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Consumer Reports: Should you eat before or after a workout?

Posted at 7:31 AM, Aug 15, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — Whether you’re a daily exerciser, an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, getting the right nutrition is key. But maybe you’ve wondered whether you should eat before or after exercise?

The question is not just whether you should eat, but what should you eat and how much so you can fuel your body and get the most from your workouts.

Sarah Stockwell, 48, works out for up to an hour, five to six days a week. She does it to feel strong physically and mentally.

“I run once a week. I also do a power yoga class for about an hour once a week...I swim. I like to do everything once a week,” Stockwell said.

One morning, she and her husband biked 11 miles and although Stockwell ate a balanced dinner the night before, she had nothing to eat before her workout.

“I honestly feel better if I get outside and move without anything sitting in my stomach,” she said.

But Consumer Reports says she might want to consider at least a small snack before heading out on such an ambitious workout.

“Yes, eating a big meal right before isn’t a good idea, but if it’s been more than a couple of hours, a small snack about an hour before exercise can give you energy,” said Consumer Reports health editor Kevin Loria.

A good rule of thumb is to aim for 20 to 30 grams of carbs and 5 to 10 grams of protein, like a banana with peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg with toast, or string cheese and a granola bar.

High-fat or high-fiber foods could take longer to digest, so best to stay away from those.

They also say eating after exercise is a must. That’s when the body’s cells are primed to absorb carbs and protein. Stockwell has her breakfast a half-hour after her ride.

“After long, intense workouts, your body may start using muscle for fuel causing muscle loss," Loria said. "Eating within 40 minutes after cardio or strength training restores fuel stores and supports muscle recovery.”

Many nutritionists recommend your post-workout meal should have a 2-to-1 carb-to-protein ratio to restore the energy you burned, like Stockwell who is having yogurt, granola, seeds and fruit.

Always drink enough fluid before, during and after your workout — at least 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours before and even more if it’s very hot outside, and another 7 to 10 ounces for every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise.  

Along with drinking water, loading up on fruits and vegetables with high water content, like melons, cabbage and apples, can also help you stay hydrated!