Should you eat breakfast before or after you exercise?

This is a common question among plenty of fitness forums, health guides and article publications and to be fair many write ups on the issue of eating before morning workouts do display the pros and cons of the matter. So why do so many individuals follow the rule of not eating before a morning workout? Well it appears that many fitness enthusiasts and in particular exercise newcomers are playing by the rule that working out on an empty stomach will help to burn more fat with disregard to what really is going on inside the body when applying this so called strategic approach.

I always relay to my clients that eating before a workout guarantees that the body starts with a full tank of glycogen. The calories consumed are what’s going to enable your body to work out at your peak performance. If you are not well fuelled, chances are you’re not going to work out as hard. Think of it this way, you rise and get ready to hit the pavement, gym or fitness class, however you choose not to eat and this would be fine if you were just going through the paces of a half hour treadmill or elliptical session, keeping hydrated would be sufficient enough. On the other hand (and I hope this is the case for many rising early to workout) you plan a rigorous session of cardio and resistance training and still choose not to fill your tank, there is no good news here. This strategy in the long term is not great as regularly starving yourself pre – workout will force the body into survival mode meaning it will hold onto fat stores and start burning muscle as fuel. You see, fasting all night, in some cases for between 10 – 12 hours, glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates) in your liver decreases overnight. So without appropriate fuel as well exercising on an empty stomach creates a further state of catabolism, resulting in potential muscle breakdown even muscle tissue loss. It’s true that blood sugar levels are low in the morning but so are vital and key amino acids, the building blocks of protein.

LPersonally, regardless of what my training schedule is like I will always eat something, if I don’t I just feel terrible and my level of performance and concentration is negatively affected. Therefore, I never subscribe to the fact nor do I prescribe to my clients to the theory that not eating before exercise ensures your body burns more fat. I do however recommend, planning the right food choices around the type of workout you do.

Your first priority in the morning after fasting all night should be to feed the body good quality protein and carbohydrates thus restoring the body’s energy source once again. Using these as fuel for your training ideally, to sustain you throughout the workout. Now I’m not saying that you need to sit down to a three course meal before hand to be able to train harder and get the most out of your workout, and even if you’re not a breakfast person, drinking a whey protein shake pre – workout along with fast carbohydrates will add to the prevention of muscle breakdown, encourage protein synthesis and importantly give your body the energy it needs to get through the workout.

The final key element to remember is that each and every individual is different and so will be the reaction to physical exercise. There are just too many factors when it comes to relying on the theory that exercising on an empty stomach aids in higher rates of fat loss, such as insulin sensitivity and the ability of one’s body to even break down fats regardless of your physical capabilities.

All I say is to just ask yourself how you’re going to feel during a session and what you believe will provide you with the platform to reach your fitness goals. It’s important to know your own reaction to the food you eat along with the foundation you set yourself to perform. Feel fine hitting the pads for a gruelling boxing session or that morning run, even without that muesli, yogurt and banana? Great! Get moving. But if you need some extra energy, there’s nothing wrong with starting on a full tank of fuel.

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