Should I eat before I work out?

Eating before working out depends on many factors. One consideration is the length and duration of the workout. A prolonged workout of hours may necessitate the ingestion of food both before and sometimes during the workout. If you are planning a standard workout of an hour or so, you will likely have sufficient enough stores that you will not require a meal beforehand. However, everyone's body is different. If you are going to eat before a workout, it is best to give yourself one to two hours to allow for digestion of the food. Foods high in carbohydrates and low in protein are easier to digest in the short term. Experiment with eating before workouts. If you are able to do so without causing stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or discomfort, then it is fine to eat before the workout.
Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
Yes, with one caveat. Food timing is important. Consuming a carbohydrate rich food (such as an energy bar) 30-60 minutes before a workout can help increase muscle energy stores, giving you increased energy for a vigorous workout. However, eating too heavy of a meal, whether rich in carbohydrates or not, can create gastrointestinal issues for many during a program. In other words, too much food in your stomach before a workout may leave you feeling full, overblown and decrease your energy. This would lead to lackluster performance. Determine how much time you need to digest a small carb-rich meal and apply that to your pre-workout regimen. However, I would suggest that you do not skip meals prior to your workout. Your body needs fuel to perform at its best.
Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
Yes, you should always eat before a workout, but the timing and size of your meals and snacks will depend on your goal and how long you exercise. If you workout for less than an hour, you don’t need a pre-workout snack as long as your last meal was within 2-3 hours, Otherwise, your energy level may be low, your workout may suffer and you’ll likely be very hungry after the workout. Being overly hungry leads to poor food choices and overeating.
Use the basic timing formula below which can accelerate your progress in any sport and fitness goal including weight loss, performance and/or muscle gain. Try to space your major meals no more than 3-4 hours apart. (The pre and post exercise snacks shown below are not meals).
•       Larger pre and post training/event meals:
–      Pre-event meal to be eaten approximately 2-3 hours before your major activity
–      Post-event meal  to be eaten approximately 1-2 hour following training based on use of a post training supplement as shown below
•       Pre and post-training/event snacks: (nutrition bar or shake)
–      Pre-training snack should be consumed 10-40 minutes before activity
–      Post snack immediately after workout
•       Note for early morning training:
If you train soon after rising and have no time for complete digestion of a large meal consume only the pre-workout snack before exercise.

Yes. Your body needs fuel to maintain energy levels, focus, and body temperature. A good well rounded meal will take care of this. Remember the timing of the meal will be individual. Some people workout well right after their last bite, and some people need a little time to let the meal digest. A good rule of thumb is to let your meal sit about 30 minutes before exercising.

Wendy Batts
The easy answer to this question is yes.  The type of food and the timing of your meal can impact the quality of your workout.  Carbohydrates are your primary energy source used by your nervous and muscular systems and are essential if you are planning a challenging workout.  A high carbohydrate pre-workout snack with protein, eaten 10 to 40 minutes before you begin, can provide you with enough energy to excel in your routine.   Try to avoid a high protein, fat or fiber snack before the workout because they tend to upset your stomach and can significantly reduce the quality of your workout. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.