Some fitness questions keep bugging a lot of us. One is whether to perform your workout before or after breakfast. While some people have no problem trading their morning oatmeal for a sweaty session, others do. Who is right and who is wrong? Today we unveil all the myths and scientific findings about morning exercise. In addition, we uncover how your goals, preferences, and exercise regimen may affect your morning workout’s timing.
When Is The Right Time To Work Out?
If most of us were asked when was the right time to work out, the answer would be simple: when we can! Unfortunately, with a busy schedule and countless errands to run, one does not have the “right” time to exercise.
A busy schedule should be no excuse for not working out, given its numerous mental and physical benefits. Knowing this, you have to plan your time and schedule a timeline to work out. Most studies indicate that the right time to exercise is in the morning.
For example, a 2021 study discovered that constant morning workouts could help people with obesity lose pounds for several reasons. First, it may facilitate greater exercise levels by enhancing planning and fostering a workout habit (3).
Additionally, the study has shown that morning exercise can enhance weight loss independently of everyday physical activity levels (3). In light of this, it is safe to say that the best time to exercise would be in the morning. Now here is another dilemma: just when should you exercise in the morning: before or after breakfast?
Is It OK To Work Out On An Empty Stomach?
We all hold different beliefs about exercise. For example, some people believe you can spot reduce fat, while others think you must camp in the gym to get a six-pack or muscles. Unfortunately, all these have been ruled out as myths.
One belief keeps sparking debates every time: is it safe to exercise before breakfast? You will find that most people believe in working out on an empty stomach in the morning. Others, on the other hand, prefer exercising after fueling at breakfast.
Scientifically speaking, most studies recommend either approach depending on your fitness goals and activity. Let us evaluate a few of these studies to understand these reasons better.
In this 2020 study, researchers set out to determine the effect of immediate post-breakfast physical activity on interstitial postprandial glycemia (6). They discovered that the type of activity highly determines the timing.
The findings suggested that individuals perform low- to moderate-intensity activities immediately after eating breakfast. Doing so is associated with improved glucose control (6).
In this 2019 study, the researchers set out to determine the effect of skipping breakfast before exercise among healthy, physically active young men. Theoretically, for fat loss, you must exercise to increase energy expenditure, altering energy balance to favor a reduction in body mass (7).
The study discovered that breakfast omission among healthy, active young men created a more negative daily energy balance (7). A negative energy balance is created when the energy intake is less than the energy expenditure. This is good news for weight watchers because when energy expenditure exceeds intake, body mass is lost, accounting for 60–80 % of body fat (9).
From the analysis of these two studies, we can gather a few things about when to exercise for different goals. We also get insight into whether you need to eat breakfast before or after exercise.
The first key takeaway from the two studies is that exercising on an empty stomach will not hurt you. That is, if your goal is fat loss. Evidence from the study on young, healthy men suggests that exercising before breakfast promotes fat loss by creating and maintaining a negative energy balance (7), (9).
Analysis from the first study also suggests that whether you eat or not depends on the intensity of your workout. Therefore, you are urged to exercise immediately after eating breakfast for low- to moderate-intensity activities (6).
Nonetheless, the two studies acknowledge the need for further long-term studies, to determine if exercising before breakfast can enhance metabolism. Additionally, more research is required on the effect of exercising before or after breakfast among individuals living with cardio-metabolic diseases.
Eating breakfast is important before exercising to give your body enough fuel to see you through your regimen. But you do not eat anything or everything available. Most fitness experts suggest consuming carbs-rich foods as these macronutrients fuel the body. However, it would help if you also consume some protein and other essential nutrients. Here are some recommended pre-workout breakfast meal ideas:
These are perfect pre-workout breakfast options because they are quick to fix and provide your body with the essential pre-workout macronutrients: carbs and proteins. When preparing these smoothies, include foods from these two macronutrients. Here is an easy pre-workout smoothie recipe to prepare or use for reference (4):
- 1 ripe banana, peeled
- 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond or oat milk
- 2 scoops naked seed protein powder (or 1-2 scoops of protein powder from plant-based protein powders, egg white, whey protein, or collagen protein)
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. maple syrup
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- Blend all ingredients until completely smooth.
- Enjoy 30 minutes before your workout session for the best benefits.
Nutritional Profile (4):
The recipe yields one serving, which contains:
- Calories: 305
- Total fat: 3 g
- Total carbs: 56 g
- Fiber: 12 g
- Protein: 22 g
If you wish to cinch your waist, tone up your bat wings, blast away the muffin top – our fitness app was created to cater to all your needs! BetterMe won’t give excess weight a chance!
Oatmeal is a staple in most breakfast options, thanks to its filling properties. It is also an excellent pre-workout breakfast option because it provides you with enough carbs to fuel you through your workout. Here is a simple oatmeal recipe to use:
Recipe: Peach And Banana Oatmeal Smoothie (1)
This banana oatmeal smoothie is perfect for consumption before working out. Additionally, it is delicious and creamy!
- 1 cup of frozen peach slices
- 1 cup of almond milk
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup of oatmeal
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
Nutritional Profile (1):
The recipe only yields one serving, which provides:
- Calories: 331
- Total fat: 4 g
- Total carbs: 46 g
- Fiber: 5 g
- Protein: 29 g
Granola is also among the best foods before your workout because it boosts your energy and gives you extra fuel. It is perfect, especially if you are doing intense aerobic activity. Luckily, there are so many ways you can consume granola for breakfast. For example, it could be in a cake or bites if you are still full from dinner but want pre-workout snacks. Check out this simple granola cake pre-workout recipe (5):
- 5.3 oz. granola
- 1 banana
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup rice flour
- 1/3 cup vegan milk
- 3.5 oz. margarine
- 1 oz. walnuts 1 oz. almonds
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- Some flaked almonds
- Heat the margarine in the microwave to melt it. When melted, combine it with the crushed banana, eggs, vanilla, and salt.
- Stir in granola, flour, vegan milk, and baking powder. Chop the walnuts and almonds and add to the previous batter. Mix well.
- Pour the batter into a greased cake pan. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and bake for at least 35 min at 350°F (180°C).
Post Workout Meal Ideas
Whether you exercise before or after breakfast to lose weight, the underlying fact is that you must eat. Yes, the idea is shedding pounds, but you must also consume essential macronutrients to help your body recharge.
The only thing you must be cautious about is the calorie count to avoid exceeding or sabotaging your calorie deficit for weight loss. Here are a few healthy and nutritious post-workout meal and snack ideas:
It is natural to crave something cold like a popsicle, especially after a run in the scorching sun. But not all popsicles fit in a weight loss post-workout plan, which is why you must get one that does. Here is a recipe to help you create weight-loss-friendly yet delicious popsicles:
Recipe: Berry Parfait Yogurt Popsicles (2)
After hours of torture exercising under the sun, you need cool popsicles made using this recipe to help you cool down. The recipe entails:
- 3 cups of fresh or frozen fruit, roughly chopped if large: strawberries (about 1 1/2 pints), cherries, raspberries, whole blueberries, blackberries, peaches, plums—pick your favorite!
- 2/3 cup of prepared granola
- 1 1/2 cups of plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup milk (any dairy/non-dairy will do- skim was used in this recipe). Omit if using regular vs Greek yogurt
- 2-4 tbsp. honey, agave, or maple syrup, divided
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Mix fruit and 2 tablespoons of honey in a small saucepan while stirring occasionally. Let the fruit mixture simmer over medium-high heat and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or as needed. It should be thick with a consistency resembling that of jam. Be sure to stir constantly to prevent burning. Once done, remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and then set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Mix the milk, Greek yogurt, and a tablespoon of honey in a bowl. Be sure to taste and adjust the honey until you get your desired level of sweetness. Add granola to a separate bowl, then stir in a quarter cup of the prepared yogurt mixture until it is coated entirely. It will soften when coated with the mixture and then freeze into the popsicles.
- Arrange a popsicle mold on your work surface. Use a small spoon to place a dollop of yogurt into the bottom of each. Scoop a small serving of the granola, then a spoonful of the cooked fruit and layer lightly while tapping the mold to remove any air pockets. Continue to layer everything until the molds are filled, then tap on the counter again before inserting the popsicle stick. Freeze until solid, six hours or overnight.
- To unmold the yogurt popsicles, run the mold under hot water for a few seconds or as needed due to the varying temperature of the freezer.
- Gently remove and enjoy!
Nutritional Profile (2):
The recipe gives you 6 popsicles. One popsicle provides:
- Calories: 89
- Total carbs: 6.7 g
- Fiber: 4.6 g
- Protein: 8 g
BetterMe is your fast-track ticket to a long-lasting weight loss! Tailor your fitness journey and maximize your results with just a couple of swipes!
Sweet And Salty Energy Bites (8)
These bites are excellent snack options after a sweaty session. Here is an easy recipe to use to prepare them:
- 1 cup of (dry) oatmeal (old-fashioned oats were used)
- 2/3 cup of roughly-chopped Blue Diamond Roasted Salted Almonds
- 2/3 cup of toasted coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup of ground flax seed
- 1/2 cup of almond butter
- 1/3 cup of honey or agave nectar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract, store-bought or homemade
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- Mix all the ingredients, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
- Once chilled, roll into balls of your preferred size. (Those in the recipe were about 1″ in diameter.)
- Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to a week.
Nutritional Profile (8):
The recipe makes 20 to 25 energy bites. They are packed with loads of nutrients. They provide:
- Calories: 229
- Total fat: 14.3 g
- Fiber: 4 g
- Protein: 6.3 g
The Bottom Line
There are so many fitness questions, myths, and dilemmas. Unfortunately, they may impact an individual’s fitness journey if they are not addressed. So should you perform your workout before or after breakfast?
Evidence suggests that whether or not you trade in your oatmeal for your regimen depends on your exercise routine and goals. Therefore, please consult a professional before making any dietary or other changes to your workout plan.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 10 Healthy Banana Smoothie Recipes (2020, loseweightbyeating.com)
- Berry Parfait Yogurt Popsicles (2022, wellplated.com)
- Consistent Morning Exercise May Be Beneficial For Individuals with Obesity (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Easy Pre Workout Smoothie (2021, nutritioninthekitch.com)
- Granola cake – The best pre workout snack! (2022, en.petitchef.com)
- Immediate post-breakfast physical activity improves interstitial postprandial glycemia: a comparison of different activity-meal timings (2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Skipping Breakfast Before Exercise Creates a More Negative 24-hour Energy Balance: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Healthy Physically Active Young Men (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sweet And Salty Energy Bites (2022, gimmesomeoven.com)
- The Importance of Energy Balance (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What to Eat Before and After a Workout (2021, webmd.com)