Eating Before a Morning Workout: A Good or Bad Idea?

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Feb 03, 2021

    Eating Before a Morning Workout: A Good or Bad Idea?

    We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. There are many benefits of eating breakfast. Some of us like to workout or go for a jog first thing in the morning. But is eating before a morning workout a good idea?

    Pros of eating before a morning workout

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    More energy

    Typically, morning workouts are different from afternoon and evening workouts because you are usually fasted for at least 8 hours. Upon waking up, your body has already used up most of its glucose and glycogen, bringing your blood sugar down.

    Because the brain requires glucose and muscles store glycogen to fuel themselves during activities, it is important to refuel your body. A combination of simple and complex carbs are the best to eat in the morning.

    Simple carbs include sugars, which can be found in fruit, honey, table sugar, and juice. Refined grains like white rice and bread technically complex carbs; however, they have less nutritional value and fiber than whole grain foods and starch vegetables.

    Complex carbs take longer to break down and provide more sustainable energy. Brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal are good sources of complex carbs, fiber, and protein.

    Improved mood

    In addition to providing energy to start your day, a good breakfast can put you in a good mood. Having a bite to eat can put some pep in your step and give you the motivation to work up a sweat. Low blood sugar first thing in the morning can leave you feeling sluggish and irritable. Again, a combination of simple and complex carbs is a good way to start off your day.

    Better performance

    By having more energy and being in a good mood when you leave your home, you are already halfway ready to crush your workout. Eating before a morning workout will sustain you and reduce the risk of injuries. Compared to working out while fasted, you will find yourself running faster, lifting heavier, and enduring longer.

    Eating a bit of protein before a workout provides your muscles with building blocks and fuel to make you stronger. Having some yogurt or milk along with your bowl of oatmeal and fruit makes for a well-rounded breakfast.

    Cons of eating before a morning workout

    Time consuming

    Even though breakfast is important, we oftentimes choose to snooze instead of getting up right away. This leaves little to no time to prepare a nutritious breakfast or exercise. When we do have time, we are often caught between choosing one or the other.

    Fast food is convenient but not ideal as it typically contains high amounts of fat which are harder to digest. Instead, meal prepping the night before is a quick and healthy fix to simplify your morning routine.

    eating before a morning workout

    Feeling heavy

    One reason people may want to skip breakfast in the morning is because it makes them feel full or heavy. This is not ideal during a run or while lifting weights. Eating too much or too soon before a workout can make you feel uncomfortable or nauseous. It may even cause cramping or vomiting. However, running or moving on a full stomach does not cause appendicitis—this is a myth.

    Poor digestion

    Avoid eating too much fat and protein before a morning workout. While protein and fat are still essential as part of a healthy diet, they are harder to digest compared to carbohydrates. Opt for low-fat dairy products like skim milk and yogurt. If you are lactose intolerant or on a plant-based diet, you can try milk substitutes.

    Additionally, eating too soon before a workout can hinder your performance. During exercise, more blood circulates to your muscles in order to supply oxygen and take away waste products. Because of this, the stomach and digestive tract receive less blood flow, which can result in indigestion and abdominal pain.

    What to eat before a morning workout

    The best food to eat before a morning workout is a light meal that is easy to digest in a short amount of time. Give yourself at least 3 hours before working out to digest your meal. If you only eat a quick snack instead of a whole meal, you can eat something at least 30 minutes before.

    eating before a morning workout

    Good pre-workout food

    • Cereal (avoid sugar-coated or sweet cereals)
    • Oatmeal
    • Whole wheat bread
    • Fruit smoothie
    • Fresh cut fruit (especially bananas and apples)
    • Small serving of lean chicken or fish
    • Eggs
    • Low-fat milk or milk substitutes
    • Water

    Bad pre-workout food

    Key takeaways

    Eating breakfast before a morning workout is ideal. However, the right food at the right time is the key to not feeling bloated or uncomfortable while exercising. Talk to your doctor or fitness coach to determine the right diet and exercise program for your health goals.

    Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


    Updated Feb 03, 2021