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Should I Eat Before or After Morning Exercise?

By Christine St. Laurent

Exercising in the morning can leave you feeling energized and can be a pleasant way to jumpstart your day. You might find it challenging to fit a pre-exercise meal into your morning schedule, but eating a snack or small meal before morning exercise can improve your athletic performance. Also eat a carbohydrate-rich snack or small meal to replenish your energy stores within 30 minutes of exercising.

Common Misconceptions

Many exercisers believe they can burn more calories or fat if they wait until after their morning routine to eat. Others may find that it uncomfortable to exercise after eating if they can't wake up early enough to digest their food. However, according to the American College of Sports Medicine's joint position stand on nutrition and athletic performance, those who exercise in a fasted state experience a lower level of performance. Without fueling your body, you might not be able to exercise as long or as intensely, or you may have less energy or even dizziness if your blood glucose level drops. You may also tend to overeat after you exercise or later on in the day.

Benefits of Eating Before Exercise

Your body breaks down the food you ingest into the form of glucose in your blood, or as stored energy called glycogen in your liver and muscles. Having an adequate amount of glucose readily available provides you with optimal energy production for your workout session. It can also prevent you from experiencing low levels of glucose, called hypoglycemia, which can lead to dizziness and fainting. Drinking fluids or eating foods that contain water before you exercise is also beneficial to avoid dehydration, which also impairs performance.

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Timing of Meals

Generally, small meals or snacks should be eaten one to two hours before exercising, so this may be your best bet for your pre-workout meal. While these guidelines are helpful, everyone's digestion system is different. You may find that you need to eat earlier or later. Experiment with the timing of your morning snack or breakfast to allow for sufficient digestion to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort but still feel energized.

Balancing Act

Stick to the foods that you know will not cause gastrointestinal distress, as trying new foods might cause problems. If you find eating before exercise uncomfortable, try a liquid meal, such as a shake. Your pre-exercise meal should contain mostly carbohydrates, with some protein. Select food options that are low in fat and fiber.

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