Eating before or after sports to optimize performance? What does science say?

Diet and exercise are two of the most important factors for our overall health. In addition, these two elements are linked and influence each other. For example, good nutrition can fuel your workouts and help your body recover. However, a common question is whether to eat before or after sports to optimize performance. This can be especially relevant if you exercise in the morning or are a fan of intermittent fasting. That’s all you need to know about it, according to scientific research.

Exercising fed or fasting affects the body differently

Studies have shown that your body’s responses to exercise can vary depending on whether or not you eat earlier. As you know, your body’s main sources of fuel are body fat and carbohydrates. Fat is stored as triglycerides in adipose tissue, while carbohydrates are stored in muscle and liver as glycogen. Carbohydrates are also available as blood sugar. Studies show that blood sugar levels are higher before and during exercise when you eat before exercise.

Eating before or after sports according to science?

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These results only make sense, as most pre-exercise meals in these studies provided carbohydrates, which the body used as energy during training. When you train on an empty stomach, most of your body’s energy needs are covered by the breakdown of body fat. A study in 273 participants found that the body burns more fat when exercising on an empty stomach, while glucose and insulin levels were higher if eaten earlier.

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Therefore, it is tempting to think that this will lead to greater weight loss over time and that the question of whether to eat before or after sports is finally resolved … However, despite scientific evidence highlighting the possible benefits of exercise on an empty stomach, there is no solid evidence that this will result in increased weight or fat loss in the long run.

Fasting before a short workout does not affect performance

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Many people who want to optimize their athletic performance wonder if eating before or after sports can influence their results. An in-depth review attempted to answer this question by evaluating the results of 23 studies that looked at whether eating before exercise improves performance. Most research has shown no difference in the effectiveness of those who ate before aerobic exercise for less than an hour and those who did not. The same goes for high-intensity interval training studies called HIIT.

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The lack of obvious benefits of eating before short-term exercise can be explained by the body’s energy reserves. It stores about 2,000 calories as glycogen and more as body fat. All this stored energy allows you to exercise even if you haven’t eaten for hours. That said, some studies have shown improved productivity when eating carbohydrate-containing foods or supplements before exercise. Therefore, this approach may be beneficial, but only for some people. Therefore, it seems that eating before or after sports is a very subjective matter.

If you train on an empty stomach, then you should eat.

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While the importance of eating before a workout may vary depending on the individual and the situation, most scientists agree that eating after exercise is definitely beneficial. Research shows that the intake of certain micro and macronutrients, especially protein and carbohydrates, can help the body regain strength after exercise more quickly. If you eat a few hours before your workout, the nutrients you eat may still be present in high blood concentrations during and after exercise. In this case, they can help with muscle recovery.

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However, if you choose to exercise on an empty stomach, your body has fed your workout with its own energy reserves. In addition, there are limited nutrients available for recovery. In this case, it is especially important that you eat something relatively soon after exercise. One study found that consuming foods that contain protein and carbohydrates after exercise on an empty stomach reduces the rate of protein breakdown.

When do you eat after exercise?

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While eating after exercise is important, research has shown that it is not mandatory to eat immediately. In one trial, one group of participants began eating immediately after exercise, while the other waited two hours. There was no difference in the recovery of carbohydrate reserves over the next 8 to 24 hours.

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In conclusion, eating before or after sports is a complex question whose answer depends essentially on individual preferences. Either way, if you decide to exercise on an empty stomach, please eat a meal that contains protein and carbohydrates after the session as soon as you feel hungry. Keep a close eye on our posts and you’ll also know what to eat after exercise and what foods to prefer if you decide to eat before exercise!

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