Should you eat breakfast before working out?

woman eating breakfast in workout gear.
Photo credit Getty Images

Gwyneth Paltrow went viral this week for an interview about her eating and exercise habits where she discussed her wellness routine, which includes “intermittent fasting” and one hour of “movement” daily.

However, some people advocate for meals either before working out and after. So, what’s the deal – should we be eating breakfast before we work out?

“Nutritionists say there really isn’t a definitive answer for everyone, but there are guidelines that can help you make the right decision,” according to a recent article in HuffPost.

“While not everyone will require eating something before a workout, for some, it might be beneficial to eat a small carbohydrate-rich snack,” said Kristen Smith, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the founder of 360 Family Nutrition, according to the outlet.

According to Gabbi Berkow, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer cited by Parade, eating a protein-rich breakfast and a 10-minute workout every day are two key habits for people interested in weight loss. She didn’t say which should come first.

For those who plan to exercise in the morning, the Mayo Clinic recommends getting “up early enough to finish breakfast at least one hour before your workout,” to “be well fueled,” going into it. The clinic cited studies that suggest eating or drinking carbohydrates before a workout can improve performance and allow for longer exercise duration.

“If you don’t eat, you might feel sluggish or lightheaded when you exercise,” the clinic said.

HuffPost also said that research “suggests that eating or drinking carbs before exercising can improve workout performance and may enable you to work out longer or at a higher intensity,” citing Carol Espel, director of fitness at Pritikin Longevity Center. Additionally, carbs before a workout are recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

On the other hand, HuffPost noted that “some people may have sensitive stomachs and risk getting sick if they eat before exercising.”

Cat Kom, a fitness expert and founder of Studio Sweat onDemand, is one of those people. They told the outlet that some people might have enough energy stored from what they ate the night before to sustain early morning workouts.

So, what’s the answer?

“There’s no one-size-fits-all solution,” said Kom.

At the same time, there are some habits that people should certainly practice around their morning workout: drinking water and eating after.
According to Kom, people should drink 16 ounces in the hour before exercise.

“To help your muscles recover and to replace their glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your exercise session if possible,” said the Mayo Clinic. “Consider a snack if your meal is more than two hours away.”

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