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The most often asked questions about meal timing and exercise answered by our Director of Nutrition, Suzanne Fisher MS, RD, LDN.

The most often asked questions about meal timing and exercise answered by our Director of Nutrition, Suzanne Fisher MS, RD, LDN.
1. What should I eat before and after working out?
Food and fluid intake should be determined with the individual athlete as well as the duration and intensity of the exercise in mind.
Before activity: Eating before exercise can improve performance, as opposed to fasting prior to workouts. These are the general guideline: adequate fluid needs to be consumed to maintain hydration, food should: be low in fat and fiber to encourage gastric emptying and prevent GI distress, high in carbohydrate to maintain blood glucose levels and glycogen stores, moderate in protein and food that the runner is used to consuming.
Amount consumed depends on timing of your workout. It is imperative not to consume a meal that is too large which may interfere with gastric emptying. Early run times can be difficult to time properly in order to eat before heading out the door. In these cases, I recommend grabbing a small snack within 30-60 minutes before a run. Some of my favorite pre workout snacks are toast with peanut butter, a banana or an energy bite. For afternoon or evening workouts, consuming 300-400g of carbohydrates 3-4 hours prior, has shown to enhance performance. Again, intake is generally personal and based on what works best for each individual and their tolerance level.
After activity (Recovery): The timing and composition of the post workout meal depends on the length and intensity of the training session. Consuming carbohydrates within 30 min post exercise will increase glycogen levels more efficiently than when the carbohydrate intake is delayed. Choosing high glycemic/faster digesting carbohydrates will result in greater muscle glycogen levels. Adding protein to the post exercise recovery meal will provide needed amino acids for muscle repair.
2. Is it better to train on an empty stomach if I prefer an early morning workout?
Consuming a small snack or meal pre workout will increase blood sugar and allow for readily available sugar or fuel to be sent to the muscles. Fasting prior to exercise will quickly use up any stored carbohydrate as fuel and the body will have to rely on larger stores of fat.
Fat is the primary fuel during moderate exercise vs. strenuous exercise where carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel. Recent research points towards increased fat loss by fasting before exercise and a larger weight loss if carbohydrate rich food is consumed before hitting the gym.
I am an advocate for eating a small snack before heading out for a workout to avoid potential hypoglycemia, fatigue and abdominal discomfort.
3. How much water do I need if I am working out?
Hydration is extremely important when exercising. Being adequately hydrated will aid in optimal performance. Heading out for a workout in an already dehydrated state, could lead to potentially life threatening injury such as heat stroke. Dehydration occurs with losses of >2% body weight and can impair performance. Hydrate to decrease the risk of electrolyte imbalance. Muscle cramps typically accompany dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and muscle fatigue.
b. Before exercise: At least 2-4 hours prior to exercise, drink at least 5-7ml/kg of water.
During exercise: The theory behind drinking during exercise, especially in hot environments that promote sweat (sodium) loss, is to prevent a water deficit of >2% body weight. The type of hydration chosen will depend on type and duration of exercise. Drinks that are at least 6-8% carbohydrates are recommended for training sessions greater than 1 hour.
After exercise: Inadequate fluid intake during exercise, could easily result in dehydration. Consuming a normal meal and drink post run, should rehydrate. If dehydration remains an issue, the body can be rehydrated by drinking at least 16-24 oz of fluid for every pound of body weight lost while exercising.
Watch Suzanne explain the best meal timing when working out: