Should you eat before or after a workout? It depends on your gender

If you want to lose weight when you work out, you’re in luck: a new study has found the perfect time to eat if you want to burn fat.

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  • If you want to lose weight when you work out, you're in luck: Science has just found the right time for you to eat when you want to hit the gym and burn fat.

  • For men, the best time to work out is before eating, where as it's after working out for women, the study says.

  • In the study, which was featured on BBC's recent "Trust Me I'm a Doctor" program, men who worked out before eating burned 8 percent more fat than those who did so after, while women burned 22 percent more fat after eating than those who ate before.

  • The study said this is because men, who tend to be more muscular than women, will use carbohydrates as fuel. So when men eat before exercising, the exercise only uses the energy from the carbohydrates, which doesn't allow them to burn fat, Daily Mail reported.

  • Meanwhile, whatever a man eats after exercising will only be used to store more energy for the next workout, the study said.

  • "Men get a better effect if they exercise fast [as in don't eat] as they're putting more stress on the muscle to burn more fuel, so the muscles burn more fat," Dr. Adam Collins, lead researcher of the study, told Daily Mail.

  • But women will more often burn fat as a way to conserve carbs, Daily Mail reported. When women eat carbs, the energy is stored in the body, unlike a man's. So a workout immediately targets their fat, not the energy and muscle produced by the carbs, Daily Mail reported.

  • "Women have more fat around hips, bums and tums, better release of fatty acids into the blood, hormonal differences which mean they can be better and more frugal at conserving glucose [sugar from carbohydrates] and burning fat," Collins said. "This is probably an evolutionary advantage to do with pregnancy. If women are better at managing their fuels they have glucose to spare for the foetus."

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  • Though this study offers a guiding light for people on when and when not to exercise, it's not a solid answer. After all, there's been an ongoing debate for years about when is the best time to work out and eat.

  • Some recommend always eating after a workout, especially food that can help people grow muscles and recover the body after exercise. As Men's Fitness suggests, it can be especially important to eat a meal 45 minutes after exercising when "your body is the most responsive with absorbing carbohydrates and protein."

  • But there's also been some suggestions about eating before a workout, mostly to provide energy for physical activities. Rebecca Scritchfield, a sports nutritionist, said food often acts as energy to give people the push they need to perform a workout.

  • "It's this simple," she wrote. "Cars don't go far without adequate gas. Planes don't fly without jet fuel. Why would our body 'machine' operate without food fuel?"

  • Even though there seems to be a divide, the best method may be eating before and after a workout.

  • Dr. Nancy Cohen, the head of the nutrition department at the University of Massachusetts, told Time magazine that when you exercise and eat depends on what you're trying to gain out of a workout. And sometimes your exercise routine requires you to tweak your diet.

  • For example, she said it might be a good idea to pack in some carbs, especially complex ones, like whole grains and vegetables, before hitting the gym, since they will act as fuel to increase your workout potential. Other carbs, like cookies and processed foods, will only increase your weight and not your energy, Time reported.

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  • "In general, you'll want to eat a meal high in carbs and protein and low in fat roughly three to four hours before you exercise," Cohen told Time.

  • After your workout, eating is also recommended, depending on what you're trying to accomplish.

  • Cohen suggests eating or drinking some protein to help build muscles. Though it's also important to limit the amount of protein you consume, as too much can lead to kidney damage and weak bones, Time reported.

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Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.


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