Eating breakfast before running or exercising in the morning, continues to an ongoing debate among runners and fitness enthusiasts.
Some of us don’t feel hungry first thing in the morning, some worry about discomfort during exercise, while others believe they won’t have enough energy to get through their run or workout without eating breakfast.
Breakfast has long been recommended as the most important meal of the day and is undoubtedly an excellent source of nutrition and fuel for the body following its fast over night.
For runners and fitness enthusiasts, whether to eat breakfast before running or exercising in the morning all depends on the purpose and goal of your morning training.
The potential to burn more fat, has long been considered one of main advantages to training on an empty stomach, and research in recent years agrees with this. Different studies indicate that when training on an empty stomach, your muscles have limited carbohydrates stored as glycogen to draw energy from, and therefore are more likely to tap into stored energy in the form of body fat.
So, if your purpose and goal to running or exercising in the morning, is to lose weight, you may benefit from training before you eat breakfast.
However, if your purpose is performance related, and requires a high level of intensity, for example to improve your running speed or endurance, you could be at a disadvantage by not fuelling up before running or exercising.
This is because the natural energy sources of muscle and liver glycogen become depleted overnight, meaning there is a lack of energy available for your muscles to access and burn first thing in the morning.
So, if your run or exercise is performance related, and requires a high level of intensity, do eat something beforehand to replenish your energy sources. If you plan to eat breakfast close to going for a run or exercise, it’s good to keep it small and simple, for example; wholegrain cereal or fruit with some nuts. These will provide you with all the carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals you need.
Regardless of your purpose and goal of running or exercising in the morning, one thing that all research agrees on, is the importance of refuelling afterwards.
It is recommended that after training at a high intensity, we aim to eat at least 45 minutes afterwards, in what is known as an anabolic window. This is a period when the body is able to maximise the absorption of fuel, going towards glycogen replacement and recovery.
For a simple and highly nutritious breakfast tailored for runners, check out: ’The best plant-based breakfast for runners’.