Pre-Workout Problem: To Eat or Not to Eat?

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By far, one of the longest standing debates in the health and fitness world is whether to eat before a workout, after a workout, or both! Because it is also one of Chris’ and my most frequently asked viewer questions, we thought we’d settle the debate once and for all… to eat or not to eat? View the video below for our stance, and some helpful hints for fueling your workout!

Okay, so we didn’t exactly?squash the debate, but it truly is a matter of personal preference and opinion. Find what works for you and stick with it. What works for me, doesn’t necessarily fit the bill with Chris, and might not for you, either. Experiment with your eating before and after a workout and discover what feels natural for you!



Related post:

To Eat or Not to Eat…Before Exercise?

37 Responses

  1. I’ve looked through this article and didn’t see it. is there a recommendation on which days to do high and which days to do low? IE low on workout and high on rest or vice versa? I crossfit 3x per week and that is it right now. I plan on walking for about 30min each evening now that the kids are out of school and hopefully turn that into running. I AM NOT A RUNNER πŸ™

    1. Hi Brittany: What works for one person as far as working out on a low or high carb day might not work for another person, so I’d do what works best for you. Many people do best having their toughest workouts on high carb days, but some people do just fine with low carb days too. And you can totally become a runner! I’d start with walking for a couple of weeks, then go to a walking to running ratio of 4:2 minutes week 1, then slowly increase the running minutes each week something like this: 3:3 (week 2), 2.5:5 (week 3), 3:7 (week 4), 8:2 (week 5), 9:1 (week 6), 13:2 (week 7), 14:1 (week 8). Repeat these ratios each day for a total of 30 minutes of running/walking, and aim for 3-4 days a week (3 works great!). You can repeat each week if you need to also. Before you know it, you’ll be running for 30 minutes straight! This is a beginning running program from Runner’s World, and it’s amazing! πŸ™‚

  2. I have a question. I’ve downloaded the app. Love it! But I notice that on some days breakfast is something other than a protein shake. I workout first thing in the morning. So should I swap those meals around so that I can drink my protein right away after working out??

    1. Hi Charlene: There are many breakfast options to choose from, so choose those that will fit best into your workout routine! πŸ™‚

  3. I am hoping to get pregnant in the next few months and would love to hear Heidi’s suggestions on a fit pregnancy and if the carb cycling is a bad idea until after I have the baby. Is there a protein powder she suggests (of thier brand) that would be good to use as a meal replacement while pregnant)? I know Heidi was super fit while she was pregnant so would love suggestions on how to stay in shape and be healthy, and then what she did after she had the baby! Also, in preparation for pregnancy I was going to buy this book and carb cycle for 6 weeks.

    1. Hi Kim: Here’s a post that outlines Heidi’s pregnancy/breastfeeding nutrition program, and I hope it can give you some good ideas: As far as protein powders, Chris and Heidi recommend low-fat, low-carb powders with around 20 grams of protein per serving. And you’ll want to run any supplements (including protein powders) by your healthcare team first while pregnant/breastfeeding. As far as exercising goes while pregnant, it’s also best to discuss any exercise program with your healthcare team first and then follow their recommendations. They are the best ones to help you put a program in place since they know your health history and can work with you throughout your pregnancy for any modifications might be needed. We wish you the best!

  4. Hi Heidi/Team Powell! I requested your Extreme Transformation book for Christmas and I am loving it! I have last 8 lbs in one month! And the majority of the recipes I am really enjoying. In fact, I feel really indulgent being able to eat cottage cheese and greek yogurt! πŸ™‚ I am a mother of 4 young children (7 and under) and my question is more of a logistics thing. I have been particularly impressed with your breakfast recipes and my kids have enjoyed them as well. Even before your book I tried to find ways to fit veggies in at breakfast. Anyway, how do you eat breakfast within 30 minutes, when the recipe takes longer than that? For example, one of our favorites has been the Egg and Cheddar ‘Sandwiches”. The sweet potato buns, however, take 30-40 minutes to cook. So even when I do a bunch of prep the night before, it still takes time to cook! I have been having a few bites of a carrot as soon as I get up, then I do my metabolic mission and accelerator . . . . which usually take about 30-40 minutes (I am just finishing week 1 of my second cycle) . . . . and then I make breakfast. So the rest of my meal is happening an hour to an hour and half later, depending on the recipe. The no bake oats are delish and I bulk prep those for some mornings . . . but I also love eggs and don’t like making separate meals for everyone. I’m just curious if you have any tips or what you would suggest.

    1. Hi Andrea: Congratulations on loosing 8 pound! That’s awesome! For recipes, like the Egg and Cheddar Sandwich, you can pre-cook the sweet potatoes and then warm them up in the microwave the morning you eat them. You can also substitute recipes in the program (breakfast for breakfast, high-carb for high-carb, etc.) if that will make meal prep easier. You can also put your own meals together (there’s info on this in Day 4), or a combo of the two options. We want this program to be as user friendly as possible! And here’s a blog post about eating and working out that might help too: Keep up the amazing work – you got this! ?

  5. Hi, I’m starting my plan cycle turbo carbs, but not that kind of training add to my routine in the gym if they could help with any routine or advice.? . i am from venezuela

  6. Hi- just a question. I am a teacher, (stressful job) some of my colleagues have lost and look great using your carb cycling. I bought the book, read most of it the first night! Lost 5 lbs the first week! What kind of protein shakes you recommend? How many grams of carbs can I have on my low carb days?


    1. Congratulations on those 5 pounds gone – that’s awesome! In carb cycling, we really don’t count grams of anything, just portion sizes (and calories if you’d like). There’s an awesome graphic in this post (as well as some other very helpful info) that outlines how to put together every meal in carb cycling: As far as protein powders, Chris and Heidi love their Vemma Powell Perfect Protein Powder, and you can contact Bob Brenner (one of our amazing season 3 transformations) if you’d like any information on their Bode line of products. In general, Chris and Heidi recommend whey-based powders with between 15-20 grams of protein and less than 5 grams of carbs per serving. You got this!

  7. bom tarde HEIDI,amo vcs ,tenho uma grande duvida se minha meta de caloria se resume a 1400 caloriasse eu consumir 1000 calorias apenas, tenho alguma desvantagem?posso emagrecer ou o corpo retem a gordura? bjsss

    1. Hi Rivania: (Traduzir usando Traduz Google) Em Heidi e Chris ‘programa de ciclismo carb, as mulheres comer 1200 calorias / dia em dias de baixa carb e 1500 calorias / dia em dias de alta carb. Voc? pode aprender mais sobre isso aqui: Se voc? est? comendo muito poucas calorias, e tamb?m queima calorias atrav?s do exerc?cio, ele definitivamente pode afetar a sua perda de peso. D? seu plano de uma tentativa – que funciona!

  8. Getting Geared up for the next 12 week Bode Challenge wanted to know when the next one is starting? Putting a team together to help each other achieve more in 2015! Carb Cycling program that I put my body on and through is the best things I have shared and dedicated to overall health and fitness lifestyle.

    1. You can start a 12-week Bod-e Challenge at any time, however, our next Bod-e Challenge technically starts January 1, 2015, and the last day to submit your results will be May 10, 2015. If you start prior to January 1, then you just need to finish your 12-weeks, and your final weight in/results will be automatically in the system come May 10, 2015. Good luck!

  9. My “to eat or not to eat” dilemma usually happens in the evening. I workout after work around 7pm, by the time i’m home and out of the gym it’s almost 8-8:30pm is that too late to be eating or drinking a low sugar protein shake? I usually go to bed by 11pm but I know a lot of people don’t recommend eating so close to bed time.

  10. Hi, I just watched the video on black friday but couldn’t make out the brand of shoes Chris and Heidi recommend to wear. Could you please post. thanks darc

  11. Heidi and Chris, I don’t eat a lot at all. Most meal plans are a lot more than I eat on a daily basis. What’s the best way to alter my meals/snacks if I only consume half of what is recommended?

    1. It’s hard to answer this question without knowing exactly what you’re eating. If you’re interested, Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program is awesome! It can work if you want to lose weight or maintain your weight. You can find it in their book, “Choose More, Lose More for Life.” And here are the nutrition basics:

  12. Heidi,
    Thank you so much for bringing me here. I’m so dang tired of living like this. I’ve been a prisoner of this body far to long. I’m tired of hiding in my home so the world won’t see my failure. I’m still a young woman ( 41 ) and I want to live !
    A lot of childhood issues have drove me to this ugly place but I want to let it go and forgive myself. Ugh !
    Anyways… Thanks again, I appreciate you more than you know !

  13. Can you please put Close Caption on your videos so i can understand what you are talking about which its important for me to understand even other deaf people too.

    Thank you…

    1. I just double checked, and that option is available on some of the videos. I’ll check with our technology team and make sure they try and make close captioning available on all videos. Thank you!

  14. I want to start working out.I need to lose 50 to 80 pds. I feel awful very low self esteem.I was terminated from my job in Sept I was there 15 years im 50 and have to start over.I’ve been really depressed and have gained 25 pds. in 3 months.I put in applications everywhere now my computer has died and my child does home school on line so add that to more depression. I know there are people worse off then me.I was denied unemployment no insurance bla bla bla.I want to feel good about me again.So could you send some exercises I could start doing.I walked a mile today just because its nice outside on crappy days I can’t. So some inside floor exercise would be great.Heidi and Chris you two are awesome thank you..Sandi

    1. Hi Sandi: We’re so sorry to hear about all you’ve been going through lately. Here’s a great idea that can help you get started on your transformation journey today: Check out Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program in their book, “Choose More, Lose More for Life.” The book contains their complete nutrition and exercise program, and it’s the same one they use on the show. It will teach you everything you need to know and do to achieve your own transformation! Learn all about it here: There are some awesome links within this post that will help you understand what to eat and how to exercise – even within your home. You can do this!

    1. They stick to the low carb meal guidelines (unless it’s breakfast) and eat a protein and healthy fat. Some people prefer to eat 1/2 before and 1/2 after, but do what works best for you.

  15. When I workout, I try to make sure I have something in my stomach beforehand and I eat some protein right after, like almonds or peanut butter. Or I workout right before lunch and eat my meal after. Sometimes, like Heidi, if I work out too soon after I eat something, I feel nauseated. However, no matter what I eat or when I work out, I make sure I am well-hydrated!

  16. Any advice or thoughts on waiting an hour after waking to eat? I take a thyroid med that requires an empty tummy and wait an hour til first meal. Thanks!

    1. If that’s what your medication requires, then that’s the best thing to do. You will still be fine waiting an hour to eat.

  17. When I do my lunch hour workout I do like you suggested in your video, I eat half of my lunch before I work out and the other half after. When I go for my Monday night boot camp workout I have to eat a few hours before the class or I feel sick to my stomach. I have stomach issues so I can’t eat food to close to when I go to sleep so nothing after the boot camp workout.

  18. I’m a crossfitters and working on some Olympic lifting for my schedule I have to work out at the end of the day and I usually spend 5 days a week doing this I however have been stuck at the same weight for months and I loose and gain 5 lbs over and over it’s supper frustrating… I also am a plant based athlete I eat a very vegetarian/vegan diet and typically I try and eat as clean as I can however I cannot lose weight… I weigh 173#s and I’m 5’2 so I know that is clearly over weight… I just don’t know if I’m eating enuff or eating 2 much I typically eat about 1000 calories a day maybe 1500 but I’m just not sure what to do anymore I want to get stronger but I also want to get to a healthy weight…. I have some health issues associated with this weight it’s called pcos and I gain weight easily but loosing is hard….. Even with how active I am… I’m at a loss and don’t know what to do…. Can u recommend just something for me??? Thanks for ur time!!! I love u guys and watch all I can from the both of u!!!

    1. Hi Stacy: Check out Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program in their book, “Choose More, Lose More for Life.” The book contains their complete nutrition and exercise program, and it’s the same one they use on the show. It will teach you everything you need to know and do to achieve your own transformation! Learn all about the nutrition basics here: There are some vegan options, and Chris and Heidi have had clients with PCOS who have had success following their program. You might discuss their program with your healthcare team so they can help you make any necessary modifications. Happy carb cycling! πŸ™‚

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