Should you exercise before or after you eat?
Exercisers’ empty stomachs proved to be full of discoveries that may change when you want to feed your body for that next big workout.
Results of a study published in the The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that exercising before eating burns more calories from fat and helps people get more from their workouts. Skipping a pre-workout meal also leads to higher levels of proteins that reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Your muscles use fuel during exercise – either sugar or fat. It can come from your most recent meal or what you’ve already stored in your body. People in the study who exercised on an empty stomach pulled on the resources they already had stocked up.
The result: They burned twice as much fat as those who ate prior and reaped all these extra benefits without any effect on their overall athletic performance.
But I’m hungry now!
It’s tough enough to find time to exercise, let alone plan it around meals. Besides, your need food to fuel your workouts. Even a small snack can shake the doldrums, boost our blood sugars and help us conquer longer, more intense sessions.
“If your goal is to lose weight, increase stamina or improve muscle mass, it is important to find the right snack choice and the right window in which to snack,” says Elaine Gonya, licensed athletic trainer with Aurora Health Care based in Summit, WI.
Gonya says it’s important to make smart snacking choices and what you eat and when you eat it can either help or hurt people reach their personal workout goals.
“Try to avoid processed or sugary foods that will elevate blood sugar levels in the hour before your workout. Stick with whole foods that your body tolerates well and has a combination of lean or plant protein and complex carbohydrates, while low in sugar,” says Gonya.
Don’t wait too long to dine
To help your body recover and get it the nutrients it needs, Gonya suggests eating your post-work out meal or snack within 45 minutes. But in the end, it’s all personal preference. Time of day and other demands might make holding off on eating or rescheduling a workout might impossible.
While the study’s results point out the many health benefits of exercising on an empty stomach, Gonya says the most important thing is to just be active.
“I like to stress movement. If you cannot get your normal workout in, some movement is better than no movement. It at least cuts some calories and leads to a healthier lifestyle,” says Gonya.
About the Author
Matt Queen, health enews contributor, is a communication coordinator at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. He is a former TV sports anchor and journalist with extensive public relations experience across the health care spectrum. Outside of work, Matt enjoys watching sports (of course), cooking, gardening, golfing and spending time with his wife and two young children.