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Can You Lift Weights and Eat Junk Food?

Find out how detrimental (if at all) eating junk food is to your performance.

Like all physical activities, weightlifting requires healthy and nutritious food and proper timing. However, weightlifting is also part of the bulking process, where you consume more calories to bulk up and build muscle. Still, the sole purpose of weightlifting isn’t only to bulk up, as you can lift weights for muscle strength, muscle definition, etc.

Healthy eating is preferable and recommended for any type of physical activity. It also requires time, which we don’t always have, and when we do, we cannot always prioritize cooking. 

Therefore, if you want to do your training and have energy, you’ll need to resort to quicker solutions. This is where fast food comes in.

How Does Junk Food Affect Our Bodies and Performance? 

There’s a reason why junk food is called junk food. It isn’t nutritious, contains lots of fats and carbs, and more often than not, it contains processed ingredients. The junk food cooking method is primarily deep-fried. 

A junk food meal before a workout would undoubtedly be a quick solution, but it isn’t a good idea in the long run. Since you are working out, you won’t be seeing any physically visible changes unless you go way too far with junk food. What you will experience will be how your body functions. 

Junk food is not easily digestible food, which means that your organism will spend a significant amount of energy digesting it. This means that you’ll probably feel drained and sleepy no longer after you have a junk food meal. 

In addition, what you get from junk food are the so-called “empty calories.” These are calories that don’t provide any nutrition to the body and go right to fat storage. You are likely to feel tired after eating this kind of food. 

Source: Polina Tankilevitch / Pexels

Also, timing your food is very important before and after lifting weights. The recommended time gap after your meal and before your workout is from 40 minutes to two hours, depending on what you’ll have. 

If your meal is lighter, you can make the gap 40 minutes. If you have a heavier meal, the gap should be about two hours. Now, assuming that you make a two-hour gap between your workout and your junk food meal, it will mean that your meal is now being digested. Since junk food is hard to digest, you will likely be digesting your food while lifting weights. 

However, since all you get are empty calories and your body is wasting a lot of energy, you’ll probably get tired a lot sooner than you usually do. Therefore, even though you had a big meal before your workout and you timed it well, you still won’t be making the most of your workout. 

Read More: Do You Have an Unhealthy Relationship with Food? (And How to Fix It)

If you’re lifting weights to bulk up, it means that you’ll need to eat more than what you spend, in which case it would make sense to eat junk food. Still, the muscle needs protein in order to grow, which isn’t something you get in abundance from junk food. 

You also need energy, which you get from carbs, and carbs are abundant in junk food. However, these aren’t the carbs that you need, as they come from processed sugars, fries, stale buns, and deep-fried meat. Again, empty calories. 

Fat is also something you can get from junk food, but you need healthy fat, and junk food can’t offer you that. 

Therefore, although a junk food meal may look like a balanced meal containing all the food groups you need when you take a closer look, it isn’t such a wise decision before lifting weights. 

If we are talking about whether or not you’ll be able to lift weights after eating junk food, the answer is yes. Junk food won’t prevent you from lifting weights; if that’s what you are worried about, you’ll still lift. However, you’ll find it harder compared to lifting weights after a clean meal and maybe a protein shake. 

Is It Okay to Eat Junk Food Before Workout?

Generally, nothing terrible will happen to you if you eat junk food before a workout. However, there will be visible consequences if you make a habit of it. If you don’t make it a habit, but just an occasional thing, you won’t see any changes, but you’ll definitely feel them.

Junk food drains your energy and enthusiasm, as all you’ve got will be directed at digesting. And you’ll keep feeling tired after you’ve digested your junk food meal because you will have spent most of your energy and gotten nothing in return.

The biggest problem with junk food isn’t so much that it is hard to digest, but it gives you nothing afterwards. There are healthy meals that take time to digest, but in the process, they nurture your body and give you energy so that you can get a nice workout. 

If you decide to have a junk food meal, see that you don’t do it before a workout but rather choose a time when you have nothing to do, and you can afford to be lazy. 

Is Junk Food a Good Post-Workout Meal?

In general, eating after a workout is more recommended than eating before it. When you work out without having eaten before, your body uses the energy from fat, so it is a very efficient way for fat loss.

By the same logic, if you want to have some junk food, you’d better have it after a workout. If you really want to indulge in fast food after working out, make sure it is a protein-dense meal. One example of a good protein junk food is chicken shawarma, since it includes protein from meat, and carbs from pita bread and vegetables.

Generally speaking, it’s never healthy to eat junk food; however, some studies have shown that junk food is just as effective in energy replenishing as a protein bar. Still, this hasn’t been proven yet, so take it with a grain of salt. 

Related: Why CrossFit Athletes Eat Gummy Bear And You (Probably) Shouldn’t)

Can You Gain Muscle if you Eat Junk Food?

There’s something called “dirty bulking,” and when you eat everything and anything, including lots of junk food, to gain mass, you will later turn into muscle. Although many swear by it, it isn’t an effective way to gain muscle. To gain muscle, you need lean protein, so unless your junk food meal contains protein without the fat, you won’t be gaining much in the muscle department. 


Who is the author? Laura is a frequent traveller who enjoys kickbox and hiking. She is especially curious about nutrition and cooking, and that’s why she started the blog juliescafebakery.com

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