Should You Exercise Before or After Breakfast?

Breakfast before or after exerciseTo maximize your fat burn and muscle gain, the best time to exercise is after you put fuel in your body. That means after fasting during sleep, you should:

  1. Eat breakfast
  2. Go about your morning routine
  3. Exercise

If you’re one of the workout enthusiasts who prefers training in the morning, you face the dilemma of eating breakfast before or after your exercise routine. There are two questions that people commonly ask that add believability to the myth that the best time to exercise to lose weight is before eating in the morning:

  • Won’t I get sick if I eat and exercise?
  • Won’t I burn more fat in my workout if I don’t put food in my body beforehand?

There may be some logical merit to each question, but the answers aren’t exactly what most people think.

Won’t I Get Sick If I Eat and Exercise?

Yes – an intense workout after a full meal is likely to cause discomfort and nausea. But that’s only true if you don’t allow your body to begin digestion before you work out. Once your body starts digesting food, it will process it as you continue your daily activities and provide you with easily accessible energy.

So when is the best time to exercise if you like high-intensity workouts? Just make breakfast the first thing you do every day. If you eat breakfast before you throw on your workout clothes and do your morning chores, you’ll be digesting well before you make it to the gym or even before you hit the trail just outside. You’ll skip the short period where you risk discomfort and have the energy you need to blast through your workout.

Won’t I Burn More Fat on an Empty Stomach?

No – your body doesn’t switch to an extra fat-burning mode on an empty stomach. In fact, it’s more inclined to pull protein from your muscles to convert to sugar for energy.

That doesn’t mean there’s a fat-burning penalty for not eating; you’ll likely burn just as much fat during your workout if you eat as if you don’t eat. But if you fail to eat before your workout, you’ll burn muscle tissue in addition to fat. If you had food available, your body would forego eating muscle tissue and just process the food you ate for energy.

Your body will also continue to use energy as it cools down from your workout and rebuilds muscle. Since it needs to not only repair the muscle tissue you used but also add to it, it needs extra energy post-workout. Many athletes provide that energy (and protein) through protein shakes and powders.

You can make post-workout meals a part of your morning plan. Eat a light, energy-dense meal before your workout, then maximize your gains with protein afterward. Keep your meals reasonable in size and content; if you’re having trouble fighting cravings for foods that don’t fuel workouts or muscle-building, you may want assistance from weight-loss medications as well.

Learn more about the best time to exercise to lose weight and how you can reach your weight loss goals with our exercise tips!