There’s a lot of confusion surrounding whether working out in the morning is better on an empty stomach or after a small breakfast.
There’s even a certain Australian weight loss marketer who claims that going for ‘Fat Burning Walks’ pre-breakfast will help you burn fat. The theory is that if you do a fast paced walk first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, after you’ve fasted overnight and your blood sugar levels and insulin are at their lowest, you’ll be optimally placed to burn fat stores as fuel. Apparently, intensity is also key, as a lower intensity will ensure you are burning fat and not the food in your stomach.
So is there any grain of truth to this theory?
According to Fernwood’s in house nutritionist, the answer is no. Your body doesn’t ‘burn fat’ or use fat stores as fuel. Energy is stored in muscles in the form of glucose, not in the stomach.
As for intensity there is some truth, but this it’s misleading! You will burn a larger percentage of fat in relation to glucose when you are working at a lower intensity, but you will also burn fewer total kilojoules, and thus, less total fat.
So should I eat before I work out in the morning?
The answer is: whatever works for you. If you can’t stomach food in the morning before your workout, don’t eat. On the other hand if you’re starving in the morning, eat! A lack of food will leave you feeling lethargic and won’t enable you to perform at your peak – meaning you won’t be able to build as much intensity, build as much muscles, and burn as many kilojoules.
Weight loss comes down to burning more kilojoules than you consume. Whether you eat your breakfast before or after your workout (or half before and half after!) won’t make much of a difference. The difference in your body fat percentage will come from the intensity of your workouts and the number of kilojoules you consume.
Good breakfast options
Simple carbohydrates will give you energy before a workout. If you can only stomach a small breakfast, a banana would be a great choice. Alternatively, a bowl of oats, some toast, a smoothie or fruit and yoghurt would make a great pre-workout breakfast.