Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Food for fitness: is it better to eat before or after exercise?

By David Bentley

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding food intake and exercise – is it better to eat beforehand or afterwards? And what type of exercise benefits most from eating?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Eating before exercising is important for preparing to and recovering from exercise, especially in athletic competitions. Food contains potential energy or fuel that helps muscles continue to contract during exercise, especially exercise of long duration (more than 60 minutes).

But it’s common for people to not eat before exercise because they tend to be concerned it will make them feel sluggish, or cause cramps or an upset stomach.

This is a common misconception. The fact is most nutritional guidelines recommend people eat some form of food in the hours before exercise, especially carbohydrate or sugar.

Simple sugars or carbohydrates can be broken down by your body quickly to provide energy that will keep muscles functioning during exercise.

There are a number of things you should consider when thinking about food and exercise, including the type of food, how much, what type of exercise is being performed (and for how long), as well as your health or sporting objectives.

What to eat

In order to make use of the fuel in food, it must be broken down, absorbed and moved to the muscles by the blood. So the food you eat before exercise is really only useful once it’s been digested and absorbed.

It takes time for the potential energy to become available for the body. During exercise, blood shifts away from the digestive track to...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.