Eat Before or After Exercise? Science Finally Has the Answer

Workout clothes? Check. Water bottle? Check. Breakfast? Um… It’s something that’s been hotly debated by early morning gym-goers for years. And now a new study has finally solved the dilemma of whether to eat before or after you exercise.

Researchers at the Universities of Bath, Birmingham, Newcastle, and Stirling analyzed the energy expenditure of 12 healthy physically active men between the ages of 20 and 26. Each of the men completed three different trials: eating a breakfast of oats and milk and then resting (aka 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 study revealed that when the men skipped breakfast, they had a greater calorie deficit throughout the day of about 150 calories on average, implying 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 concluded. Here’s how it works: When you work out on an empty stomach, your body doesn’t have readily accessible energy from food so it draws from other sources, like stored body fat, which makes your exercise more effective at burning fat—and helping you lose weight.

But if you prefer eating breakfast before you exercise, don’t worry—there are benefits to be had there, too. For instance, the researchers found that the men who ate breakfast first burned more carbs overall while they worked out and sped up their metabolism for later on in the day.

Reader’s Digest