How Long After Eating Should You Weight Train?

Snack for athletes (meal)
A plate of healthy snacks on a table. (Image: lola1960/iStock/Getty Images)

Eating the right foods before you weight train can provide you with the energy to optimize your performance. Timing your meal before weight training can help you avoid problems such as fatigue and stomach upset. If you do feel discomfort during your strength training workout, discontinue exercise until symptoms subside.

Time Frame

You should weight train approximately one to two hours after you eat. The size of your meal will also affect timing. Small meals can be consumed up to one hour before exercise. Small snacks are permitted two to three hours before exercise. Allow at least three to four hours before exercise if you eat a large meal.

Effects

According to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, weight lifters are three times more likely to suffer from heartburn when exercising than other athletes. Breathing between repetitions cause pressure in your abdomen to increase and excess stomach acid is pushed into the esophagus. Additional side effects of eating too close to weightlifting include fatigue, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. However, if you don’t eat anything before weight training, you may feel tired and decreases in strength.

Types

Because you'll be breaking down muscle fiber lifting weights, choose a snack high in complex carbohydrates, protein and a small amount of fat says Tiffani Bacchus, a registered dietitian, in an article for ACE Fitness; one to two hours before you weight train. If you weight train in the morning, you may need to wake up early to allow enough time for digestion before you exercise. Snack options you may want to consider are a scrambled meal of eggs, rolled oats and spinach; or fruit salad, bananas, sports drink, fruit shake, granola bar or yogurt with fruit.

Considerations

Remember to eat after weight training as well to aid in muscle repair and recovery. Within 30 to 45 minutes of the end of your workout, eat a small meal made up of carbohydrates and protein. Examples include peanut butter on a whole grain bagel, protein shake, chocolate milk, string cheese and protein bar. Also, drink water before, during and after your strength training routine.

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