Ask the Diet Doctor: Eating Before a Morning Workout

Q: When I work out in the morning, I end up starving after. If I eat before and again after, am I eating three times as many calories as I normally would be?

A: Not only will you not eat that much more, you should always fuel yourself before you exercise in the a.m. The key with working out first thing in the morning is that you want to energize your training session so you can perform at your best. Feeling sluggish and dragging through your fitness routine is no way to work out.

Despite what you may have heard, training fasted doesn’t lead to greater fat loss and instead allows for excessive muscle breakdown during and after working out. I have found that having clients fuel their training sessions is the quickest way to improve workout intensity and quality. I want you to have something before you train. But unless you get up early enough to eat a meal 90 minutes before your morning workout, you won’t have enough time to digest and assimilate a full solid food meal. Instead, try a snack based on your goals.

Goal-Specific Fueling

There are two basic categories that I use for pre-workout fueling-weight loss and performance-and each has its own strategy.

RELATED: The Right Way to Fuel Up for a Workout

Weight loss: If your goal is to drop pounds, having a scoop of whey protein or 10 grams of branched chain amino acids 20 to 30 minutes before you hit the gym can be all you need to power up your session. The amino acids in the protein or BCAAs will fuel your muscles and jumpstart muscle building while preventing excessive muscle breakdown. Their makeup allows you to readily access alternate fuel sources while training, like body fat, so you burn flab, not muscle.

Performance: Your training shouldn’t always be about weight loss and when it isn’t, I want add additional carbohydrates to your mix. Twenty to 25 grams of carbs in the form of coconut water or a sports drink in combination with the protein or amino acids mentioned above will give your blood sugar a slight bump so that there is ample fuel coursing through your bloodstream when you hit the track or gym.

Nutrient Carryover

One area of workout nutrition that we have long underappreciated is the carryover effect. When you have your pre-workout drink, these nutrients carry over to well after your workout is over. For example, one research study found that having a whey protein drink before a workout resulted in blood amino acid levels being increased for up to 2 hours following the workout. Your pre-workout shake does double duty of both pre- and post-training nutrition.

RELATED: 20 Foods That Can Ruin Your Workout

After your workout, you don’t need another shake, but instead have breakfast like you normally would. The performance pre-workout strategy only adds 150 to 200 calories to your day; if you opt for just the BCAAs pre-workout, there is no caloric value. Either way, you aren’t adding a lot of extra calories to your day, and the upside is a more intense and more effective workout.

  • By Dr. Mike Roussell

Exercising before breakfast may be most healthful choice

Figuring out when to exercise could be just as important as the exercise itself, according to new research on the relationship between meal times and workouts.

Share on PinterestNew research suggests that working out before breakfast has ‘profound’ health benefits.

Some studies suggest that the effectiveness of exercise may be tied to when a person eats.

However, it is rarely possible to translate findings from studies in lean people to those with obesity.

So, scientists from the Universities of Bath and Birmingham, both in the United Kingdom, set out to see if meal and exercise timing had a similar link in people with overweight or obesity.

Having obesity and living a relatively sedentary life can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

This is because insulin sensitivity is reduced, and hyperinsulinemia — a condition characterized by excess insulin levels — is increased.

Finding a way to prevent these insulin-related effects could potentially prove to be life-saving.

‘Profound’ benefits

The study, which now appears in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, aimed to examine how exercising before and after eating affected muscle fat stores and insulin response. It was the first to look at this relationship in people with overweight or obesity.

The experiment, which lasted for 6 weeks, involved 30 men the researchers categorized as either overweight or obese.

The team split these men into three groups:

  • one that ate breakfast before exercising
  • one that ate breakfast after exercising
  • one that made no lifestyle alterations

“Our results suggest that changing the timing of when you eat in relation to when you exercise can bring about profound and positive changes to your overall health,” says Dr. Javier Gonzalez, from the University of Bath’s Department for Health.

A greater burn

Participants who exercised before breakfast burned twice as much fat as those who exercised after eating the same meal.

There is a simple reason for this: When people fast overnight, they have lower insulin levels during exercise, allowing their body to use up more fat.

“Importantly, while this didn’t have any effect on weight loss, it did dramatically improve their overall health,” notes Dr. Gonzalez.

The muscles of those who exercised before breakfast responded better to insulin, better controlling blood sugar levels in the body.

Dr. Gonzalez says that this effect is “all the more remarkable, given that both exercise groups lost a similar amount of weight and both gained a similar amount of fitness.”

“The only difference was the timing of the food intake,” he adds.

The muscles of those in the group who exercised before breakfast also exhibited bigger increases in certain proteins — especially those responsible for delivering glucose to the muscles.

Even more notable was the fact that those who ate breakfast before exercising were no better off in terms of insulin response after eating than the control group.

Future focus

“This work suggests that performing exercise in the overnight-fasted state can increase the health benefits of exercise for individuals, without changing the intensity, duration, or perception of their effort,” states study co-author Dr. Gareth Wallis, from the University of Birmingham.

These particular findings are sex-specific, as the researchers only worked with men. Therefore, further studies will need to replicate the conditions in women to see if they, too, benefit from exercising before breakfast.

The breakfast that the participants consumed was high in carbohydrates, so future research may also need to examine whether low carb meals produce the same effects.

Longer studies will also need to take place before researchers can form any solid conclusions.

However, fasting overnight and exercising before breakfast could be the key to increasing the effectiveness of exercise in people with overweight or obesity.

Should I Eat Before My Morning Workout?

Morning workouts aren’t for everyone, but for those of us who love them (or just love to get them over with early in the day!), deciding whether to eat breakfast before or after is a pretty common dilemma.

Head straight out the door for a morning bike ride without eating or drinking, and you may not have enough in the tank to power through it. That’s because over the course of the night your carbohydrate stores, which your muscles rely on for energy during exercise, have been used to maintain your blood sugar and provide energy to your brain. On the other hand, eating a full meal before working out could lead to stomach cramping, indigestion–or worse. (If you don’t know what I mean by “worse,” trust me, you don’t want to.)

The good news is, it’s possible to be properly fueled for a morning workout without the unpleasant side effects that send you running to the nearest restroom. It’s all about what you eat, and when you eat it.

Before Your Morning Workout

  • 30-60 minutes before you lace up your sneakers, have a carbohydrate-rich snack, like a piece of fruit, a slice of toast with jam, or a low-fiber granola bar.
  • Drink a tall glass of water to help digest your snack and rehydrate after those 8-12 hours of laying around.
  • Avoid fiber and fat since they take more effort for you body to digest and can cause an upset stomach.
  • If eating early in the morning doesn’t agree with you, have some applesauce or a small glass of 100% fruit juice. Just stay away from the more acidic juices like orange or grapefruit since they can irritate your stomach. You can also hydrate with a diluted sport drink instead of regular water. The added carbohydrates will help keep you going.

After Your Morning Workout

Enjoy a healthy breakfast that contains complex carbohydrates and protein within 1 hour following your workout. Doing so will replenish your energy stores and help build and repair muscle. Here are a few great post-workout breakfast ideas:

  • A yogurt parfait with granola, fruit, and a sprinkle of nuts or seeds
  • A smoothie made with yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, and some avocado, peanut butter, flax, or chia seeds for a dose of healthy fats
  • Oatmeal (made with milk for added protein), topped with dried or fresh fruit, nuts, or nut butter
  • Eggs with sautéed veggies (think: spinach, tomato, caramelized onions), a slice of whole grain toast, and a cup of reduced-fat milk. Grab a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts if you’re still hungry.

Don’t sabotage your morning workout before you even get started. Eating the right things before and after will keep you fueled and help your body recover afterwards!

Do you exercise in the morning, too? What are some of your favorite workout-fueling foods?

Should You Eat Before Your Morning Workout?

A commonly asked question amongst the early rising gym-goers is should I eat before my morning weights session and if so, what should I eat?

With the vast amount of information surrounding pre and post-workout nutrition, it can be time-consuming sorting through the hundreds of forums, articles and “expert recommendations” to find the answer that suits you, your goals and your lifestyle.The best answer is that everybody has different nutritional needs dependent on a variety of factors, so we have tried to simplify the answer this question, by separating it for those seeking to lose weight, build muscle or enhance performance during their training sessions.

If you’re training first thing in the morning with the goal to increase your lean muscle mass, or to perform at your best, you should absolutely aim to get a meal in prior to your training session. As you sleep and your body rests, it utilises the stored glycogen in your liver and muscles to repair and recover your body. This glycogen ideally needs to be replenished before your next workout to ensure you have adequate fuel to provide energy to the muscles being worked. This will ensure you have a good quality training session, allowing you to train for longer and harder, and hopefully achieve some PB’s along the way.

So what should you be eating? As your glycogen stores have been depleted as you sleep, you will need to intake an adequate quantity of complex carbohydrates accompanied by a lean source of protein before your workout. A good number to aim for is 25% of your daily intake of carbohydrates, but if that is too much too early, start with something smaller, and add the additional carbohydrates to your post workout meal. A great example of an easy, quick and delicious meal before hitting the gym is a bowl of oats with a scoop of protein powder, or a piece of fruit with some boiled eggs if you’re in a rush. These meals will provide your body with long-lasting energy and amino acids to ensure you can perform at your peak, activate the maximum amount of muscle fibres and consequently make some lean muscle gains!

Intra-workout supplementation is another way you can replenish energy reserves while helping to improve your performance, which can be taken at the time of your exercise. If you want to keep adequately fueled during your session try adding some Amino Acids (namely BCAAs, which describe three key components of protein once broken down) and quick digesting, liquid carbohydrates into your drink bottle. This way, you will continually fuel yourself through the entirety of your training, which will reduce muscle catabolism (breakdown), allowing you to preserve your muscle mass and pull up less sore the following day. Our favourite BCAAs are MTS Machine Fuel or Core Nutritionals ABC, which has added Beta-Alanine which reduces lactic acid buildup in muscles. For Intra-workout carbohydrates, you want something that will digest quickly, but provide sustained energy. Our favourite sources are MTS Carb 10 or All American EFX Karbolyn.

There is however, one situation where eating before your morning weight session might not be as crucial as previously described. Much like when performing fasted cardio, performing a weight training session without having consumed any food beforehand is a fantastic way to promote the breakdown of stored body-fat to be used as energy, resulting in weight loss. If this is the predominant goal of your training, it is recommended to consume a high-quality intra-workout BCAA supplement such as MTS Machine Fuel or Core Nutritionals ABC to ensure your lean muscle is protected from being broken down while in this fasted state. In combination with a high quality fat burning supplement such as MTS Drop Factor or Core Nutritionals Burn Ultra, you will notice an increase of energy during you training session, an increase in body temperature and perspiration and an elevated heart rate, resulting in an increase in your daily calories burned which will inevitably lead to a reduction in stored body-fat. Pair these products with some high-quality Acetyl L-Carnitine such as AlcaPure, which transports broken down body fats into muscle cells where they can be used as energy.

Whether you should eat or not before your morning training session therefore is largely dependent on your personal goals. It is highly recommended to intake some calories when you are trying to build muscle or perform at your best, but it isn’t as necessary when weight loss if your goal. If you are trying to lose weight however, and find yourself feeling faint or hungry when you omit a pre workout meal from your regime, we strongly recommend consuming something small such as a banana or a protein shake prior to getting into the gym. You can simply add some additional cardio after your weight training session if you are concerned about missing out on the opportunity to exercise in a fasted state. After your weights session, you will have utilised the glucose supplied from your pre-workout meal, so can relinquish the opportunity.

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When you get up before dawn to crush your a.m. workout, it’s easy to forget about food—especially if you have a snooze button habit that gives you just minutes to get out the door. (Girl, I’ve been there.) The other problem: For some people, the thought of stomaching food right out of bed—and just before a major sweat sesh—seems less than appetizing.

Still, there are definitely benefits to fueling your body before banging out a few miles or a solid strength workout. Luckily, nutritionists are here to help you figure out how and when to eat so you can crush your workouts every time (you know, without feeling like you’re going to vom).

Do I need to eat before my morning workout?

It will likely help your performance, though it does depend on a few factors including: your individual needs, the type of exercise you’re going to do, your ability to digest food, and if you have time to eat afterward, says Mary Jane Detroyer, RD and ACE-certified personal trainer.

“Your body’s supply of glucose is severely depleted after a night of sleep, so there’s little glucose left to fuel a morning workout. Unless you restore your glucose supply, you’re more likely to feel sluggish and fatigued sooner,” says Torey Armul, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

First, consider how long you’ll exercise. Detroyer says it’s a good idea to squeeze in a snack if you’re going to sweat for more than 30 minutes. Armul adds that if your morning workout is intense (think: HIIT, swimming, or spinning) or lasts longer than 45 minutes, it’s even more important to eat something beforehand.

But what about the concept of ‘fasted cardio’?

You might have heard of fasted cardio a.k.a. doing an aerobic workout in the morning without have any food beforehand. And while that might work for some people, if you’re looking to push your body, that’s probably not your best bet.

“Some people consider exercising in a fasted state the ‘fat burning zone,’ because the body turns to fat for fuel when glucose is not sufficient,” says Armul. “However, fat is converted to energy more slowly, so you’ll likely feel more fatigue and less energy and intensity during your workout.”

So, what should I eat if I do need fuel?

Go for simple carbohydrates that digest quickly and easily, plus a small amount of protein and fat for a little substance, says Armul. Try these options from both experts:

If you can only stomach a small snack…

Toast with peanut butter Cheese with crackers A smoothie

Made with fruit, milk of choice, and a ½ scoop of protein powder

Piece of fruit

If you want more of a meal…

Oatmeal Peanut butter and jelly sandwich Whole grain cereal

With milk and fruit

Egg sandwich

Keep in mind, carbs are the most important factor to fuel your workout and keep your energy up while you sprint or crank out strength reps, says Detroyer. “You use protein afterward for muscle repair,” she says.

Do I need to wait after eating to start my workout?

That depends on how well you digest the food, says Detroyer. If you feel okay to start exercising right after you eat, go for it. But if your stomach tends to feel sensitive mid-sweat, you might consider waiting for an hour or two before your workout. If you don’t have that time to spare, try a smaller meal.

To play it safe, though, go for simple carbs (think: a banana or peanut butter toast)—most people can tolerate them without nasty stomach pains, says Armul. If you have a meal with lots of protein and fat—nutrients that digest slower—it can lead to bloating and cramping.

“Observe what goes on and how your body feels during the workout,” Detroyer says. Ask yourself: Am I stronger? Do I have more energy? Am I experiencing cramping? It might take a few tries to figure out what’s best for your body.

Here’s how a WH fitness editor preps for her morning workout:

What should I eat after I’m done with my workout?

You still need carbohydrates after your workout, but protein is the most important nutrient for muscle recovery and repair, says Armul. Aim for 10 grams of protein within 30 minutes of strenuous exercise, and another 10 within two hours after that.

Detroyer suggests bringing a post-sweat snack or meal with you so you eat it right after your sweat sesh. The same intensity and duration rule applies after your workout as it did for your pre-workout fuel: If you only did 30 minutes of exercise at a low to moderate intensity, it’s less important to eat than if you had a tough session for 45 minutes to an hour.

Need some guidance? Try these smart post-workout foods:

  • Chocolate milk
  • Nuts, like almonds, cashews, or pistachios
  • Cottage cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • A hard-boiled egg and fruit
  • A smoothie with a full scoop of protein
  • A protein bar like Rx
  • One serving of turkey
  • Cheese with a piece of fruit

And don’t forget about water!

“Hydration is just as important as fueling,” says Detroyer. “When you get up in the morning, aim to have 16 ounces of water before you go to the gym. And bring a bottle with you.” Just like that: You’re set for a successful morning sweat.

Mario Carpe Mallory Creveling Freelance Writer Mallory Creveling, ACE-CPT, has more than 10 years of experience covering fitness, health, and nutrition.

What To Eat Before A Morning Workout

Many successful people make morning workouts a regular part of their workday routine to boost their energy and get set for a powerful day ahead. It’s a great way to fit some essential self-care into your day first thing so that, no matter what else happens, you did something nice for yourself to support your overall health and well-being. Studies have also backed up the benefits exercise has on the mind and body.

While midday and evening exercise is also great, for many busy folks, the morning is their prime time. My nutrition clients who lace up their sneakers to greet the sun say it’s because it feels good to get it out of the way and helps them get into a can-do mindset so they feel they can tackle whatever the day throws at them. It also sidesteps the issue of trying to juggle the gym with other after-work commitments or carving out time later, when their schedule is less predictable.

A common question about morning workouts is this: Should you eat before? And if yes, what should you eat?

Barbara J. Chin, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian-nutritionist at New York’s Hospital For Special Surgery, says it depends. “Activities that may be lower in intensity or are more for leisure instead of an outcome of performance, eating beforehand may not necessarily be essential, but it’s still recommended.” However, for more intense activities like cardio (think running, cycling or swimming), strength training, or exercise with high repetition of movements like gymnastics, dancing or martial arts, she says, pre-exercise nutrition is vital.

If you’re not adequately fueled, she explains, “your body will likely be more sluggish and will fatigue much more quickly. You won’t be able to exercise as fast or for as long won’t be able to lift as much weight or do as many repetitions.”

A PB&J makes great pre-workout fuel, depending on the timing.

Jessica Cording Nutrition

What Counts As Fuel?

Long Island, NY-based dietitian Linzy Ziegelbaum, who works with athletes of all ages, says, “Our bodies need glucose for energy. The carbohydrates that we eat before we exercise are what give us glucose. If we exercise in a fasting state, glucose is not available for our muscles. This can lead to feeling weak, dizzy or lightheaded.” Hydration is also key, she adds.

Exactly what to eat before your workout depends on the type of exercise, your weight and how long beforehand you’re eating. In general, you want to eat easily digestible carbohydrates and go slow on high-fiber, high-protein, and high-fat foods if you’re eating less than an hour before your workout, since these foods slow digestion and can cause GI discomfort.

Many trainers, dietitians, and sports nutritionists break it down into grams of carbohydrate depending on how long before your workout you’re eating. Chin explains, “For strength resistance training, the ideal time to eat is about an hour before the workout, with at least 30-40 grams of carbohydrate and 10-20 grams of protein. For cardiovascular endurance exercise, the timing can be more flexible, but the makeup of these meals are different depending on when you eat.” She breaks it down like this for her clients:

– 30 minutes before: 30 grams carbohydrate, minimal protein

-One hour before: 60-70 grams carbohydrate, 5-10 grams protein

-Two hours before: 120-140 grams carbohydrate, 15-20 grams protein

If you’ve never tried peanut butter and jelly on a sweet potato, you’re in for a treat!

Jessica Cording Nutrition

What That Looks Like In Real Life

To give you a few real-life examples of what those breakdowns might look like, consider these dietitian-approved pre-workout snacks:

30 minutes before cardio:

-A large banana or two small pieces of fruit

-A slice of white bread with one tablespoon of jam

-¼ cup of dried fruit

60 minutes before cardio:

-A PB&J on white bread and one cup of grapes or a small piece of fruit

-One cup of a low-fiber cereal with a 1/2 cup of milk and one banana

-¾ cup of yogurt with one large banana or one cup of low-fiber cereal

-Two whole grain waffles with two tablespoons of syrup and jam

-One serving of pretzels or graham crackers with nut butter

-½ a cup of cooked oatmeal with a piece of fruit

30-60 minutes before strength/resistance exercise:

-¾ cup Greek yogurt with ¼ cup granola

-Two ounces of turkey on two slices of bread

-¼ cup of trail mix made with nuts and dried fruit

-One medium sweet potato topped with nut butter or Greek yogurt

-A smoothie made with fruit and either yogurt or milk

The higher protein and fiber content of Greek yogurt and strawberries is great fuel when you have an… hour or more before a workout.

Jessica Cording Nutrition

You Do You

All that said, if you have a go-to pre-workout snack that doesn’t fit those guidelines, what matters most is that it works for you and helps you meet your goals.

Ziegelbaum encourages her clients to try different things to figure out what works for them. “Eating before exercise requires trial and error, and I recommend experimenting with different pre workout snacks, even waking up slightly earlier to eat. Even just one banana right before a workout can improve the performance of morning exercisers.”

There are some debates you and your buddies will never settle. That’s all right. We’ll do it for you. (We did it for a reader’s debacle over the most important exercise, pushups or pullups; read it here.)

The question of the day remains preferential: Is it better to eat breakfast before or after a workout? Some people aren’t hungry in the morning, while others believe they won’t have enough energy without getting something in their system before hitting the gym or pounding the pacement. But research has taken a stance.

What Happens to Your Body When You Skip Breakfast >>>

The premise: Breakfast is billed as the most important meal of the day—but you may want to hold off on eating it until after your daily workout. Researchers in Belgium set up a six-week study to determine if the order of men’s morning routines would make a difference in terms of weight loss and other health aspects. “We hypothesized that training in the fasted state would be a better strategy to improve fat metabolism,” says the study’s lead author Karen Van Proeyen, Ph.D. “However, we were rather surprised that almost all measured parameters were more beneficially affected following a training program before breakfast, compared with a similar training session after breakfast.”

The set-up: The researchers recruited 28 healthy, active men and tweaked their daily diets to include 50 percent more fat and 30 percent more calories (to enhance the effect). The men were then broken into three groups. The first group endured no exercise at all, while the other two groups were both given grueling morning exercise routines. Four times a week, they ran and cycled at intense levels. However, of those two groups, one worked out after a carbohydrate-rich breakfast and drank sports drinks throughout their workout. The other group drank only water and ate breakfast after hitting the gym.

6 Breakfasts That Will Burn You Out >>>

The results: The group that didn’t exercise at all gained an average of more than six pounds (we’re surprised it wasn’t more!). They also developed unhealthy conditions that are often precursors of diabetes including an insulin resistance. The men who ate breakfast before exercising also gained weight (although only about half as much as the first group) and similar cautionary diabetes signs. The group that exercised before breakfast gained almost no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance. They also burned the extra dietary fat more efficiently.

The takeaway: Exercise routines in this study were very intense 60- to 90-minute sessions. Yet the researchers have said even less intense workouts could have similar results. The old something-is-better-than-nothing way of thinking! “I recommend exercising before breakfast, of course,” says Van Proeyen. But she can’t recommend an ideal breakfast menu: “Based on our findings we cannot say what the best breakfast is. However, a healthy, well-balanced fiber-rich breakfast—mainly consisting of carbohydrates—is the most optimal breakfast to maintain a good health in normal fit individuals.” We wanted to know if this trick would work with lunchtime workouts too. Turns out, it doesn’t. “Our subjects always performed the exercise after a 10- to 12-hour overnight fast, which is likely the most convenient way to stimulate fat oxidation.” The time between breakfast and lunch is only about 4 to 6 hours and that’s not enough time to maximize fat oxidation before the workout. Moral of the story: Set your alarm earlier each morning. Get your daily run out of the way, eat breakfast at your desk and enjoy a long, gym-free lunch break.

8 Stupidly Easy Breakfasts You Can Make in 60 Seconds >>>

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One of the most common questions for sports dietitians: “What should I eat before and after a workout?”

Sometimes the answer depends more on the athlete and the specific activity, but there are some common truths that apply for pre- and post-workout nutrition, whether you’re a weekend warrior or a seasoned veteran.

Don’t Skip the Carbs

So you may be asking — how soon before a workout should I eat? It depends.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best not to eat immediately before a workout because while your muscles are trying to do their “thing,” your stomach is trying to simultaneously digest the food in your stomach. These competing demands are a challenge for optimal performance. And, even more of a factor, eating too close to a workout may cause you to experience some GI discomfort while you train or play.

Ideally, you should fuel your body about 1 to 4 hours pre-workout, depending on how your body tolerates food. Experiment and see what time frame works best for your body. If you’re a competitive athlete, this is something you need to explore during your training days and not during game day.

Here are some suggestions for pre-workout fuel:

  • A peanut butter and banana or PBJ sandwich
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Oatmeal with low-fat milk and fruit
  • Apple and peanut or almond butter
  • Handful of nuts and raisins (two parts raisins: one part nuts)

Notice that each of these suggestions include some protein as well as carbohydrates. Carbs are the fuel. Protein is what rebuilds and repairs, but also “primes the pump” to make the right amino acids available for your muscles. Getting protein and carbs into your system is even more vital post workout.

Post Workout Nutrition

Your body uses stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles to power through your workout or game, but after that workout, you need to replenish the nutrients lost. What to do?

After a competition or workout, focus on getting carbs and protein into your body. This gives your muscles the ability to replenish the glycogen they just lost through training and helps your tired muscles rebuild and repair with the available protein and amino acids. Try to eat within an hour of completing an intense workout.

Post-workout meals include:

  • Post-workout recovery smoothie (or post-workout smoothie made with low-fat milk and fruit)
  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Turkey on a whole-grain wrap with veggies
  • Low-fat yogurt with berries

The above offer mainly carbs, some protein and are convenient — with the first two liquid options also helping to rehydrate the body.

Take Home Points

  • Your body needs carbs to fuel your working muscles.
  • Protein is there to help build and repair.
  • Get a combination of the protein and carbs in your body 1 to 4 hours pre-workout and within approximately 60 minutes post-workout.
  • Never try anything new on race or game day — it’s always best to experiment during training to learn what works best for your body.

The fast track to weight loss isn’t always “eat less, lose more,” especially when you factor workouts into the picture. If you work out early in the morning, in particular, you might be used to skipping breakfast or your pre-workout snack. It’s early, dinner feels like it just happened, and you don’t want to eat too much and upset your stomach. And when your goal is weight loss, it’s hard to imagine that eating more, even right before a workout, can really help you reach your goals. If your stomach isn’t growling, do you really need to eat before your workout?

Should You Eat Before a Morning Workout to Lose Weight?

As it turns out, working out on an empty stomach in the morning can actually make it harder to lose weight. “It may mean that you don’t work out as hard or as long because your body doesn’t have the necessary energy,” said registered dietitian Audra Wilson, LD, bariatric dietitian at the Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Centre at Delnor Hospital. And the more intense your workout (think HIIT), the more energy you expend and the more important your pre-workout fuel becomes, Audra told POPSUGAR.

The reasoning? Your body uses less energy when you sleep, Audra said, but you’re still burning some calories, which means you might not be able to coast through your morning workout on last night’s dinner alone. Having less energy can negatively impact your workout, which in turn can make it harder to lose weight. As Audra put it, “If you skip a pre-workout snack, you may burn less calories overall and be miserable doing it. Fueling for exercise can improve overall performance and allow you to exercise longer and harder.”

Many people swear by fasted cardio as a form of weight loss, especially for burning fat. Research is conflicting, but no study has convincingly proven that fasted exercise gives you significant weight loss advantage, Audra told POPSUGAR. Either there was no difference between breakfast and no breakfast in terms of weight loss, or fasted exercise was shown to provide some advantage, but exercise in general (fasted or not) was found to be the biggest factor in losing weight.

To some extent, it comes down to what works best for you. “Some may be able to exercise fasted,” Audra said, “but the benefits of a pre-workout snack are many.” Besides helping you perform better, eating before a workout can help you avoid injury and improve your body composition over time, Audra explained. With that in mind, if you wake up hungry, definitely grab a bite; if you don’t, head to the gym and see how you feel. Even if you think you work better without a snack, try having a small one beforehand to see how it affects your workout. You might not realise how much more energy you have to put in, given some extra fuel.

What Should You Eat Before a Morning Workout to Lose Weight?

For a pre-workout, weight-loss-optimised snack, go for a 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio for cardio exercise and a 2:1 ratio for strength training, Audra said. “The key is to keep fibre and fat content low,” she explained. Fibre speeds up your digestion and fat slows it down. Too much of either before a workout can upset your stomach or have you running to the bathroom.

For cardio, your body’s main source of energy is glycogen, which is a stored form of glucose that you get by eating carbs. “Glycogen is stored in the muscles to use when those muscles are activated in activities like walking, running, using the elliptical or bike,” Audra explained. Going into cardio with depleted glycogen stores might make you feel lethargic and unable to complete your workout. For a morning snack before cardio that’ll keep your energy up and help you lose weight, eat:

  • One cup of grapes or berries with a low-fat cheese stick or Greek yoghurt
  • Low-sugar cereal with milk
  • Toast with a hard-boiled egg

For a snack before morning strength training to help you lose weight, eat:

  • A small apple or half a banana with almond butter
  • Half an English muffin with low-fat cheese

Make sure to give yourself some time to digest your snack, anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on what you choose. Here’s more on what and when to eat before a workout.

Whatever you choose, Audra’s recommendation was to always fuel up before a workout, even if you’re not hungry. “A small snack will replenish glycogen lost overnight and provide energy for the workout ahead,” she said. Without some fuel, and especially without some kind of carb, you risk feeling fatigued, getting injured, and even losing muscle mass. With those kinds of potential consequences, it’s definitely worth a shot.

Image Source: Getty / KOLOstock

Eating before morning workout

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