How Many Hours Before A Workout Should I Eat?

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Best pre-workout foods to crush your next workout

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.

These are questions from our #LLTV Q&A series, that we filmed for our Live Lean TV YouTube channel back in 2012.

So first, I’m going to share my answer to this question from 2012.

Then I’ll answer the same question again today.

Alright lets first jump back to 2012…

How much time before strength training in the gym, should you consume a pre-workout meal? Is there an optimal range?

Excellent question.

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.

Best Pre Workout Meal In The Morning

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

Now here’s my answer 7 years later

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.

How many hours before a workout should I eat

What is 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:

  • sustained energy
  • enhanced brain function
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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.

How many hours before a workout should I eat

Plus, eating before a workout may also help boost EPOC, a.k.a. boosting your metabolism during your recovery after training.

The best pre-workout foods

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.

meat and nuts

This meal is high in protein and healthy fats, not carbohydrates.

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.

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Being sleepy and lethargic is not how you want to feel during your workout.

Here’s why protein and healthy fats are essential during your pre-workout meal

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.

How Many Meals A Day To Increase Protein Synthesis

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.

What if I can’t eat a pre-workout meal?

Early Morning Pre Workout Meal

If you’re too busy to eat a high protein, pre-workout meal, or you train on an empty stomach, this makes the speed of the post workout meal even more important.

The post workout meal is important as it speeds up recovery and breaks your body out of the catabolic, muscle breakdown state.

What if I can’t eat a post-workout meal?

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.

Avoid eating these foods before your workout:

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:

  • High sugar drinks, including sports drinks.
  • High fructose foods, including high fructose fruits like apples, as they can hinder burning stored fat for fuel, and cause digestion issues.
  • Wheat, grains, beans, and if you have lactose issues, dairy, as these foods typically are not digested well.
  • Foods high in saturated fats like cheese and fatty meats like bacon, can be tough to digest quickly before a workout.

Here’s what to eat before your workout

Before your workout, you should be focused on eating foods that:

  • sustain blood sugar levels
  • enhance brain function
  • are easily digested by your body

Each of the following foods fit those criteria.

Best pre-workout protein sources:

Best pre-workout healthy fat sources:

Pre-workout carbohydrates sources:

  • limit vegetables and low fructose fruit since they are higher in fiber and can take longer to digest.

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.

Are you looking for the best workout and nutrition plan for your goals?

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Question For You:

  • When do you eat your pre-workout meal?
  • What foods do you eat before your workout?

Be sure to share your answers in the comment section below.

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