Can You Eat Fried Food Before & After Workouts?

Whether you’re eating fried food because you’re having a cheat meal, in a bulking phase, or simply because it’s cheap and convenient, adding them at the right time of the day is going to be crucial for your performance and gym results.  This leads many people to wonder whether consuming fried food pre or post-workout is optimal meal timing.

So, can you eat fried foods before or after workouts? Having high-fat foods, like fried food, before your workout will likely produce bloating and sluggishness, so it’s not ideal to have pre-workout.  Fried food is also not ideal to consume post-workout since your body requires certain nutrients at this time to recover from your workout, which fried food lacks.  

In this article, you will learn everything about fried food and exercise, including:

  • Reasons why you might consider eating fried foods around your workout
  • Optimal meal timing for fried food if you’re looking to optimize your gym performance
  • General tips on how to include fried food into your diet if you work out

What Defines A “Fried Food”? 

First, it’s important to define fried food because not all fast food is fried food, and sometimes your home-cooked meals can be. 

Fried food is where you cook it in very high temperatures of oil. It is usually done in a pan, where you end up immersing the entirety of the food in oil.

It doesn’t really matter what type of food you fry in oil, but it often includes proteins like chicken, meat, and fish.  But it can also include starchy or non-starchy vegetables (like potatoes or broccoli).

Fried food is also usually covered with a breading or flour mixture. For example, fish sticks are generally breaded before placing them in the frying pan. This is one of the reasons why fried foods are usually very high in calories because they absorb the extra fat (from the cooking oil) and contain extra carbs (from the breading).

Thus, when thinking of fried foods, we usually think of fast foods: chicken strips, french fries, fried chicken, or fried fish.  But depending on how you cook your home meals, some of your recipes may also be considered fried food.

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Are There Reasons To Eat Fried Food Before or After Workouts

As a Registered Dietician, many of my clients ask whether they can eat fried foods either before or after their workouts.  When I ask them why they would consider this type of food around their workouts, here are their most common answers: 

Short of Time 

A common scenario is that you are heading to the gym after a busy day at work, where you couldn’t have a proper lunch and are hungry. You stop by a fast-food place because they are everywhere and it’s the fastest solution for you to eat.

Although this is a very typical scenario,  the excuse of “lack of time” is not a valid reason.

Nowadays, we have the advantage of several fast food places that offer healthy meals or healthy snacks on the go.  I’ve written all about these types of fast food restaurants and what to eat if you’re looking for healthy pre or post-workout meals.

Looking To Add Calories (During A Bulking Phase)

Another common reason for eating fast food around a workout (and one that I am guilty of using as an excuse) is that since fried food is high in calories, it is ideal for those with a high caloric intake.

If you are in a bulking phase or have ever been in a bulking phase, you probably know that reaching a high caloric intake during the day can be challenging. Getting those extra calories is essential for your muscles to grow. Thus, you try to find ways to add calories without feeling too full.

That is where fried foods come into place. For example, one small portion of French fries can have approximately 250 kcal. This is the same as having 2/3 cup of rice with ½ an avocado.

The fries are not as filling and won’t take up as much room in your stomach, so this allows you to eat more calories during the day without feeling stuffed.

Although this tactic might help you out once in a while, other strategies can help you accomplish eating extra calories without adding fried foods around your workout.

For example, healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, olives, nuts, and seeds are energy dense. This means that they also provide a lot of calories in a small portion of food and adding them throughout the day will help you achieve a higher caloric intake.

It’s Usually A Cheaper Option

Finally, the most common reason people opt for fried food is its low costs. However, this might be true in some cases, other options can be as cheap and healthier than fried food.

For example, if you are looking for a pre-workout snack to provide you with enough calories, a protein bar is equally or cheaper than fried food. They will give you the proper amount of carbs, proteins, and fats to endure a tough training session.

Can You Eat Fried or Oily Food Before Workouts? 

No, fried foods are not the best option to include before working out. Fats take longer to digest. Before training, you need immediate energy to have during your training session, which fats don’t provide. Also, since they stay longer in your gut, they might increase bloating and make you feel sluggish before training.

Consequences

The main consequence of adding fried food before working out is reducing your performance. This can be due to feeling full, having a stomach cramp, bloating, or feeling sluggish.

If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or any other gastric problem, adding fried food before working out (and regularly) is not the best option since it can increase your symptoms.

What to Consider When Eating a Fried Food Before a Workout?

If you need to eat something before working out, and the only option available is to have fried food, it is probably okay to have it once in a while. For example, if the choice was between not working out or eating fried food and then going for a workout, I would definitely eat the fried food and not skip the workout. 

However, keep in mind that you might not have the best performance, which on occasion, is okay and won’t impede your overall fitness goals.

If you do add fried food before working out, keep the soda off your menu. The fizzy effect of soda can increase your bloating. Also, since fried food is already high in fat, avoid adding more fats to the equations (like mayonnaise, cheese, or ranch dressing).

Also, depending on your fitness goals, eating fried food generally can either help or jeopardize them. If you are a bodybuilder in a cutting phase, you need to consume fewer calories than your body needs to lose that fat. Since fried foods are high in calories, I would not advise eating fried food at any time of day if your goal is weight loss. 

Want to learn more about fats before a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat Before A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)

What To Eat Before a Workout Instead?

The primary goal of a pre-workout snack is to provide energy for your training session. The preferred energy source for your body is carbs. Thus, the best food to include before working out are sources of fast-digesting carbs like oatmeal, fruits, rice, quinoa, and bread.

Can You Eat Fried or Oily Food After Workouts? 

Yes, you can eat fried food after training. However, it is not the best option to include regularly since it lacks vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients (like antioxidants) that help your muscles recover. If you add fried food, make sure that it has a protein source like (chicken, fish, or meat).

Consequences

Although you might still experience bloating or any gastric distress after consuming fried food post-workout, since you are no longer exercising, your performance will not be affected.

The main consequence of adding fried food after training is that you won’t provide the body with the necessary nutrients to you recover.  What this means is that if you had a tough workout, and then eat fried food, your recovery process might take longer than normal. 

What to Consider When Eating a Fried Food After a Workout?

If fried food is the only option available and you won’t be able to eat within 4-6 hours of working out, then you might want to include it. Fried food can provide you with some components your body needs to help with muscle growth, like calories and protein, and it’s certainly better than not eating at all.

When you add fried food after a workout, make sure to balance it out with whole foods so that you consume at least some essential nutrients that you wouldn’t otherwise get from simply eating the fried portion.  For example, if you order fried chicken, then opt for a side salad instead of having fries.

What To Eat After A Workout Instead?

After a workout, you need carbs, protein, fat, and veggies.

After a workout, you need protein to help your muscles grow, you need nutrients to help with recovery, and you need calories to aid in muscle growth.

To create the optimal post-workout snack or meal, add one from the following categories.

  • Carbs (they replenish the energy lost): oatmeal, fruit, brown rice, sweet potato, beans, and pasta.
  • Protein (they help repair and grow your muscles): chicken, fish, meat, eggs, Greek yogurt, and a protein shake.
  • Veggies (they provide optimal vitamins and minerals for recovery): carrots, leafy greens, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, broccoli, and cauliflower. They also provide antioxidants that have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Finally, nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and calcium are all essential nutrients lost during training. They need to be replenished to prevent muscle cramps, help sleep, and have good bone health. 

In most cases, fried feet are not very high in nutrients. You can find magnesium in whole grains and legumes; potassium in bananas and dried fruit; and calcium in dairy products. 

Related Article: Can I Workout After Dinner? What To Eat + 6 Things To Know

Tips On Eating Fried Food Before or After Workouts

tips on eating fried food before or after workouts

If you are thinking of including fried food before or after your workout. Here are a couple of tips to help you do it the best way possible.

Wait 2 Hours Before Working Out

If you are going to include fried food before working out, make sure to have it at least 2 hours before training. That leaves enough time for your body to digest most of the food and prevent having any gastric distress during your workout.

If you don’t have that much time before having food and a workout, make sure to choose only one fried food, for example, instead of having fried chicken with fries and soda. Opt for the fried chicken, a baked potato (or mashed potato), and some iced tea.

Add a Whole Food Option

As a general rule, for every fried food, there needs to be at least one whole food. This means that if you have fried fish sticks, make sure that you add whole food as a side. You can opt for a baked potato, quinoa, or some salad.

This will ensure that you will have a dose of nutrients during the meal.  

Only Once a Day 

Don’t depend on fried foods for your meals. Have it only once a day to avoid adding too many unhealthy fats, and getting a nutritional deficiency due to the lack of nutrients.

If possible, also try having it 1-2 times per week instead of every day.

Opt For Healthy Fried Food

If what you are missing is the crunchy sensation that fried food has, there are other ways that you can get the same texture. Air fryers are an excellent option for those who want fries without all the fat it involves.

Want to learn more about fats after a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat After A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)

Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?


About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.