Should I Eat Before, or After I Exercise?

exercise nutritionI myself have heard friends make unsupported claims that working out on an empty stomach is more effective, or that people should wait a certain amount of time after exercising to eat. Because I’ve been wondering whether it’s better to eat before or after I exercise, and more specifically, which foods I should be eating to support a physically active lifestyle, I reached out to our own Dr. Amadeus Mason to get answers to my questions.

My first question for Dr. Mason was:  Do you recommend eating before or after a workout? Does your recommendation change whether the workout type is cardio-based or strength training?

Dr. Mason’s answer was extremely helpful, “Eating after exercise is pretty much the standard recommendation now. But what you’re eating is actually more important than when you eat it. For people who exercise often, high carbohydrates, moderate protein levels and increased fluid intake is important.” He noted though, that “carbs are the most important.”

After hearing this, I was curious. I typically like to avoid making my diet too heavy in carbohydrates, but I trust Dr. Mason and knew that he would help clarify this concern. So I asked, what is your daily recommendation for carbohydrate intake for people who work out regularly?

Again, Dr. Mason came through with some great answers, “I recommend 6-10 g/kg/day of carbohydrates.” Wait, I thought, ‘g/kg/day!? What does that even mean!?” G/kg/day is a reference to the grams of carbohydrates a person should intake daily, depending on their weight, in kilograms. I personally don’t know my weight in kg and I’m sure I’m not the only one. If you’re looking to calculate your personal ideal g/kg/day carbohydrate number, you can convert your body weight into kg here.

Once I understood that concept, Dr. Mason broke down the details on when I should be intaking these carbohydrates. “You should consume 1/5g/kg within 30 minutes of exercising and an additional 1.5g/kg within 2 hours of your workout. You should seek to consume remaining 3-7g/kg over the course of the day.”

That’s extremely helpful information. To keep your body functioning at peak performance and make your workouts more effective, it’s really not so much about whether you eat before or after you workout as it is about what you’re eating and how you’re breaking it up. One last cool tip from Dr. Mason? “Try high carbohydrate liquids too, such as chocolate milk, which is great for supporting workouts.”

Thanks Dr. Mason for helping me answer these questions for both my own workout practices and our readers!

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