Weight loss is hard, I get it. When I first started my fitness journey, I wanted to see results right away. The option that could help me get to my end goal the fastest was what I wanted.
I searched far and wide online to find every secret I could to lose weight. I searched for the best foods to eat … the best workouts to do … the amount of sleep I needed … and way, way more.
One of the questions I really wanted to know was this: What should I eat before or after a workout to lose weight? I wondered, is there a benefit to eating before my workout? Is there a benefit to eating after my workout? What should I eat at these times, and will they help me lose weight?
Well, eventually I did find these answers.
When it comes to whether you should eat before or after your workout for weight loss, the answer is both. At the same time, you don’t necessarily need to do either. But, they can both certainly help if you get the right nutrients.
I know that may sound a little confusing, so let’s really break this question down. That way, you'll know exactly what to do.
Should I Eat Before or After a Workout For Weight Loss?
I’m sure you know that weight loss, and fat loss, starts with your nutrition and exercise. What matters more than anything else is how many calories you eat vs how many calories you burn every day.
What I mean by that is you need to eat less calories than you burn throughout the day to see the weight on the scale go down over time. This is known as a calorie deficit.
On top of that, eating adequate amounts of protein can be super beneficial for losing body fat too (5). If you do those two things together, then you will lose weight.
But what about eating before or after your workout? These things are still both important, no doubt … but not nearly as important as your nutrition as a whole.
First, let’s talk about what you should be eating before your workouts and the benefits they can offer for weight loss.
What Should I Eat Before a Workout For Weight Loss?
There has always been a lot of discussion around what you should eat before a workout for weight loss. The most popular discussion has always been about fasted workouts vs non-fasted workouts.
Some people thought that by eating nothing before a workout, you would lose more body fat. Others thought that this wasn’t relevant. To this day, I still like doing my morning cycling class without eating beforehand!
The truth is, the second group is right. Body composition changes are similar regardless of whether you eat or don’t eat before a workout (1).
This is because what you eat before a workout is not nearly as important as what you eat throughout the entire day. Remember, weight loss is all about calories in vs calories out.
However, there are benefits for your workout from eating specific foods beforehand. Carbohydrates can be a great fuel source to help with your performance (2).
It’s recommended that you have some protein and carbohydrates to fuel your body before a workout. Your body breaks these carbs down into glucose for your muscles to use as fuel during training. This is especially true during resistance training or shorter and more intense exercise.
If you’re going to eat 2-3 hours before your workout, choose a protein source and slower digesting carbohydrate. Along with a lean protein source, some good examples for carbs could be:
• Whole wheat bread/toast
• Brown rice
• Sweet potatoes
If you’re going to eat within an hour of your workout, you may consider carbs that your body can break down and use for energy more quickly. Some good examples in this case would be:
• Granola Bars
Even though what you eat before a workout may not have a big impact on weight loss ... improving your workout performance can! That's why what you choose to eat before could actually make a difference.
What Should I Eat After A Workout For Weight Loss?
As you can probably imagine, what you eat after a workout is not as important as what you’re eating throughout the entire day. This is true whether you want to lose weight or even gain weight.
However, after your workout, you have a big opportunity to jump start the recovery process. This is where a rapid digesting protein and carbohydrate source can be beneficial.
If you’re training hard, your body breaks down muscle, uses up energy, and loses essential vitamins and minerals through sweat. It’s no wonder you feel so depleted after a hard workout!
Your body immediately looks for a way to replenish its glycogen stores, and essential nutrients. This is why a post-workout carbohydrate is phenomenal. On top of that, your body needs protein for muscle repair and recovery (3, 4).
Now, because your body is stressed after a workout, eating doesn’t feel like a huge priority. Some hunger cues may be suppressed as your body tries to sort out what just happened.
Plus, most of the blood in your body has relocated to your brain, your heart, and your lungs. This sounds like a good thing, right? Right! You want the blood that’s full of nutrients and oxygen to be in those vital organs to push you through your exercise.
One of the places blood leaves, however, is your stomach and digestive tract (5). So, slamming your body with a lot of food, or heavy food, may make you feel nauseous and not wanting to eat. It can also be harder for your body to digest the food for this reason.
That’s when I personally recommend a post-workout recovery shake. A combination, like Phormula-1 and Ignition, is designed to digest easily and rapidly to jump start recovery. This can help you earn the results you’re looking for … whether you’re looking to gain or lose weight!
Plus, each and every flavor is spot on, and they work great as a healthy and delicious reward after an intense workout.
Fuel Your Body
At the end of the day, your nutrition as a whole is what matters the most for weight loss. I’m not saying that what you eat before and after your workout isn’t important, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Your nutrition, exercise, sleep, and everything else make up the entire puzzle.
That’s why I recommend you get your ducks in a row when it comes to these things. If you’re not sure where to get started, that’s what we’re here for!
Heck, even if you are hitting a plateau, or could use more resources to earn the results you want, we can help. That’s a huge reason why we created the 1st Phorm App.
It’s the all-in-one tool to help you track your food, workouts, and progress all in one place. The 1st Phorm App even gives you a full library of workouts, educational videos, and livestreams to make sure you are educated and have a game plan.
Plus, you even get to work 1-on-1 with a certified advisor inside of the app! Some of them are even registered dietitians, like me, who will help optimize your diet to see the best results possible!
But, even if you’re not quite ready to download the app and start making incredible progress toward your goals … we’re always here to talk for FREE.
We actually have a full team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches you can talk to from 6AM-10PM Central any day of the week! Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com anytime!
(1) Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Wilborn CD, Krieger JW, Sonmez GT. Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014 Nov 18;11(1):54. doi: 10.1186/s12970-014-0054-7. PMID: 25429252; PMCID: PMC4242477.
(2) Ormsbee MJ, Bach CW, Baur DA. Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients. 2014 Apr 29;6(5):1782-808. doi: 10.3390/nu6051782. PMID: 24787031; PMCID: PMC4042570.
(3) Burke LM. Nutrition for post-exercise recovery. Aust J Sci Med Sport. 1997 Mar;29(1):3-10. PMID: 9127682.
(4) Vliet SV, Beals JW, Martinez IG, Skinner SK, Burd NA. Achieving Optimal Post-Exercise Muscle Protein Remodeling in Physically Active Adults through Whole Food Consumption. Nutrients. 2018 Feb 16;10(2):224. doi: 10.3390/nu10020224. PMID: 29462924; PMCID: PMC5852800.
(5) Leidy HJ, Clifton PM, Astrup A, Wycherley TP, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Luscombe-Marsh ND, Woods SC, Mattes RD. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun;101(6):1320S-1329S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.084038. Epub 2015 Apr 29. PMID: 25926512.
(6) Musch TI, Haidet GC, Ordway GA, Longhurst JC, Mitchell JH. Training effects on regional blood flow response to maximal exercise in foxhounds. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1987 Apr;62(4):1724-32. doi: 10.1152/jappl.19126.96.36.1994. PMID: 3597244.