For people that exercise in the morning, breakfast likely falls after training in your morning regimen.
That’s not necessarily incorrect; there’s a continuing debate on whether fueling your body before working out makes a difference at all. Some studies even recommend exercising on an empty stomach, as it would help you burn fat, while others say there’s risk to that.
Kelly Pritchett, assistant professor in nutrition and exercise science at Central Washington University, says there’s sort of a middle ground. While having breakfast before training isn’t entirely necessary, it provides a boost in glycogen, or stored carbohydrates. This fuels the body to work out for longer periods, and at efficient rates.
“Going into the workout well fueled will allow you to work at a high intensity, which equates to a better quality workout,” says Pritchett.
“If someone doesn’t eat they may fatigue quicker. Although controversial, the train low (in a glycogen depleted) state forces the body to rely more on fat as a fuel source.”
This is why people are on the other end of the spectrum: having the body resort to fat in restoring power to the body burns it from the body quicker.
Although this sounds like something that could be a positive, it can be detrimental. ‘Burning fat’ can cause you to lose more muscle instead.
“If someone is going to train in a fasted state, I would suggest doing it only during the base phase of training and not during key workouts. You need fuel to increase lean tissue and to build muscle.”
Having said that, there are certain types of training where eating beforehand is essential.
“If you are performing an activity that requires a great deal of thinking or decision making, like mountain biking, then you may increase your risk of injury in a fasted state since the primary source of fuel for the brain is carbohydrates.”
And let’s not forget post-workout meals, too. Depending on how long you train for, eating the right foods after training can improve future visits to the gym. Anyone doing two-a-days, or 90+ minute workouts, will find the post-exercise meal crucial so you can recover and be prepared for the next exercise session.
“Again, high carb with about 20 to 25 grams of protein will help replace muscle glycogen stores and help repair muscle tissue.”
While there’s no definitive answer on which side of the debate is more correct, there’s no doubt eating before exercising will help you get the most out of any physical activity.
“Food is fuel! Your body is similar to a race car. In order to get the most of your workout you need to go in well fueled and provide it with the best gas.”