach can give you a higher amount of fat burn, it also can cause your body to rely on your muscles for fuel.  This in turn means you are losing muscle mass. 

The body needs some amount of carbs in order to burn calories and fat more efficiently without looking to the muscles for the fuel it needs. 

How much you need to eat depends on the type of workout you have planned, the duration and the time of day. 

For instance, if you are an early morning exerciser, then eating before working out can be a light meal (200 to 300 calories) of carbs and protein. 

Your foods for exercise do not have to be an elaborate meal. Just make it simple but be sure to include carbohydrates and protein.  

Additionally, be sure to hydrate sufficiently as you have gone all night without water.  Drink 2 glasses of water upon waking and then have your meal.

Wait for about ½ to one hour before working out. 

Another helpful tip to prevent stomach cramps is to make your meal liquid like a protein shake.  Since you are only waiting less than hour for your workout this can help prevent stomach pains while exercising. 

Eating before exercise will provide your body with the needed fuel so you can workout longer and burn more calories.

If your workout is during the day or evening and after larger meals, you should wait longer before exercising. 

You should allow 3 to 4 hours after eating before exercise for big meals and 2 to 3 hours after smaller meals. 


For snacks you only need to wait about 1 to 2 hours after eating before exercise.  Your meals should include both carbohydrates and protein. 

When selecting the foods for exercise, avoid the high fat proteins like in peanut butter, red meats and cheeses.  These foods take longer to digest and can make you feel tired or fatigued. 

Eating for Workout Duration

Fueling your body by eating before working out not only helps you exercise better and burns calories more efficiently, it also allows you to workout longer. 

However, getting the right amount of fuel for your planned workout is critical to ensureyou last the full length of your routine. 

If you are planning a workout for less than an hour, you will want to choose carbs that can be easily digested like crackers, bagels and breads.  Be sure to make these low fat choices. 

However, if you are planning a workout for more than an hour than you want to select carbohydrates that take longer to digest.  Foods like bananas or yogurts are carbs that take longer to digest. 

Additionally, you want to be well hydrated before, during and after your workout, especially during for the longer exercise routines.

Avoiding Stomach Cramps

One of the main reasons people avoid eating before exercise is due to stomach cramps.  Here are some tips to avoid pains while working out.

Avoid high fat foods.  People reported GI problems when consuming high fats prior to exercising.

Avoid too much fiber.  The high fiber foods consumed prior to exercise can cause stomach cramps.

Stay hydrated.  People reported stomach pains when dehydrated during their workout routine.

Change the intensity level.  While performing at a high intense level during your exercise, the blood shifts from the digestive system to your muscles.  So if you start to experience stomach cramps, slow it down a bit.

In addition to understanding the rules for eating before exercise, make sure you know what to eat after exercise as well.

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