To Eat or Not to Eat… That is the Question

Those of you who go to the gym in the early evening will currently be experiencing that confusing scenario of arriving during daylight and leaving in the dark. (And let us not discriminate against those who prefer early morning sessions and will obviously encounter the same phenomenon, just in reverse!).

For many people, the earlier autumn onset of darkness triggers a degree of sadness. The long light evenings have gone and with it any remanence of summer and sitting outside long into the night. Instead, we relocate back indoors, hunker down in the warmth and comfort of our burrows and dens. Often with the TV and food. Too much TV and way too much food.

Snacking in the evening is a typically British disease. We fill shelves and cupboards with all sorts of goodies in case of emergency and then proceed to devour them at the very first opportunity. But it’s all ok, as we have been to the gym and done a great workout, so that is fine, surely? It all balances out, doesn’t it?

And so we come to one of the most hotly debated topics in the murky world of exercise and nutrition; when is the best time to eat? Or more specifically, is it better to eat before exercise or after? Or both? Or neither?

Suffice to say that ‘neither’ doesn’t feature in any trustworthy studies and recommendations. But ‘before’, ‘after’ and ‘both’ do! The science is clearly complex, and involves different food groups behaving in different ways based on different exercise types and lengths, and different bodies, and so on… As we said, it’s complex. And confusing.

The only thing that does clearly emerge from the data is that eating before or after exercise essentially comes down to personal preference. Thanks for that!

But it does make sense. Some people prefer to fast before training, or they feel bloated and lethargic. Afterwards, it’s like having credit in the bank, and they are free to spend it. Others can’t even contemplate exercise on an empty stomach. They feel low on energy, empty inside, and even feint.

In many ways it goes back to the original premise of this article; some people prefer exercising first thing in the morning while others prefer later in the day. What is clear is that as the evenings draw in and daylight diminishes, we need to make sure that our hunkering hunger hibernation habits don’t put pay to all the good work we have done earlier in the gym. Good luck with that this autumn and winter!

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