On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m answering a viewer question who asked: how many hours before a workout should I eat?
In other words, what is the best time to eat before a workout?
At the end of this post, I’ll also be sharing the best pre-workout foods and the foods you should avoid before your workout.
This is another post from our #TBT Q&A series.
So first, I’m going to share my answer to this question from 2012.
Then I’ll answer the same question again today.
How much time before strength training in the gym, should you consume a pre-workout meal? Is there an optimal range?
It really depends on you and your body.
Typically you should leave at least an hour after eating a full meal, before your workout.
After consuming a meal, it’s important to give your body enough time to digest the food.
If you have a full stomach of food and you’re in the gym lifting weights, your body will not effectively digest the food, as it might just sit in your stomach.
Before lifting weights, make sure you give yourself at least 60 minutes after eating a meal.
I usually eat a solid pre-workout meal and then allow for 2 hours of digestion before my workouts.
After that 2 hours, I’ll get to the gym and start building muscle.
Eat a solid, high protein meal at least 45 minutes up to 2 hours before your workout.
45 minutes is typically the bare minimum amount of time to allow your body to properly digest the food, prior to your training.
Now that you know the answer to the question, how many hours before a workout should I eat, let me now share the goal of the pre-workout meal.
The primary goal of the pre-workout meal is to improve the performance of your workout.
The two most important ways to prime your body to crush your next workout is:
To ensure you have sustained energy during your workout, it’s important to include foods in your pre-workout meal that will help stabilize your blood sugar.
The second important aspect of the pre-workout meal, which is not often talked about, is enhancing your brain before training.
Activating your brain power before your workout will help you stay focused and improve your drive and motivation during training.
You can enhance your brain function by eating foods that are pre-cursors to the production of the neurotransmitters, dopamine and acetylcholine.
The best pre-workout foods to help you accomplish both of these goals before your training is meat and nuts.
I first learned about the meat and nuts breakfast back in 2013, from the late strength coach Charles Poliquin.
Unlike what many people think, your body does not require energy from foods high in carbohydrates, like oats and bananas, before your workout.
Not only will these foods high in carbohydrates quickly elevate and crash your blood sugar levels, they will also help produce serotonin, which is the sleepy neurotransmitter.
Being sleepy and lethargic is not how you want to feel during your workout.
Eating meat and nuts will help raise your blood sugar very slowly, then stabilize it for sustained energy during your workout.
If you follow a regular meal cadence, your muscles glycogen levels will be full enough to fuel your typical 45-60 minute workout.
Plus, filling up your muscle glycogen takes more time than simply pounding back a bowl of cereal before your workout.
Also, since you’ll be burning through this muscle glycogen during your workout, this makes the post workout meal, the optimal time to consume your carbohydrates.
The post workout meal is important as it speeds up recovery and breaks your body out of the catabolic, muscle breakdown state.
On the flip side, you may find you can’t eat immediately after your workout.
This makes a high protein, pre-workout meal even more important as it can allow you to extend the post workout meal window up to 2 hours.
Certain foods can take longer to digest, cause metabolic issues, and hinder focus.
Based on this, the following foods should be limited before your workout:
Before your workout, you should be focused on eating foods that:
Each of the following foods fit those criteria.
So there you go Live Lean Nation.
I hope this post cleared up what is the best time to eat before a workout and best pre-workout foods.
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Brad Gouthro is the founder of Live Lean TV, a media company focused on helping men and women “Live Lean” 365 days a year. Brad’s programs and content have helped millions of people all over the world learn how to get in shape, and more importantly, sustain it for life.