Finding the correct time to eat meals and snacks is just as important as choosing healthy foods to fuel your body before and after a workout. A personal trainer or nutritionist can help you choose a meal plan, including what foods to eat and when to eat them, that will help you reach your personal fitness goals.

Timing

Large meals should be consumed at least three to 4 hours before working out. If you have a smaller sized meal, you can work out two to 3 hours after eating. Light snacks are typically fine when eaten right before and even during exercise. When you are done working out, you can enjoy a meal immediately.

Benefits

By waiting to work out for a few hours after eating a meal, you can avoid getting stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea. Eating lots of food right before exercising can also cause you to feel heavy and tired because your digestive system and the muscles you use to exercise are competing for energy. However, it’s important to eat something before you work out and avoid skipping meals. Passing on a meal before you exercise could cause you to become weak or slow your reaction times and nauseus.

Ideal Pre-Exercise Meal

An ideal meal consists of five characteristics:

  • Low fat
  • Moderate in carbohydrates and protein
  • Low fiber
  • Contains fluids
  • Made up of familiar, well-tolerated foods (The pre-exercise meal is not the time to try a new food)

Misconceptions

Foods containing high protein and fat are not the best sources of fuel for your body before you work out. Fat and protein are important parts of any diet, but right before working out, it’s more important that you fuel your body with healthy carbohydrates. You should avoid eating fatty foods right before working out since fat takes longer to digest and can lead to stomach upset during exercise.

What to Eat After the Workout

Eat within 30 minutes after your workout so your body doesn’t start burning muscle. It’s important to fuel your body with some form of protein, so grab a handful or almonds or whip up a protein shake. Then, eat small meals every 3 hours throughout. Even If you’re not hungry, you should at least have a small snack. This will prevent you from waiting too long to eat and then overeating because you feel starving.