Is Pasta Good Before or After a Workout? What Experts Think

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: November 27, 2023
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From my own experience as a personal trainer and holistic nutritionist, I've always leaned heavily on pasta for my carb intake. Sure, rice and sweet potatoes are in the mix, but nothing beats the convenience and carb-packed punch of a good pasta meal.

The big question is whether this is the right kind of source to choose for training purposes so that you have more energy available for your workouts.

And then there’s the question of timing. So I got together with my dietitian to find out what the scientific literature has to say about it.

Quick Summary

  • Consuming pasta as a pre-workout meal provides a significant carbohydrate boost, essential for fueling high-intensity workouts.
  • The timing of pasta consumption is crucial, with recommendations suggesting eating it 30 to 60 minutes before exercise for optimal energy utilization.
  • Over 80% of the calories in pasta come from carbohydrates, making it a highly efficient energy source for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
  • Personally, I find that incorporating whole-wheat pasta into my pre-workout meal offers a sustained energy release, enhancing my overall workout performance.

Is It Better To Eat Pasta Before Or After A Workout?

Top view of a person using a fork to eat pasta

Per the article published in Nutritionix, it’s better to eat pasta before a workout. The main reason is that over 80% of the calories in pasta come from carbs [1]. Whole-wheat pasta, packed with double the fiber, magnesium, and potassium than regular pasta, is your best bet.

But, here's the catch: this advice suits certain athletes at specific times. According to information found in FatSecret, a cup of pasta packs over 220 calories [2], so it's crucial to consider its impact on your body shape.

Speaking from my own journey, when I was in my bulking phase, loading up on carbs with pasta before training was a game-changer. But if you’re trying to lose unwanted fat or you’re in a cutting phase for bodybuilding, then such a carb load could be a bad idea.

Based on the article published in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, low-carb diets have a positive effect on metabolic rates and weight loss, so keep that in mind when planning to eat pasta before a workout [3].

Read More: Are Potatoes a Good Pre-Workout Snack?

What Are The Benefits?

Holding spaghetti on a fork

I've found that fueling up with pasta pre-workout is a game-changer. It's like a direct carb hotline for your body – perfect for an energy surge before intense exercise. Sure, refined carbs often get a bad rap, but they're just the ticket for quick energy.

Here's the deal: when you need a rapid energy boost, easily digestible carbs are key. They quickly convert to blood glucose, something our bodies excel at with starches.

Munching on pasta 30 to 60 minutes before hitting the gym ensures you've got a solid energy reserve to power through your workout.

“Think of starch as a time-release type of energy. When you consume starchy foods, you'll have a sustained energy level over a period of several hours.”

- Melodie Anne, Writer at 

How Much Pasta Should You Eat?

Raw pastas on a table

Match your pasta intake to the energy you'll burn in your workout. First, figure out your calorie burn – apps like Noom and MyFitnesspal are handy for this.

Let’s say your next session at the gym will burn 250 calories. According to insights from FatSecret, if you want to provide the full amount of calories with just pasta, then you’d have to eat about 200 grams, which is an awful lot [4].

But keep in mind that carbs shouldn't be your sole source of calories, and I would suggest that you limit your pasta intake before workouts to about 100-150 grams.


How Long Before Workouts Should You Eat Pasta?

You should eat pasta at least 40 minutes before workouts. You don’t want to start your training with a full belly, and it could even be more suitable to eat an hour before to give your stomach some time to start digesting.

Should You Eat Pasta Before Every Workout?

No, you shouldn’t eat pasta before every workout. The main reason to do this is to gain maximum energy from carbs for very intense workouts where you need a lot of energy.


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