If you’re confused about the appropriate food intake and timeline one should follow before a workout session, join the bandwagon. While most people make up their own rules, here are some facts that will help you make better decisions:

The No Food Gang: Those who workout on an empty stomach, risk the breakdown of muscle tissue and increase their chances of injury. They feel tired much sooner and have slower metabolic rates, leading to sub-par results. What’s worse, they tend to binge eat and make all the wrong choices with their post-workout food.

PS: Here’s what you should be eating.

The Indulgent Gang: Loading up on high carbs will basically undo the effort you put in at the gym, even before you hit the machines. Also, if you eat too close to a workout and your food hasn’t had enough time to digest, you may feel like barfing, and even risk stomach cramps.

The Smart Gang: Pre-workout meals can be used as a fuel to ignite your workout performance; those who know this, will benefit from it greatly. What you eat and when you eat it, is what matters. You should consume carbohydrate rich meals and snacks that break down to create the energy you expend during a workout. But here’s a two-part trick to the formula:

Part 1: Timeline
As a rule of thumb, at least a one hour gap between working out and snacking is essential. But the key word here is ‘snacking’, not having a whole meal. These foods should typically be less than 200 calories, so that they serve as fuel and don’t convert to fat.

Part 2: Snack Wise
While the timeline holds true, it’s also important to assess the level of activity you will be indulging in, to determine what you should be snacking on. Some light yoga may warrant fiber rich foods that are low-cal, while you can go the whole 200 calorie hog if Pilates, strength training or an hour-long cardio session is on the agenda.

With this rule book in hand, plan your meals for best results and don’t resort to impulsive snacking or starvation either. Diet is a big part of fitness and health, so give it the attention it deserves.