It’s important to eat a nutritious diet if you’re working out, but the timing of a meal may also affect your performance and recovery. This article looks at the best time to eat before a workout.

Q: How far in advance of working out should you eat?

Nutrition plays an important role in aiding exercise performance and recovery. Providing your body the right combination of nutrients before you workout can provide you the energy to perform and recover better

Each of the three macronutrients plays a role in performance and recovery (2, 3, 4, 5):

  • Protein: stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which aids muscle growth and recovery
  • Carbs: provides your body with glucose, your muscle’s main source of energy during shorter workouts and high intensity exercise
  • Fat: plays a role in providing fuel for longer, low to moderate intensity exercise

Timing your pre-workout meal can help aid performance and recovery.

For best results, aim to consume a meal 2–3 hours before your workout.

Your pre-workout meal should contain a balance of protein, carbs, and fat. The extra time you have before your workout should allow your body time to digest the nutrients and make them available for use during your workout.

Good examples of meals to eat 2–3 hours before a workout include:

  • lean meat with veggies and brown rice
  • a whole grain sandwich with eggs, avocado, and a side of fruit
  • oatmeal with peanut butter, blueberries, and a protein shake

If you’re pressed for time, you can still eat a meal as few as 45–60 minutes before your workout. However, the meal should be smaller and simple to aid digestion and absorption (6).

Instead of eating a balance of protein, carbs, and fat, your meal should consist of mostly carbs and some protein. These nutrients are digested faster and provide you the fuel you need in a shorter time period.

Good examples of meals to eat 45–60 minutes before a workout include:

  • a banana or apple with nut butter
  • a blueberry and banana protein smoothie
  • a hard-boiled egg and toast

Avoid eating too much food before a workout, as it may cause stomach discomfort, bloating, feelings of lethargy, or nausea during your workout.