Timing Is Everything: When to Eat According to When You Work Out


By: , – Christine Mattheis, Family Circle
  :  50 comments   :  25,887 Views

You want to lose weight, so you try to eat less and exercise: a dieter's one-two punch. But there's a twist. Fine-tuning your meals according to when you work out (morning, noon or night) can help melt pounds faster, says Atlanta-based dietician Christine Rosenbloom, R.D. "The boost of energy you get will help you push yourself harder and burn more calories." Follow her tips for fueling up and slimming down.
If You Exercise in the Morning
Your body's main source of fuel is glycogen—carbs that have been broken down and stored in your muscles and liver. Your engine never fully shuts off, even during sleep, so overnight you lose nearly all of your stored energy.  

Before you put on your sneakers, have a 200- to 300-calorie meal with fruit or whole grains and a small amount of protein.
If You Exercise on Your Lunch Hour
Save your midday meal until after working out—you'll have enough glycogen left over from breakfast to fuel you. Plus, a new report shows that lunch burns off faster if you wait. In the study, people who exercised for 45 minutes experienced an increase in metabolism that lasted a whopping 14 hours.

Reload with lean protein, and vegetables or whole grains, within 30 minutes of the end of your workout.
Here are more tips, about what to eat according to when you work out, from Family Circle.
Related Articles From Family Circle:
 What do you like to eat before you workout? Is it depandent on the time of day?

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  • 123ELAINE456
    Great article and information. Thank You for the encouragement. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. - 1/23/2012   7:14:39 AM
    I need some ideas for a quick healthy breakfast. - 1/18/2012   9:42:40 AM
  • 48
    I am a morning workout person. If I exercise real early (6:30-7) I will wait until after my workout. If I workout later (8 or so) I need to eat beforehand. My usual breakfast is a protein bar, sometimes 1/2 of myoplex lite (mixed with skim milk) and some dried plums. This is the only thing that doesn't come up on me if I do eat first. - 1/16/2012   11:27:34 AM
  • 47
    But...but, if I eat breakfast first thing in the morning, I'm absolutely screaming ravenous half an hour later and hungry all day. If I wait till 10:30, I do better throughout the day. If I spend a sizable chunk of my calories right off the bat, there will be nothing left later in the day. I don't see how to do this effectively. - 1/15/2012   8:18:22 AM
  • AMANDA_A_725
    I never eat before I workout in the mornings - mainly due to time. If I getting up early enough to workout, I can eat and then wait for it to digest to workout. - 1/14/2012   7:45:15 PM
  • 45
    This is my second week of working out in the evenings. Unfortunately i'm having the hardest time trying to figure out when to eat. I find myself missing meals because I'm not hungry. What should I do? - 1/13/2012   3:36:31 AM
    Sometimes I eat before my walk or treadmill in the morning.but being a second shift worker until now I get a huge burst of energy in the evening like 8pm ? - 1/11/2012   11:23:15 PM
  • 43
    I am really needing to move to an AM workout, before work, in order to assure I get it in. I have been doing so without eating and feel at about the 15 minute mark I am losing ground- when I usually am picking up my pace at that point. I am going to try a glass of milk or something to see if it gives me a boost. I can't do too much though or I get an upset stomach. - 1/11/2012   9:29:10 PM
    I'm also a first-thing-in-the-morning exerciser. After discussing my needs with a nutritionist, I now drink 8oz of milk before I go out running. She said this would give me the carbs and some protein that I need for the workout. (She said yogurt would also be a good option.) I have my regular breakfast later after I finish stretching, showering, etc. It works well for me. - 1/11/2012   4:27:28 PM
  • 41
    My days are different. On the days I swim, I try to eat a protein bar or have a shake before and on other days, I go to gym mid morning, so have breackfast then gym and then lunch.
    But a good article and good info. - 1/11/2012   11:29:09 AM
    I am a morning person, so I have to work out in the morning, before work. And I can't possibly start later than 5:30 (about an hour after I get up) or I will not have time. I tried eating as soon as I get up, but I kind of felt sick, I tend to drink lots of water when I get up, to detoxify and rehydrate. So I don't see me really eating anything before workout. I guess it depends on the goal, and I have seen so many other studies that my head is spinning. This one will be changed in a week too. So I think the key is listening to your body and work with it. Everyone is different. - 1/11/2012   9:24:13 AM
  • 39
    I'm a morning exerciser and I've definitely noticed a difference in my workout since I've started having something to eat about 45 minutes or so before I workout. It's definitely a better workout. - 1/11/2012   8:40:46 AM
  • 38
    I'm a lunch-mid afternoon workout person. Mornings I'm normally still tired and evenings are my chill-out, child free sessions. - 1/10/2012   10:53:56 PM
  • 37
    It may not theoretically be ideal to exercise before breakfast, but you need to do whatever works for you. Fitting in exercise in the morning is a major accomplishment! - 1/10/2012   10:49:41 PM
  • DANAG49
    Interesting. I am with the morning exercisers. If I don't work out first thing in the morning, chances are it is not going to happen. If I have to eat first and wait for it settle...probably not going happen. I appreciate the info, but not sure I am going to change anything.
    - 1/10/2012   8:37:21 PM
  • 35
    I workout first thing in the morning because I know that I will stay more commited. I drink a full glass of water or lemon water(warm depending on my mood) then immediately head to the gym. Im still within a 2hr range before I eat breakfast and I fuel that hunger with oatmeal and fruit for ex.
    My only comment to this article said eat 200-300 cal breakfast before working out...would that not weigh heavy on your stomach, is that really a good idea? and if you follow Dr. OZ he said the best time to workout is 1-2hrs after you wake, so who is right here?! - 1/10/2012   8:07:35 PM
  • BECKY021984
    The link at the end of the article takes you to the rest of the tips and includes working out after dinner, etc. - 1/10/2012   7:52:11 PM
    Wow! Who knew when you ate and exercised mattered? - 1/10/2012   7:50:32 PM
  • 32
    I don't think they are talking about a needing a full meal. I find a piece of stone ground whole wheat bread with a tablespoon of reduced fat crunchy peanut butter and a tablespoon of Polaner spreadable fruit a low calorie and perfect start to a workout no matter what time your working out. Point is working out on an empty stomach is not the best thing for your body. - 1/10/2012   7:33:48 PM
  • 31
    Interesting. - 1/10/2012   5:56:43 PM
  • HUSKER90
    I do a spinning class at 5am and there is no way you can eat before doing something like that. I usually follow up with oatmeal or pb toast between that and heading to work - 1/10/2012   4:18:36 PM
  • 29
    I get up at 4 a.m. to workout. Usually it's a Muscle Milk right after, then breakfast a couple hours later. - 1/10/2012   2:41:33 PM
  • 28
    I work out in the evenings on workdays, so generally I've had a good lunch and then a couple of snacks through the afternoon. I try to not have any snack for about 2 hours before to avoid any digestion issues. I carry a quick carb snack (usually fruit or cereal bar) to have 15-20 minutes after the workout - or if I'm doing a rather long walk, if I feel I need it along the way.

    If I have any "morning workout" it's a brisk walk to work - 3/4 mile at 18 min/mile pace - and I eat once I arrive at work because that's where all my breakfast food is. - 1/10/2012   12:55:05 PM
  • 27
    I was told always to workout 1hr after you eat, depending on what you eat. When i workout early morning i never eat my breakfast until about 8. When i eat in the evening i eat light. But i always eat after i workout. - 1/10/2012   12:54:01 PM
  • 26
    I think that the calories burned/metabolism issue brought up in this blog is not what we should be thinking about. Instead, the question to ask is what do we need to do so we can have a good workout and what should we do to recover from a workout?

    When I was going on long weekend runs (training for the Portland marathon) this past summer...the coaches recommended eating something an hour before working out. And to recover, to eat some protein snack and complex carbs (and not caffeine) within a half hour. That was for maximum performance and recovery.

    Now, I am not training for a marathon, but I find that I need to eat something before I exercise in the morning or I totally bonk. But I am exercising at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, not 5 a.m. (I don't think I can eat at 5 a.m. very often).
    So I eat my normal breakfast at 7 and am fine.

    If I exercise at noon, I usually have a small snack before I work out if I feel hungry (say an apple or a handful of nuts), then lunch about 2 p.m. And that works for me.

    We need to figure out based on how we feel, how hard we are exercising (and what we need to eat to recover), and not the extra calorie burn we might get in my opinion.

    - 1/10/2012   12:32:49 PM
  • 25
    This seems to leave out a LOT of workout options. What about people like me who work out after work but before dinner? Or people that work out late at night? Boo. - 1/10/2012   11:41:59 AM
  • 24
    I would like more information about late night work outs. I can't usually exercise until after I get home, have dinner, etc. The fitness room is in my building and is open 24 hours a day - but I am not a morning person. I generally go after 9 or 10PM - then try to eat a lite protein snack after working out. Sometimes it's carbs - like a late night bowl of cereal. Is this good? - 1/10/2012   11:38:51 AM
  • 23
    Great Info - 1/10/2012   11:27:53 AM
  • 22
    Interesting! - 1/10/2012   11:26:02 AM
  • 21
    Good blog. - 1/10/2012   11:21:49 AM
    I work out in the evening because of work. And I usually eat a snack before and then dinner when I'm finished. I find that when I postpone dinner until after I work out, I don't eat as much! - 1/10/2012   10:57:05 AM
  • 19
    I'm with you LIZZYP609. The only time I really can workout is early in the morning before the kids get up, if I want to stay consistent. If I were to eat first, I'd have to wait for my stomach to settle, and by then, the kids would be up and I'd be rushing them around to get ready for school, and I wouldn't workout. It's just easier to do it first, then relax and eat breakfast with the kids. =) - 1/10/2012   10:46:37 AM
  • 18
    I am an early morning exerciser. If I eat first thing when I wake up (5am) I feel sick about 30 minutes later, regardless if I exercise that day or not. If I had to chose between losing weight faster or not feeling sick, I'll take the latter. - 1/10/2012   10:05:45 AM
  • 17
    Thanks for the good tips! I will have to remember this. I usually work out after work but before dinner. - 1/10/2012   10:03:36 AM
    I'm a first thing in the morning exerciser and I usually work out before breakfast. If I eat first I either have to wait a couple hours to work out (which really doesn't work with my schedule) or I feel awful while I work out because there's food bouncing around in there. - 1/10/2012   9:57:23 AM
    I start with a lunch group tomorrow :) - 1/10/2012   9:52:20 AM
    I tend to workout after my workday and before dinner. If I eat before a workout I will blow chunks!! I break a sweat and my tummy turns and its all bad from there! However I am going to "try" to start a lunch time workout and then eat a light lunch after. - 1/10/2012   9:51:44 AM
  • 13
    I don't know how anyone can work out before they eat! I usually workout after breakfast or lunch once my food has settled for about 30 minutes or so. If I don't eat within a few hours before my workout the decrease in my energy level is very apparent. - 1/10/2012   8:58:08 AM
  • 12
    Agreed! Eating before a 4am workout is not possible. - 1/10/2012   8:39:17 AM
  • 11
    I think it depends on personal habits, too. If I wake up and eat breakfast first, I am more likely to skip exercise and go straight to getting ready for work. If I exercise (possibly with a small fuel source beforehand- banana) THEN I eat, it works better for me. Maybe not my metabolism according to the study, but for me. You have to be realistic when it comes to timing, too. :) - 1/10/2012   8:23:33 AM
  • 10
    If I work out in the morning, it's really early and I don't have time to eat first. I often work out right after work, however, and eat dinner afterwards. I, too, wonder if I get the metabolism boost like the lunch exercisers do. - 1/10/2012   8:20:37 AM
  • 9
    Interesting, but this is another article that would be more impressive if the author's credentials were 'dietitian' not 'journalist.' There are MANY varying opinions among experts (even here on SP) with this topic, and I wish they'd picked someone more authoritative for this column. - 1/10/2012   8:16:15 AM
    Thanks for the article! - 1/10/2012   7:55:57 AM
  • 7
    Interesting article, but I would like it better if someone spell checked it (depandent?) - 1/10/2012   7:01:20 AM
  • 6
    Good Tips! Thanks! - 1/9/2012   7:49:22 AM
  • 5
    My workouts vary. If I am walking outside I tend to do it in the morning, after breakfast while it's cool, but light out. I do aerobics about 1-2 hours after lunch or even sometimes an hour or 2 after dinner. Strength training I typically do after low impact cardio to make sure my body is very warmed up. - 1/9/2012   7:38:18 AM
  • 4
    I just learned something - I usually work out in the morning before I eat anything. - 1/9/2012   7:29:55 AM
    Thanks for the info and encouragement. - 1/9/2012   6:50:50 AM
  • 2
    I didn't see my routine here. I workout before dinner. I just wonder if it would have the same effect as the lunch option. Any one have any opinions on that? - 1/9/2012   6:48:38 AM
  • 1
    Great article. Thank you. - 1/9/2012   6:28:37 AM

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