Should I Workout Before or After a Big Meal?

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Food and exercise have always had a complicated relationship, with many dietitians and health experts unable to agree on how to approach these two subjects. One universally accepted theory is that you should never exercise on a full stomach. Doing this could lead to muscle cramps and nausea, which are clear impediments to exercise. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to exercise on an empty stomach either. Your body wouldn’t have the necessary energy to maintain muscle development, and you would succumb to fatigue, dehydration, and physical exhaustion.

With so much conflicting information out there, it’s challenging to know what to eat and when while you’re exercising. Luckily, we’ve done the leg work for you and have come up with this handy guide of how to negotiate sustenance intake while engaged in physical exertion.

Exercise and Big Meals

The logic for eating before you exercise is sound. We generally don’t want to exercise for just a few minutes, and it makes sense to want to have enough energy to complete a full workout. The problem isn’t so much that we eat before exercise, but instead, how much we eat and what we choose to eat. What many people call a big meal usually consists of all the main food groups. This typically means loading up on protein, carbohydrates, fats, and sugars.

Many of these foods take much longer to digest and therefore deprive your muscles of oxygen and energy in the bloodstream. Particular food groups to avoid before you exercise are saturated fats and even a lot of healthy protein.

To sum up, it’s perfectly ok and sometimes even advised to eat before a workout. You just need to choose the right foods in the right quantities at the right time. Another essential thing to remember while exercising is to stay hydrated. When you exercise, your body loses fluids. To keep yourself from getting dehydrated, you need to replenish the lost fluids. Drink water before, during, and after your exercise to keep yourself hydrated and healthy.

What To Eat While You Exercise

Yes, you read that right. It’s not only essential to keep yourself nourished before and after a workout, but also during. Below, we break down the best food choices and practices before, during, and after a strenuous workout session.


Before you exercise, you need to fuel your body. An essential part of fuelling up before exercise is hydrating with water. You do this to minimize the amount of fluid lost at the beginning of your exercise routine.

Two hours before starting your workout, eat moderate amounts of healthy carbohydrates like whole grain cereals, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, whole wheat toast, brown rice, whole grain pasta, fruits, and vegetables.

If all the time you have before you start exercising is five to 10 minutes, opt for a piece of fresh fruit such as an apple or a pear.

Before you exercise, the general rule of thumb is to eat easily digestible carbohydrates so that you don’t feel bloated and sluggish during your workout.

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If you think about professional athletes like endurance runners and cyclists, they always grab bottles or sachets of water or electrolytes during their marathons. Any kind of strenuous exercise you do should be handled in the same way. Stay hydrated with small regular sips of water.

Electrolyte solutions are not often used off the track but are essential in staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise. Researchers have even proven that electrolytes do far more than keeping the body hydrated. Electrolytes are an essential part of keeping our body’s vital functions at their peak. These functions include muscle contraction, nerve signaling, and blood pressure. Electrolytes also assist your body in retaining fluid during strenuous exercise while you’re sweating. This keeps your joints lubricated and allows you to maintain your energy and avoid dehydration and fatigue.

Experts suggest that if your workout is an hour or less, you don’t need to eat during. But for higher intensity and rigorous workouts lasting more than an hour, it is highly recommended that you consume 50 to 100 calories every half an hour. These calories should be carbohydrates like low-fat yogurt, bananas, or raisins.


After your workout, you want to refuel your tank and replenish all the nutrients you lost while exercising. As it is before and during your workout, hydration is of utmost importance when you’re finished exerting yourself. Opt for water and electrolyte solutions over energy drinks to get rehydrated the healthy way.

You burn copious amounts of carbohydrates during your exercise, which are your muscles’ primary fuel source. Between 20 and 60 minutes after strenuous exercise, your muscles can store carbohydrates and protein as energy to help with recovery. For this reason, it’s crucial to load up on carbohydrates once your workout has been completed.

Another vital thing to remember is that the only way to exercise muscles is to injure them. During any kind of physical exercise, specific forces are exerted on your muscles to create microscopic tears. These tears are what heal to make your muscles stronger. Protein is essential in muscle repair and growth; you should therefore eat protein-rich foods after your workout.

Final Word

You can improve your performance and reduce your recovery time by ensuring that you consume the right nutrients before, during, and after your workout. However, keep in mind that each person is different, so their experience of these tips may vary. It’s recommended to be a little adventurous and try out a few different approaches to nutrient intake while you’re exercising. Figure out what works for you so you can make the most of your workout sessions.

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