When is the best time for eating and exercising? Let's start with exercise. With the exception of just before bed, anytime you can get in a workout is good. There has been a lot of research suggesting that if you workout in the morning, you're more likely to get it done. There has also been substantial research suggesting that if you workout in the afternoon, your pain tolerance is greater. Really, when you workout ultimately depends on your very own schedule. Making fitness a priority most days of the week is important, of course, but you'll get benefits no matter what time you see on the clock.
Eating, on the other hand, is different...so pay attention.
1) EARLY AM EXERCISES:
- You workout between 5am and 7:30am.
- Usually the "wake-up-and-workout" crew.
- Should you eat beforehand? Not necessarily. Unless you have blood sugar or metabolic concerns, your liver (storage tank for the body's sugar) should have enough fuel to get you through a 90-minute workout. Anything longer than that, you'll need to eat something small. Lightheadedness or feeling "off" always trump this rule. Eat something if either one of these symptoms occur.
- Eat breakfast within 45 minutes of finishing your workout. Ideally, get some protein within 15 minutes (an egg, protein shake, etc.).
- It's important to eat right for your body type, too. Here are some breakfast suggestions.
2) MID-MORNING EXERCISERS:
- You workout between 8:00am and 10:30am
- Usually the "muscle mom" crew.
- Should you eat beforehand? Yes. Eat breakfast and it's ok to get some healthy carbs into you. The closer you are to your workout, the less you should eat. In a perfect world, you can eat a regular-size breakfast three hours before your workout. The oxygen-rich blood that's been recruited to your stomach digesting food should be on it's way out marching back to your muscles. The closer you are to your workout, the less you should eat. Exactly what you should eat depends on your body type. If you want to know your body type and exactly what you should eat, read my book, The Belly Burn Plan.
- Unless you've worked out for 2+ hours, you don't need to eat again. If it's a normal snack time or lunch, then eat what you normally would.
3) AFTERNOON EXERCISES:
- You workout between 11:00am and 4:00pm
- Usually the "get-in-get-out" crew.
- Should you eat beforehand? If you're working out before lunch, but had breakfast, you don't need to eat beforehand. If you are working out after lunch, either eat small or don't eat too close to your workout. Give some time for your food to digest, no matter what you do. Your muscles need blood. Blood contains oxygen. You'll feel fatigued if you workout with too much food in your gut. You might also feel a little uncomfortable. Give digestion a chance.
- Like the mid-morning exercisers, there is no need to eat again after a workout unless it's been at least three hours since your last meal, or you worked out 2+ hours. Translation: If you spent 45 minutes on the treadmill running easy, then did 15 minutes of core work, you don't need to eat again.
- If you're running into lunchtime, here are some body type midday meal suggestions.
4) POST-WORK EXERCISERS:
- You workout between 4:30pm - 6:30pm
- Usually the "pre-dinner-rush" crew.
- If you ate lunch around noon and you're not working out until 4:30 (or a little later), you will probably need a snack. Something simple, but healthy should suffice. A piece of fruit, a hard-boiled egg, vegetables and hummus or a handful of mixed nuts eaten an hour or so before you workout should be enough to give you a burst of energy for your workout.
- After you've exercised, go home and eat. Don't dilly dally around on this. Eating too late at night promotes body fat storage. Our digestive enzymes slow down significantly when we hit the sack. When our food doesn't digest, it sits there much too long. Ever wake up a little bloated? This could be why.
5) EVENING EXERISERS:
- You workout between 7:00pm - 10:00pm
- Usually the "this-is-the-only-time-I-have" crew.
- The same rules for the morning exercisers apply here, too. If you happened to eat dinner, there is a good chance it's still sitting in your stomach. Eat light. This will help give you more energy. If you did not eat dinner, get your workout in, the go home and eat light. Because you're eating so late, aim for a little more protein in your meal. Your muscles can use it when you sleep, especially during the first cycle of REM sleep. Try not to eat or workout too close to bedtime. Both can disrupt sleep. A lack of sleep will put you behind the 8-ball when it comes to restored energy in AM hours.