Many people prefer to get their workouts done in the morning. These are the early risers, the go-getters, those disciplined individuals with either the genes of a Midwestern farmer or a seasoned military veteran. If you belong to this elite group, chances are you prefer your workouts in the morning, but should exercise be done before or after breakfast?
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Still an Important Meal
It has long been taken for granted that a big breakfast is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. No matter how busy you are, no matter how little time you claim to have, you must eat. There's no way around it. Without macronutrients you starve and die, simple as that. The necessity of breakfast is reaffirmed by the American Council on Exercise, which states that people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. Although it's still a good idea to include breakfast in your schedule, ACE's assertion doesn't examine whether you should eat breakfast before or after exercise.
Sleep is the process of recovery and regeneration. Although sleep is commonly thought of as a low power mode, it's a low power mode that lasts for eight hours. When you wake, you're hungry because of the large caloric expenditure. Following this line of reason you should eat first. Carbohydrate stores are depleted. Liver glycogen is low. Carbohydrates are stored in muscles as glycogen. If muscles need glycogen for energy and carbs provide glycogen, it would make sense that consuming carbs before exercise would increase athletic performance. However, this isn't the whole story.
The Benefits of Fasted Training
There are two specific benefits of eating after your workout that will interest most morning workout junkies. One, upon rising the body is insulin sensitive, meaning even a small dose of carbs will spike your insulin levels. If you're goal is to lose body fat, this is a serious impediment, as an insulin spike will promote fat gain. In other words, working out before breakfast is better if your training goals include fat loss. Two, fasted training promotes "mitochondrial adaptations." This will improve the body's overall ability to use fat as a fuel source, which as a consequence, will also foster fat loss.
In case you can't shake those morning hunger pains, it's still possible to benefit from fasted training with shrewd nutrition. Fitness expert John Kiefer recommends a small cup of coffee, 10 grams of whey protein isolate and a tablespoon of coconut milk or heavy cream. This carb-less combination will satiate and give you a power-up without sending your insulin levels to the moon. Don't fret, you can still have breakfast, just do it after you train.
- ACE Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant Manual: The Ultimate Resource for Fitness Professionals 2009
- Carb Backloading; John Kiefer
- Fasted training: should you eat before exercise?; Jill Leckey