Diet and exercise are two of the most important factors in our overall health. Moreover, these two elements are interrelated and influence each other. For example, proper nutrition can fuel your workouts and help your body recover. However, a common question is whether you should eat before or after exercise to optimize performance. This can be especially relevant if you exercise early in the morning or are a fan of intermittent fasting. That’s all you need to know about it, according to scientific research.
Exercising with food or fasting has a different effect on the body
Studies have shown that your body’s responses to exercise can differ depending on whether you eat beforehand or not. As you know, your body’s main fuel sources are body fat and carbohydrates. Fat is stored as triglycerides in adipose tissue, while carbohydrates are stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen. Carbohydrates are also available as blood sugar. Studies show that blood sugar levels are higher before and during exercise if you eat before exercise.
Eating Before or After Exercise According to Science?
These results only make sense, given that most pre-workout meals in these studies contained carbohydrates, which the body used for energy during exercise. When you exercise on an empty stomach, most of your body’s energy needs are met by breaking down body fat. A study of 273 participants found that the body burns more fat when exercising on an empty stomach, while glucose and insulin levels were higher if they had eaten before.
It’s therefore tempting to think that this will eventually lead to more weight loss and that the question of whether you should eat before or after exercise has finally been resolved… Despite scientific studies highlighting the potential benefits of exercise on an empty stomach , there is no strong evidence that it results in more long-term weight loss or fat loss.
Fasting for a short workout does not affect performance
Many people who want to optimize their sports performance wonder whether eating before or after exercise can influence their results. An in-depth study sought to answer that question by evaluating the results of 23 studies looking at whether eating before exercise improves performance. Most studies have shown no difference in the effectiveness of those who ate before aerobic exercise lasted less than an hour and those who did not. The same goes for studies of high-intensity interval training called HIIT.
The lack of obvious benefits of eating before a short exercise can be explained by the body’s energy stores. It stores about 2,000 calories as glycogen and much more as body fat. With all that stored energy, you can exercise even if you haven’t eaten for hours. That said, some studies have shown improved productivity when carbohydrate-containing meals or supplements were consumed before exercise. So this approach may be helpful, but only for some people. So it seems that eating before or after exercise is a very subjective question.
If you train on an empty stomach, you should eat afterwards.
While the importance of eating before a workout can vary depending on the individual and situation, most scientists agree that eating after exercise is definitely beneficial. Research shows that taking in certain micro and macronutrients, especially proteins and carbohydrates, can help your body recover faster after exercise. If you eat a few hours before your workout, the nutrients you ingest during and after exercise can still be in high concentrations in your blood. In this case, they can help with muscle recovery.
However, if you choose to exercise on an empty stomach, your body has fueled your workout with its own energy stores. In addition, there are limited nutrients available for recovery. In this case, it is especially important that you eat something relatively soon after exercise. A study has shown that consuming a meal of protein and carbohydrates after exercise on an empty stomach reduces the rate of protein breakdown.
How long after exercise do you eat?
Although it is important to eat after exercise, research shows that it is not immediately mandatory. In one trial, one group of participants started eating right after exercise, while the other waited two hours. There was no difference in the recovery of carbohydrate stores over the following 8 to 24 hours.
In short, eating before or after exercise is a complex question whose answer essentially depends on individual preferences. Anyway, if you choose to exercise on an empty stomach, eat a meal with protein and carbohydrates after the session as soon as you get hungry. Keep following our publications closely and you will also know what to eat after exercise and what you prefer to eat if you decide to eat before exercise!
Resources Used: www.healthline.com