Eat Before A Workout

OR not eat before a workout….

……Now that is the question.

I would say it totally depends on what the workout is, how long the exercise workouts will last, how intense the workout will be, how close a meal is to after the workout ends, what fitness level the person is, how the person’s stomach handles food/types of food, at what time of day the workout is happening, and even how often the person exercises (FITT Principle anyone?!)

Whew. There are a lot of factors involved in a seemingly simple decision!

to eat.....or not?

I can only imagine what people wonder when they see these crazy supplements, pills, drinks, juices, and mixes that promise perfect performance if consumed before an exercise session?! Holy smokes that can get confusing (and usually don’t work, p.s.)!

Here are simple guidelines/tricks/tips I use when determining if and how much I eat before a workout:

  • If the workout is 30 minutes or less I do not consume anything (usually because that workout is more intense and I would lose whatever it is I tried to eat) EXAMPLE : When I do HIIT workouts on the treadmill or with a fitness DVD, I usually do not eat anything beforehand. Most research supports this decision because the workout is so short, and thus no major caloric needs are necessary.

SOO sweaty FAST = no food before (for me)

  • If I am teaching a fitness class in the a.m. (or doing a workout/taking a fitness class in the a.m.) I will have a small bite of something carb-y to ‘break the fast‘ before I brush my teeth and head out. EXAMPLE: Most morning I have a bite or two from a Cliff bar–this works wonders for me because it is fast, digests nicely, easy to grab, and gives me the energy I need. I sometimes switch it up with a few bites of {dry} cereal, apple slices, or toast. Research agrees with this as it is vital to avoid foods that take a long time to digest (such as fiber, sugary foods, and protein packed foods).

(source) One of my fav kinds

  • If I am teaching a fitness class/working out in the p.m., I make sure to eat a snack about 2 hours before the workout session. EXAMPLE: When I teach BodyPUMP/Zumba at 5:30 p.m., I usually eat an apple with some nut butter around 3:30/4:00 p.m. Research is replete with evidence that eating too close to a workout can actually hinder the workout, instead of enhance.


  • If I am going running for more than 30 minutes, I eat something very east to digest. EXAMPLE: My body does not handle food well for runs, so before I eat a small piece of toast or have a bite of an apple–doesn’t sound like much, but eating more makes me cramp SO bad…….during races I eat orange slices and drink tons of water. Once I tried to eat a Cliff bar during a marathon and I suffered later for that {ifyaknowwhatImean}! Oh and Gatorade is horrible while running (for me at least). Some research illustrates that eating too little or too much can cause cramping. It is different for each person, so the usual conclusion states that because it varies, each person needs to find what works for him/her during those training runs.


  • If my workout is SUPER early (I need to get work done, my day needs to start earlier, etc.), I do not eat anything. I am a person who can not stomach food too early in the day. EXAMPLE: When training runs started at 5 or 6 a.m., I never ate anything beforehand and was totally fine. This may not work for everyone! And science definitely disagrees with that tactic…..but like I said, for me, I know that does not work. Like I said, most research disagrees with this, as it is important to fuel before a run, especially if done in the a.m. after sleep- to replenish the glycogen stores.

Our bodies need the correct fuel to churn out good miles, dance moves, or make good strengths via weight lifting. Feed that body right (and at the right times) and he/she will take care of you. Promise. 😉

Oh, and remember to eat properly post workout as well, as that is another critical time to eat!

Have YOU figured out what does NOT work for you?? Any other tips YOU’d like to share?? What is YOUR favorite way to fuel up??

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  1. when i wake up at 5:15 to do a quick 30 minute cardio session, i do not eat. i will only eat that early if i am running more than 6 miles. my go-to meal for pre-halfmarathon is oatmeal. that’s the only thing that sits will with me and keeps me full/fueled for the long duration!

    • I have never tried hot oats for a really long run because I’ve eaten before and man it was horrible……but you’re lucky you found your groove with that one :)

  2. Usually, for me, my ideal workout time is FIRST thing when I wake up, so I don’t eat before then, and just have breakfast after. My workouts are usually less than an hour, but even when they’re longer, I’m terrible about fueling midway through!

  3. great post! I think it definitely depends on the person and kind of workout…i mix up my workout hours so sometimes i work out first thing in the morning, other times during the afternoon or evening. It always ends up on the intensity for me. i also wont force myself to eat anything in the morning if I still feel full from the night before. i have to be VERY careful of what I eat before I run or it could be a disaster. I love shot blocks during runs, one of the only things that I can stomach ok! crackers or granola bars work well for me too.

    p.s. i’m baking your lovely pumpkin bread recipe from yesterday, i cant wait to taste it, my whole apartment smells good :)

    • ooooh I am excited for you already :)

      I totally know what you mean about being VERY careful about fuel before a run….it can be uuugggly.

  4. this post was so informative! you have no idea how much this helped me! thanks girl for it all for putting all the research into it!

  5. Awesome post!

    I workout at 4:45/5:00 am during the week for 45 minutes to an hour and that is WAY to early to eat for me…And besides, I’m not starving anyway…

    If I am squeezing a workout in after work I will usually have a few spoonfuls of greek yogurt or some homemade granola or something…Just to get something in my tummy until supper (and to tide me over during the workout)…

    All in all I eat AFTER my workouts these days.



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