Should You Eat Before or After You Exercise? This is What Science Says

Should You Eat Before or After You Exercise? This is What Science Says

Workout attire? Check. Deodorant? Check. Eggs? …What?

It’s been a debate among early morning gym rats for years – should you eat before or after a workout?

Well, a new study has finally solved the dilemma of whether to eat before or after you exercise.

Researchers from the Universities of Bath, Birmingham, Newcastle, and Stirling analyzed energy usage of 12 healthy, physically active men ages 20 to 26. Each participant completed three different trials: eating a breakfast of oats and milk and then resting (a.k.a. no exercise), eating the same breakfast two hours before cycling for 60 minutes, and finally skipping breakfast completely before doing the same 60 minutes of exercise.


The results showed that those who skipped breakfast had a greater calorie deficit throughout the day of about 150 calories on average, suggesting that fasted exercise is the best for weight loss.

“These results suggest that for healthy young men, a short-term energy deficit may be more easily attained if breakfast is omitted before exercise,” the study’s authors said.

Related: Why You Should Count Macros, Not Calories

Put simply: When you work out on an empty stomach, your body doesn’t have accessible energy from food, so it draws from other sources like stored body fat, which makes the exercise more effective at burning fat, thus helping with weight loss. Exercising in a fasted state also keeps insulin levels low, allowing the body to produce growth hormone, which also burns fat.

“When insulin is elevated—as is the case after you eat—your body will be in a state of wanting to store fat, not burn it,” Phoenyx Austin, MD, a certified Sports Medicine Specialist, explained to MindBodyGreen. “It doesn’t matter if you exercise like a madman after a meal, you won’t be able to burn body fat until insulin levels drop, which can typically take two to three hours, if not longer.”

Photo Credit: Kamil Macniak/; Mladen Zivkovic/

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