If I eat before my workout, how long do I have to wait?

I work out in the morning and have for a number of years. Is taking a protein drink just as good as having a Powerbar? I mix my drink with water and milk. Then after my workout I have a peanut butter sandwich with oatmeal and a recovery drink. And if I eat before my workout, how long do I have to wait? C.G. Channahon, Illinois

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The purpose for eating prior to a morning workout is to top up your glycogen stores following an overnight fast. While sleeping, you burn through most of your liver glycogen in order to provide energy to your brain and body. A high-carbohydrate breakfast will help to offset this. A Powerbar (which has 42 grams of carbohydrate) or a bagel (which, depending on the brand, will also have 40-50 grams of carbohydrate) or oatmeal with raisins (about 40 grams of carbohydrate per cup) are great choices. A typical protein drink, on the other hand, will have much less of the carbohydrate that you need and will probably not be sufficient for providing the energy you need for a quality workout.

So, in order to improve your nutrition surrounding your workouts, you could actually take in something similar to your current diet, but simply change the timing. For example, you could have a peanut butter sandwich with a little oatmeal prior to your workout, and then have a recovery drink or small protein drink after your workout.

How long you have to wait after eating to begin exercising depends on the amount of food you eat. If you have a big breakfast, you may want to wait up two hours before your workout in order to digest your food properly and avoid stomach distress. However, if you need to get your exercise in soon after waking up, eat a smaller amount of carbohydrate that won’t be too difficult to digest. Some people find that liquids are a little easier to tolerate in the morning if they need to work out relatively early, although solid foods are absolutely acceptable if your stomach can handle them.

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