Early risers who exercise first thing are more likely to stick to their healthy habit, suggests Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. When you hit the gym right around sun-up, the business of the day hasn't really started, so your workout plans are less likely to be interrupted. However, you may fear eating breakfast before exercise will leave you sluggish or impede fat burning, but a breakfast snack before you train can help you perform at your best.
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Fat Burning Boost?
Some trainers and exercise enthusiasts swear you'll become leaner if you forgo the morning meal prior to training, but science doesn't support this premise. You do get a higher fat burn exercising after a nighttime fast, but it is negligible compared to exercising after a meal notes a study that was written by University of Colorado researchers and published in a 2002 issue of the "International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism." A 2011 issue of "Strength and Conditioning Journal" reviewed several studies examining the effect of exercising in a fasted state and found that calorie burn is roughly the same in both feasted and starved states, but people are more likely to burn muscle along with the fat when they haven't had a meal.
Eat for Energy
Without having breakfast first, your exercise performance may lack zing. You'll end up burning fewer calories overall, because you just don't have the energy to put into your workout. However, you don't have to have a buffet-worthy meal prior to exercising to give yourself an energy boost -- half of an energy bar, a small container of yogurt or even a simple banana may be enough of a breakfast boost to keep you going. After your workout, consume a larger meal such as an egg white omelet with whole-grain toast, a fruit smoothie with yogurt or a bowl of oatmeal with dates and walnuts. A combination of protein and carbohydrates will assist muscle repair and restore glycogen, or energy, stores in your muscles.
You'll Still Burn Calories
A small breakfast prior to your workout will not compromise any weight-loss efforts. One meal is not going to make or break your efforts. Count the breakfast you eat prior to your workout as part of your total daily calorie intake so you stay equal to or below what you burn all day. This will ensure maintenance or weight loss. You may even find that your hunger is curbed for the rest of the day by eating before your morning exercises. The ”International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism” study mentioned previously found that women who consumed a carbohydrate drink prior to exercise consumed fewer calories for the rest of the day.
Keep This in Mind
Some people prefer not to consume anything before a morning workout, because it causes nausea or discomfort. If your morning exercises are short, lasting just 20 to 30 minutes, and are mild or moderate in intensity, you can probably get away with not eating breakfast first. When you plan to go longer than 60 minutes, you will set yourself up for workout success with some food in your system. If solid breakfast foods are too much, take a few sips of a sports drink or a whey-protein smoothie, which may be easier to digest.
- Forbes.com: Best Time to Hit the Gym
- The New York Times: Really? The Claim: Exercising on an Empty Stomach Burns More Fat
- Fitness: Should You Eat Breakfast Before or After a Workout?
- Strength and Conditioning Journal: Does Cardio After an Overnight Fast Maximize Fat Loss?
- International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: Effect of Carbohydrate Ingestion During Exercise on Post-Exercise Substrate Oxidation and Energy Intake