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What (and when) to eat before/after cardio?

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Ive heard that you shouldnt eat right before cardio, beccause then youre burning off what you just ate as opposed to burning off stored fat.

I usually do 50-60 minutes of cardio in the evenings right before dinner. Is it ok to eat right after working out, and what should the fat-carb-protein ratio be?
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I'd like to know this too.

I've heard working out on an empty stomach (first thing in the morning) works the muscles harder but you can't eat until an hour after the workout or your body will change the rate (slower, I think) it burns the fat.

On Excersice DVDs it always says, Do not Exercise if you've eaten a heavy meal in the past 2 hours. So I wouldn't. You'd probably feel a bit sickish anyway. I think your statement about burning food you've just eaten rather than stored fat is true. That's how the first-thing-on-the-morning exercise works.

I'd like to know all this as well because rarely do I find the perfect balance where I can run for hours and not get exhausted.

I've been told that two-three hours before your work-out to eat a snack, like oatmeal or peanut butter and jelly sandwich and that an hour beforehand, you should spike your blood sugar with orange juice or raisins.

I'm not sure about the latter--anyone ever heard of that?

Nutrient timing is a whole book in itself, but the advice isn't all that different for weight training and short-duration cardio - if you're going to be doing 2+ hours of biking or running you're going to need to load up on energy gels and sports drinks in addition to the standard advice as you'll be burning through your body's glycogen like nobody's business.

 You'd want some protein pre-workout as well, for optimal results - the current recommendation for Best Pratice is to have a solid meal 90-120 minutes before your workout, no later. The protein in your food mostly digests in 3 hours, and the whole point of pre-workout nutrition is to have protein available in your system while working out. Therefore, eating more than 2 hours before your workout potentially leaves you without available amino acids in your blood stream at the end of your workout - not good.

 Alternatively, you have a liquid meal in the form of a protein shake 0-30 minutes before starting your workout - I personally feel this is the better option based on David Barr's research, but either way will work.

 Post-workout, a protein shake with moderately fast-acting whey protein taken within 30 minutes of your workout and containing carbs in a 4:1 carb:protein ratio is supposedly ideal for recovery.

 You'd then go on to eat your regularily scheduled meal within 90 minutes of having the protein shake, as whey protein mostly digests that fast.

 As for specifics: Alan Aragon - nutritionist to the Lakers among others- recommends
Protein = 0.25g/lb Target Body Weight
Carbs = 0.25g/lb TBW
Protein = 0.25g/lb TBW
Carbs = 0.5g/lb TBW

Calculate your individual needs based on either your lean body mass if you know it, or your target bodyweight if you don't.

 Drink water before your workout, and if you're doing strenuous exercise, also during. Calorie- and carbohydrate-rich sports drinks are mostly a waste of calories unless you're doing endurance workouts lasting longer than 60-90 minutes.

 I used to think that all pre-breakfast workouts was just crazy talk until Dr. Lonnie Lowery convinced me otherwise - if you stick to cardio in the mythical "fat-burning zone". Normally I wouldn't bother with that as you burn more calories at higher intensity, but if you're working out in a fasted state you're going to be burning muscle protein for fuel if you work out at an intensity exceeding your fat metabolism's capacity. (Well, simplified. You'll always use some protein for fuel, your body always uses all three energy sources, but if you overdo the intensity you're going to use more muscle protein for fuel than your body can replace and you'll lose muscle mass instead of fat mass. The effect will be miniscule for any one session, a few grams here and there, but ten grams a day does add up over time, neh?)

 Considering the lack of intensity in pre-breakfast cardio compared to what you can get up to with HIIT later in the day, I'm not convinced that there's any real advantage to it, unless it's the only way you're going to get any cardio in at all.

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It doesn't really matter if you're worried about the calories in, calories out. If you exercuse on an empty stomach, chances are you're burning fat, yes. But if you exercise with a fuller stomach and burn the energy from that food, then at the end of the day your calorie deficit will be less, thus your body will release its fat stores anyway. Some people have no energy without a meal beforehand and others just feel sick to the stomach if too full, so the important thing is to do what suits your body. Anyways, doing any exercise is beneficial so I wouldn't be too worried about when and what time.

I don't know about the science behind my routine but I usually get up at 615am, have a half cup of coffee with a half cup of nonfat milk and something small like a banana, (super-healthy) bran muffin or a nonfat yogurt. I leave the house around 630 and walk/run with my dog for an hour.

After I get back home, I stretch and shower and then eat my breakfast which is usually kashi go-lean cereal, nonfat milk, toast with brummel and brown spread and orange juice OR an egg white omelette with vegies and parmesan, toast and oj.

Don't know if this will help, but I have stamina for my cardio and I can still work out early in the morning. I get hungry again about 3 hours later so everything seems to be working well.

I don't eat right before I do cardio. I tried it once after lunch because there is a gym in the shopping center down the street from my college where my friend and I had had our lunch. I did 30 mins of cardio and was sick to my stomach for about 3hrs afterwards - not to mention it went straight to my stomach and I was in the bathroom for like ever. Usually after my workout I wait like 30mins to 45mins before I eat something.

How bad is it to have a little caffeine before a cardio workout?  Like a small coffee (No sugar).

i go for a run first thing in the morning and have been doing it ever since i began running almost 35 years ago. its an hour long run and i dont feel tired at all . when i get back i do sum stretching and then have a cup of tea with a dash of skimmed milk. and then i start my day with vegetable juice and almonds . is this routine alright

I use the P90x recovery formula. I is a mix of proteins, carbs and vitamins.

O.K I've been having a protein shake(Isagenix) after my workouts.  My only concern is that I go to bed very late, and so do my workouts very late usually 10pm, 11pm sometimes midnight.  I'm just not a morning person.  I go to bed around 2 or 3am.  Would having a shake this late prevent weight loss?  I just started to do the Shalean Extreme workout/strength training 3x week and 1xcardio.  Also, if I am over 1200 cals/day is it best to skip the shake after the workout and just wait till breakfast or have the shake and be over on my cals? I am considering not having the shake as I'm not seeing much movement in the scale.  How long does it take for the body to gain 1 lb of muscle?  Is it reasonable to expect results as early as 3 weeks?????  So many questions...


Thanks, I'm a bit lost as to what to do.

The time of day you eat makes no difference to weight loss. The only reason some people think you lose weight by not eating after a certain time is that it means they eat less overall.

1200 calories is not enough if you are active, so keep the shake in your diet. The recommendation is not to go under 1200 cals, not that you can't go over this number. Aim for 1200 after deducting what you burn through exercise. If you burn 500 calories in a workout, try eating 1700 calories per day to give you energy, keep your metabolism high and lose more weight.

People who have been lifting weights for a while will find it very difficult to gain any muscle on a deficit (though they can maintain it). People new to lifting can gain as much as 0.5lbs of muscle and water per week while lifting, according to Leigh Peele.

I asked that same question a couple days ago. ut-ft143781

Thanks for your responce.  I'll keep up with the shakes.

It depends on the type of cardio you are doing.

If you are doing regular steady state cardio, they say to have a light meal/snack 1-2 hours before doing it/

If you are doing HIIT, you are supposed to treat it like a lifting session in terms of nutrition because it uses a lot more energy. So you would want a good portion of complex carbs and protein 60-90 minutes before doing HIIT.

In regards to what to eat after, I usually just wait an hour after my cardio and have my next meal.

Why do people feel the need to try to elaborate on the very detailed answer I already gave in this very thread?

 Post number 3 in this thread, and it doesn't matter whether you're doing cardio or lifting, the rules for nutrition are the same unless you're going to be racing for longer than 90 minutes.

Sorry Melkor. When I was reading through your post, I didn't see the word "HIIT" and it didn't register that by you saying "short duration cardio", you were talking about HIIT. Since no one else brought up HIIT, and I didn't think you did either, I wanted to let people know that HIIT cardio requires different nutrition. As you pointed out however, you already did this. Just under another name. Sorry..

Hey, no problem, really - I just had a little grouchy. Shouldn't happen, but it does, sometimes the sweet, sweet snark is irresistible ;)

 In practice, the really detailed "measure-every-gram" bit is not all that helpful for anyone but detail-obsessed optimization nerds like me; the performance difference between "oh, about a cup of cottage cheese" and "34.067g of whey/casein protein powder with maltodextrin" is only really useful for competitive athletes.

I get up at 3:40 AM 6 days a week. I am forced to be a morning person. Despite knowing proper nutrition and giving proper advice, the best I can do at 4 AM is a homemade smoothie that has fresh strawberries, blueberries, a whole banana, scoop of vanilla whey and 4 oz of water and ice.  I also down an enormous amount of coffee in the short duration it takes me to speed to the gym to open the doors.  I usually work weights anywhere from 4 15 AM - 6 AM [today was 4 35 - 5 50 AM] and then do diff cardio [anything from HIIT Sprints, Spin, Step...] - This morning I taught a Spin class - 60 mins. I Then like to have a breakfast within 15 mins that, for instance today was, 4 egg whites scrambled with 1/4 cup skim milk, 4 oz of thinly sliced filet mignon a whole wheat tortilla, a handful of almonds [while I was waiting for the eggs to finish cooking], one cup of lite OJ and half a banana. 60 mins later I instructed an Advanced Step class and just finished having another smoothie as a snack - identical to the one I had earlier except this one also had a met./energy booster in it - bc I'm TIRED ALREADY! I had a slice of turkey and half of a whole wheat bagel.  I have 4 more freaking classes to instruct today....will be glad when the majority of my instructors get back from vacas. next week! It's just impt to realize that even when you can't be perfect with your nutrition, do you best!! Treat your body like your favorite plant and know that just like plants, if you don't feed your body/muscles they won't grow!


Its is recommended to workout in the morning on an empty stomach. if you do cardio in the evening, when u go to sleep, ur matabolism slows down which stops the fat burning so you worked out for nothing. lol


I've been actively weigt training for about 8 mos now (after taking a break from weight training for several years) with initial results that were significant.  I am now working out on a 4 day split routine, high mass low volume weight training, and began reducing my overall caloric intake by about 500c a day to help reduce my body fat in to the low teens/ten range (I eat about 2300c daily, 25-35% protein, 45-65% carbs, and 10-20% fat).  However, I have hit a plateu.  I continue to make moderate strength gains in my excercises, but my waist has stayed static at 34" for about three months now (I'd like to drop it below 32") and my weight has stayed steady at about 185 pounds as well.  At 5'6", my scale says my BMI is about 18% and this too has stayed steady for about 60 days. 

I want to continue loosing inches off my waist (my main "weight" loss goal) and reduce my overal BMI; while bulding both strength and mass (yes, I want it all)--I don't care what my actual weight is.  Most importantly, I do not want to loose muscle size and strength while getting rid of the fat.

Reading excesively about weight training on a calorie defecit led me to beleive that it was impossible to build lean muscle while on a calroie defecit.  But, reading post # 3 has me questioning that.    I got the impression that lifting on a cal defecit, with properly timed prot/carb consumption (before and after workouts), would still afford me the lean muscle building properties while allowing my body to shed overall fat.   Is my understanding flawed?  I'd appreciate any suggestions for loosing fat while gaining lean muscle mass and strength given my circumstances?

Thank you.

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