If you’re looking for answers on whether to eat before or after exercise to promote weight loss, research on the topic may leave you more confused. That’s because a commonly cited article seemingly recommended fasting before exercise, leading to a rash of other articles and blogs using the research as evidence that exercising before eating increases fat burning.
Unfortunately for those wanting to figure out the answer to fueling question the study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, was looking at whether or not people who are eating 50 percent of their calories in fat should exercise before eating. If you’re on such a diet, then it would appear that exercising in a fasted state does offer some benefit, but how many of those who want to lose weight through exercise actually fall into that category? Most people concerned about nutrition, fueling and performance are not eating half of their calories in fat and are not eating more calories per day than their bodies require.
The study muddied the nutritional waters because what we eat contributes to what we burn as fuel during exercise, making the results inapplicable to the general population, as few nutritionists would advocate switching to a high fat, high calorie diet to aid burn more fat during exercise.
For those with a more standard diet, a 2011 study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that fasting before undergoing moderate exercise did not improve fat metabolism. The conclusion of this study? Eat a light meal before exercising.
What’s more not eating before exercise may cause dizziness or lack of energy, both of which can lead to a sub-par workout and probably will not aid in weight loss. Fainting on the treadmill at the gym won’t help you achieve a smaller waistline but will lead to smaller wallet after you fork over the ER co-pay. Of course for many, eating too much or too heavy of a meal before exercise leads to stomach discomfort or worse. For those individuals, small amounts of an energy drink may be the best alternative. If you’ve just had a big meal and want to follow-up your steak and potatoes with a good workout, experts recommend giving it 3 to 4 hours to digest.
The bottom line of this research suggests that eating a light, carbohydrate-based meal before exercise may give you the energy for a good workout, ultimately furthering your weight loss goals.