Breakfast and exercise: The best time to eat

Should I work out before or after breakfast?
—Angela from Charlotte, North Carolina

It really is a personal decision, but my recommendation is to exercise first and eat breakfast afterwards.

Here’s why: If you’re exercising moderately (an hour or less), you really don’t need to “fuel up” for the workout—especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Not to mention, exercising on a full stomach can make you feel slow and sluggish during your workout and potentially cause stomach upset.

Another good reason to wait: A recent study suggests that exercising on an empty stomach might trigger more positive changes in fat tissue. If you work out after eating, researchers from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom found that it’s likely you’ll use carbs from that meal to fuel your exercise session. On the other hand, if there’s no food in your system, it’s likely you’ll dip into your fat stores to fuel your metabolic burn during your workout, providing a better overall result especially for those looking to slim down and lean out.

With this in mind, I suggest having something super-light, such as a piece of fruit before exercising (it will give you a shot of quality carbs to keep your blood sugar steady) and also consider having a cup of coffee. Research shows the caffeine can help you work out harder and stronger. Then, when you complete your sweat session, you can look forward to a delicious breakfast—sort of like a reward for conquering!

Important note: If you’re the type of person who gets light-headed while working out, it’s probably smart to have something more substantial than a piece of fruit beforehand, like a slice of whole grain toast with an egg or spread of peanut butter on top.


Have a diet or nutrition question you’d like me to answer? Send it my way.