Eating and exercising have always been closely linked. There are many questions which arose from this topic such as how long do you have to wait after a meal prior a workout session or how soon should you eat after a workout session? What types of food that we should eat after exercise? Does exercise trigger hunger and increase food consumption?

Eating before exercise:

Eating before exercising is important as it will give your body the needed fuel to do your workout session. But you should pay attention to the type of food, the amount of time needed to digest the food and the type of exercise that you will be doing.

What food?

Food which is high in fat will stay longer in your stomach. It can make your stomach uncomfortable during the exercise (cramping). Carbohydrate on the other hand provides instant energy to your body. Complex carbohydrates such as banana, whole grain bread, pasta and oatmeal can boost your energy level. Study published in Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (quoted from MSNBC) even encourages caffeine consumption to enhance your work out.

How long do you have to wait?

While it varies from person to person, GoAskAlice has written a neat general guideline about this.

Less than 1 hour for 200 calories meal or lower
1 – 2 hours for liquid meal
2- 3 hours for 400 calories meal
3 – 4 hours for meals over 500 calories

Type of exercise:

The type of exercise that you will be doing also plays an important role. If you are going to do a light exercise such as brisk walking then you can getaway by eating soon before your workout time. If you are going to do intense exercise then wait longer.

During the exercise:

If your workout is a long and tiring one, eating a piece of fruit or drinking isotonic drink during the exercise can boost your energy temporarily. However, even water is usually adequate in keeping your body replenished. Don’t wait until you are thirsty before you drink since thirst may be a sign for dehydration. If you are sweating lot then compensate by drinking water. Don’t just rely on thirst.

After the exercise:

Some people have reported that exercise make them feel hungry that they want to eat even more food thus negating the effect of exercising. While this is true, people who exercise still end up with negative calorie balance. A study quoted by BBC examined two groups of people and gave them the same breakfast.

The first group was asked to exercise for half an hour while the second group did nothing. Then few hours later both groups were asked to dine.

The group who exercised consumed more calories than the group who sat idly but when the calories burned from exercising was taken into account, the group who exercised still ended up with negative calories balance.

Ideally you should eat within 1 hour or 2 hours after your workout; this is when your body absorbs the nutrients most efficiently and muscles absorb nutrients to recover. Protein and carbs are commonly consumed after workout. For weight loss purpose, try to lower your carbs intake but don't banish it completely as it's also important for our body.


  1. Matthias Gaspar said...

    When I was child I was told to wait 2 hours regardless of the meals. :D

  2. Anonymous said...

    Yeah I read the study by BBC also a while ago. But then they only used such small sample (less than 20 people). I've seen people ended up overeating after hours of high intensity cardio training, that's why having personal trainer to help you devise meals plan is also essential. It's more essential to stick with the meal plan though.

  3. Sean said...

    Yeah, I think I am following the same guideline as well. The fitness center has prepared the coffee and isotonic drinks for us as well. However, I dare not to consume much foods after workout, haha.

  4. Ellen said...

    Avoid drinking too much liquid too if you are going to attend high impact aerobic class. I felt totally uncomfortable, felt like there's something splish splashing on my stomach.

  5. ♥ Hayley said...

    Very useful, Cherry.

    Before my workout today ( which happens to be 1 hour of cardio + abs day ) I ate a 2 egg omelet with lettuce, fat-free ham, and skim milk mozzarella inside. 6 strawberries on the side. Sounds good, right? :)

  6. YC said...

    It's good to allow time for the food to digest as well. Blood will flow to the stomach to help in it, and if you start exercising too soon, it might affect the whole process negatively.

  7. curryegg said...

    That's right! We should watch out our diet. Besides, exercise regulary is important too!

    nice post!!! ;D

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