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How Soon Should I Eat Before a Bodybuilding Workout?

author image Kim Nunley
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.
How Soon Should I Eat Before a Bodybuilding Workout?
Bodybuilder chugs down a protein shake before a workout. Photo Credit: artiemedvedev/iStock/Getty Images

Properly fueling your body before your bodybuilding sessions will improve your workout performance and maximize your program’s results. Bodybuilding workouts are typically of high intensity and require a significant amount of time out of the day to train. Failing to eat before your workouts can lead to fatigue, but eating right before your lifting session can leave you working out with a full stomach.

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Your nutritional habits and how you fuel your body will make a significant impact on the results of your bodybuilding program. Building muscle mass requires you to increase the amount of muscle protein in your muscle cells by consuming more calories per day. The food that you eat before a workout is what is going to fuel your muscles and other tissues during your training.

Pre-Workout Meal Timing

Any meal before your workouts should be consumed 45 to 60 minutes before training so that your body has adequate time to digest the food, according to guidelines from Rutgers University. Allowing adequate time also prevents you from suffering from upset stomach during your workout.

Pre-Workout Meal

The meal that you eat before your bodybuilding workout should primarily include a significant amount of complex carbohydrates. If you’re interested in improving your muscle mass, your meal should also include some protein. Do not eat foods high in fat before you workout, as they take a significantly longer time to digest. Drink some fluids during your pre-workout meal to ensure that you’re appropriately hydrated.


Pre-workout meals should be on the smaller size. Examples of quality pre-workout meals include a banana and yogurt, a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk, a bagel with jelly, fruit smoothies and some sports bars.


Eating after your bodybuilding workout is also important to your muscle-building success. A small meal that consists of both protein and carbohydrates should be consumed within 45 minutes after finishing your workout, notes Rutgers University. For the short period after your workout, your body is better able to absorb the glycogen, protein and nutrients. Protein synthesis, which is important in the muscle-building process, increases its rate when you eat after your workouts.

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