When should you eat before a workout?

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You have your yoga mat and water bottle ready to go, and you even remembered to register for your class online (#Killingit!). It’s all going according to plan until halfway through your workout when you start to feel dizzy and lightheaded. This is likely because you let an important element of your workout prep slide–your nutrition. 

How soon should you eat before a workout?

Deciding whether to eat, and what you should eat, before a workout depends on several factors, but most experts agree that the ideal window is approximately 2-3 hours before your workout. Your pre-workout meal should contain a balance of easy-to-digest protein, carbs, and fat. With that window of time, your body should have time to digest the nutrients in your meal and make them available for use during your workout. If you only have 30-60 minutes before your workout, keep your snack light and higher in carbohydrates. 

What should I eat before a class?

Carbs are synonymous with energy. When we eat carbs, they break down into glucose, enter our muscle cells, and give us fuel to workout. Your muscles store glucose in the form of glycogen and dip into these reserves when you’re putting them to work. When you eat carbs before you exercise, it ensures that you will have extra glucose reserves if you need to replenish those glycogen stores. 

Keep it light and simple with snacks that will fuel your next yoga or barre class without leaving you feeling heavy or sluggish. Here are some suggestions to try before your next workout: 

What should I avoid before a class?

All foods are not created equal, especially as they pertain to pre-workout fuel. As a general rule, you should avoid the following foods or beverages before a yoga or fitness class:

  • Carbonated drinks may make you feel gassy or bloated. 
  • Foods or beverages that are high in refined sugar will give you an initial surge of energy but have you crashing and burning halfway through class.
  • Fiber-rich foods (e.g., beans, lentils, cruciferous veggies, etc.) because they take longer to digest which draws blood to your stomach/digestive system as opposed to your muscles. 
  • Spicy foods may trigger heartburn or acid reflux during your workout. 

Can you workout on an empty stomach?

Working out on an empty stomach won’t hurt you in the short term; however, it’s not ideal if you have blood sugar issues or are doing a strenuous class. Exercising on an empty stomach can result in “bonking”—the actual sports term for feeling lethargic or light-headed due to low blood sugar. 

Ultimately, you are your best guide so listen to your body and how you feel during class and let that guide you. Stay properly hydrated and maintain a healthy, balanced diet, and the periodic fasted workout shouldn’t be a problem. 

What should I eat after a workout?

Ideally, you want to eat within 30-45 minutes of finishing your workout to replenish muscle energy stores and start the recovery process. Focus on foods that contain carbohydrates and protein to restore glycogen levels and repair muscle tissue. If you’re trying to bulk up then make sure your post-workout meal is heavy in protein.

Here are a few examples of quick and easy meals to eat after your workout:

  • Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables and rice.
  • Egg omelet with avocado spread and whole grain toast.
  • Salmon with sweet potato.
  • Tuna and whole grain crackers.
  • Oatmeal with protein powder, nuts, and fruit.
  • Organic plant-based protein shake

Most importantly, eating a healthy snack or meal after your workout will ensure you recover faster and feel better, so you can enjoy your next yoga or barre class again tomorrow.

Experiment with your diet options and your workout routine in the comfort of your own home. Grab our 14-day free trial to Ohana Online.

Erin Entlich is a certified yoga instructor, personal trainer, holistic health coach, and writer. She believes doing good starts with feeling good, which is why she loves helping people weave movement, mindfulness, and healthy eating into their daily lives. Find out more at www.erinentlich.com.