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

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: August 26, 2022

If you ask any performance athlete what their main source of carbs is, then they will likely mention pasta. Things like rice and sweet potato are also common, but pasta is a very convenient way to get a lot of carbs in one 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

  • Pasta is a common staple food choice for many athletes as it can deliver a huge amount of carbs.
  • But relying on pasta as your main source of carbs isn’t the best idea, and it wouldn’t be a good approach to a balanced diet.
  • Timing your pasta intake is as important as choosing the right type and quality of pasta to make sure you get maximum benefits.

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

Top view of a person using a fork to eat pasta

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].

And even though they are refined carbs, these are very suitable as a fast and raw energy source to fuel your workouts.

Now, I have to add a bit more information here, as the benefits of pasta will mainly apply to a certain type of athlete at certain times.

Because one cup of pasta contains over 220 calories, it’s important to understand how this will impact your physique [2].

If you’re an athlete in a bulking phase where you want to gain more strength and lean muscle mass, then having a carb boost before training is a must.

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.

Studies have shown that 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: How to Get Energy Before a Workout (What You Need to Know)

What Are The Benefits?

Holding spaghetti on a fork

The main benefit of eating pasta before a workout is that you can provide your body with easily accessed carbs.

Now, some of you readers will question why I would recommend refined complex carbs when they can have quite a negative effect on your body composition [4].

And the reason is that there is a time and place where refined carbs can be beneficial.

When your body needs a sudden boost of energy, then you should provide that with macros that your body can easily digest and metabolize into blood glucose.

And that’s something that the human metabolism is very good at when it comes to starch.

So, by eating pasta 30 to 60 minutes before a workout, you can have enough energy reserves on standby to help you get through your sets.

“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 healthyeating.sfgate.com. 

How Much Pasta Should You Eat?

Raw pastas on a table

You should eat enough pasta to provide a steady supply of energy for the workout you’re about to complete.

Here’s what I mean.

You’ll need to have a good idea of how many calories you will burn for a specific workout.

Apps like Noom and MyFitnesspal are a great way to give you a pretty good estimate of your energy expenditure for a workout.

Let’s say your next trip to the gym will burn 250 calories. 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 [5].

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.

FAQs

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.

Try The Pasta Energy Boost For Your Next Workout

As long as you're not in a cutting phase or trying to lose unwanted pounds, eating pasta before your workout can be a great way to have enough energy for tough training.

And for an added energy boost and reduced fatigue, try adding a high-quality pre-workout supplement as well.

We’ve tried and tested many products over the years for safety and efficacy, so make sure to check out our guides:

These aren’t magic pills, but the natural ingredients can provide enough of a boost to make each training session that much better.


References:

  1. https://www.nutritionix.com/food/uncooked-pasta/100-g
  2. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/food/pasta
  3. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2018/11/27/effects-of-varying-amounts-of-carbohydrate-on-metabolism-after-weight-loss/
  4. https://www.freshly.com/blog/articles/complex-vs-refined-carbs-whats-the-difference
  5. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/generic/spaghetti-cooked?portionid=53104&portionamount=100.000

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