Eating before or after late workouts

Hey,

I’ve been on TR since October last year and am seeing really great progress. 95% of my midweek workouts I will do in the evening, usually starting at some time between 8pm and 9pm. I do a fair portion of the cooking for me and my partner as I’m home earlier, and we like to have dinner together.

We eat a prediminantly vegetarian diet and myself especially eat a lot of carbs in the form of fruit, vegetables, bread, pasta and rice. Not yet using any suppliments.

Usually I will eat dinner, then be on the turbo within about 30 minutes, after a 90 minute workout and a shower its pretty much time for me to hit the hay. I’ve always been of the thinking that eating just before going to sleep was not a good idea, but your body is most receptive to nutrients immediately after a workout which is where my confusion stems.

I suppose my question boils down to this really… is eating immediately before a workout as effective as eating just after a workout? (assuming what is eaten before is high quality).

Sorry for the long post, just trying to make my situation clear as this has been on my mind for some time now!

cheers!

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Hey, I’m glad you’ve asked this question. I’ll be looking for responses myself!

I’m the same and all of my midweek sessions start at 7 or 8pm by the time kids are in bed. I always eat after but only because I believed eating shortly before might impact me when food has not had time to settle. My issue with this is that I’ll have lunch at 1pm-ish and other than a mid-afternoon snack I’m possibly not nourished enough for my workouts.

Thanks for posting this.

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no worries! I imagine its pretty common quandary that a lot of people face!

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I would think that eating a full pasta dinner only 30 minutes before a hard ride would detract from the workout, but that’s just me. I also ride at night and usually have about 90 minutes between dinner and my after-kids-in-bed trainer ride.

I don’t worry too much about what I eat after I ride, as long as I’m in need of the nutrients I’m getting. If the ride was just a spin during an easy week, I might just have an apple and some water after I ride, but if its an FTP/VO2 type workout in a heavy riding/lifting week, I’ll make sure to get a protein drink with some added sugar and possibly a fair dosing of whatever leftovers are in the fridge. I commute to and from work by bike (30min~ each way) most days, most of the year and it doesn’t seem like much, but I can tell the difference when I don’t get enough into my system, even on the easy AM commute rides.

I’m not terribly concerned about “weight” per se. Weight loss columns are where I’ve always read/heard not to eat after X o’clock or you’ll stay fat etc… I have to fuel my ride, and my recovery… If it adding 30g of protein and 20g of sugar to my post-ride rehydration causes me to stay above 190lbs/86kg at 190.5cm/6-3 then so be it.

I don’t usually have much trouble falling asleep after a quick shower shower, but if that bothers you, I’d try to keep it light rather than reaching for the Alfredo leftovers.

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My weekday workout schedule is very similar, I start anywhere between 8:30 (usual) and 9:45 (some Tuesdays). I try to finish cooking and eating dinner by 6-6:30 at latest to give myself a chance to process, and it is usually a fairly large dinner. I will have a snack, usually a banana and a granola bar (or too many chips when I cave :p) before going to bed. And have a 30-40g carb drink while on the bike. So far it’s worked fairly well, though occasionally I’ll end up having a bit too much food after, and combined with the post-workout adrenaline, it can take 30-45 minutes to fall asleep. Unfortunately that’s all my schedule allows for during the week, so I take what I can get. With having to get 2-4 kids ready every day, there is no chance for mornings unless I wake up before 5am.

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I could pull off the mornings if no one was on the treadmill judging me for my overly sweaty workouts and “four by thingies”… Actually, we did both used to workout before work, but then we had a child who wouldn’t sleep, so we “compromised” and she gets to run every morning and I ride when I have the energy after the kids go to bed. And she is up before 4 at least 5 days a week, so I can’t really begrudge that.

seems like most people are in this boat! @kjdhawkhill sometimes it can be less than ideal to wat then workout within the hour but sometimes our hands are tied, y’know…

I think a carbohydrate drink on the bike is a good idea and might be something worth implementing.

Since starting training indoors (I used a wattbike at the gym for about 9 months prior to getting a turbo) I have lost about 12kg and now find myself with a ftp w/kg that I never thought I’d be able to achieve. I’m not millitant about my weight, buy while I’m putting in a lot of effort on the turbo, I’d rather keep it off where possible.

thanks for all the responses so far!

Doing turbo 30 minutes after dinner is not ideal. The perfect scenario is to do your workout at least 2 hours after a meal.

How you figure that out depends hugely on your work and family commitments and patterns. But a couple of possibilities…

  1. Make extra portions the day before, eat yours as soon as you can when you get home, then do turbo at normal time.
  2. Make dinner for you and your partner, do the turbo session, then reheat and eat your portion after.
  3. On one night, order takeaway or buy in ready meals, do the turbo as soon as you get home, then eat those (this is what we do on Tuesdays when it’s my most important weekday workout).
  4. Have dinner together at your normal time and then do your workout later (this is only really an option for easy Z2 workouts or you’ll struggle to sleep after).

Obviously some of these options involve either eating separately, or your partner waiting later than normal if you want to eat together. Talk to your partner and explain the situation, mine has been very understanding. It’s just a situation you need to work out together.

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Busy schedules here too.
My trainings mid week are also around 20h or a bit latter. I arrive home from work after picking my son at school around 19h and usually I prepare dinner so when my wife gets home after 20h my son as already dinned because he has to go to bed before 22h (he is 6 and gets up around 7h15). I never have dinner before. I can’t eat a big meal like dinner and go immediately to the trainer so my wife gets home and I go off to the trainer while she has her dinner and prepares the boy to bed.

Training starting at 20h or 20h30 if there’s over an hour plus some stretches sometimes I’m showering only at 22h and eating dinner after that so it’s hard to go immediately after this to bed. That’s my aquiles heal. I don’t sleep much, going to bed sometimes way after midnight and waking before 7h.

I cannot train in the morning except on weekends but I should make some changes at least so I can sleep a bit more than the usual 6h or so and sometimes even less. Last Tuesday I went to sleep only at 2h and woke before 7h so had a terrible day on wendsday and even the training last night felt extra hard.

Beter schedule of life and better rest needed here.

Thanks for the suggestions, I think there are some workable solutions here. My partner so far has been super understanding with the Turbo workouts in general so hopefully this is no different!

No.

Exercising will interfere with the digestion of the food you have just consumed.

okay, so my current routine is far from ideal.

I currently do not have time to eat a couple of hours before working out, then eating immediately after and allowing an hour or so before going to sleep (to be fair this is only when the workouts are 90mins+)

By the sounds of things it is more important to allow time for digestion before working out then it is to eat immediately after (when this is pretty much right before sleep)… correct?

Well, I may have been blunt in response to your specific question but reality doesn’t have to be ideal, everything is a compromise in life. :slightly_smiling_face:

If the way you’re handling it is working, you’re not seeing any problems, keep going :+1:

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I am in a similar situation… by the time I get my kids to bed, it is around 8/9pm when I begin my sessions. I eat dinner at around 6/6:30 as I like to give myself 2-3 hours to digest. If I have less time before the workout to eat then I will likely have a very carb centric meal. You mention that you cannot eat much earlier than you are right now, but perhaps if you take a high carb snack (a sandwich, some granola, bean salad etc) approx 2-3 hours before will allow you eat a bit less at dinner. When I am done my workouts, I want my body to focus on recovery during my sleep so I keep my late trainer sessions apres meals to a minimum… I have a banana/apple and a shake with 1 scoop of Vega recovery mix (only 80 calories) and sometimes add a Vega protein scoop (I use the all in one mix which is much more nutrient dense than only protein) if the work was demanding. I always wake up in the morning with a big bowl of oatmeal, 1.5 bananas diced in, with berries topped with a little bit of maple syrup. It is replenishing my body as much as it is fueling it for the day.

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It really depends on how you want to prioritize a bunch of different things. I think you need to sort the importance of the following things

Optimally fueling for your workout
Optimally recovering from your workout
Eating with your partner

If optimally fueling your workout is the primary goal then you should plan to have a small but substantial snack about two to three hours before your exercise and then eat another portion of food afterwards (how much of each depends on you and your general caloric needs).

To try to combine that with recovery (sleep) and eating with your partner (as secondary objectives) you could follow a number of different options such as @martinheadon has suggested.

I’d propose you look into cooking options that allow you to start the meal cooking quickly and easily as soon as you get home (think slow cooker, pressure cooker, or sous vide - things where if they are in longer than needed aren’t negatively impacted) and then immediately ride (at the time you’d usually eat). Finish your ride and your food should be done preparing and eat a later meal with your partner.

If that isn’t feasible, or if you have a different top priority you would need to pursue other options. Maybe it is a different priority each day - you could do as I have proposed on the ‘hard’ days but eat early with your partner (your current schedule) on ‘easy’ days

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Another late night trainer here.

I usually get back home for a 6 o Clock dinner and train at around 8. Having had a few sessions (particularly VO2 max ones) where I have felt decidedly iffy because of training too soon after dinner, I have recently been trying to note down how long after meals that I train (I think Jonathan recommended it in the podcast once). I’ve found that 2 hours seems to work pretty well, but surprised myself the other day, by managing a longer Saturday workout an hour and a half after dinner. After workouts I’m usually pretty zonked and fall asleep pretty easily.

For later trainers, I’ve really found that having a large lunch, and light dinner is a good way to avoid on-bike stomach unhappiness. Every time I have a big dinner, I pay for it later on the bike :frowning:

I think a bigger lunch and lighter dinner is a good way to go and is something I have tried to do lately with pretty good results.

When I’ve needed to I’ve eaten a full dinner afterwards, trying to stay up for a bit afterwards rather than going straight to bed, hopefully giving me a chance to get going with digestion and repair.

it’s just one of those things that most people have to deal with; trying to juggle life and training!