Should I Eat Before a Morning Workout? The Answer Might Surprise You

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Should I Eat Before a Morning Workout? The Answer Might Surprise You

February 2, 2021 Guardian-Elite Fitness Leave a comment

A morning workout routine has plenty of benefits, like increased energy, better control over appetite and even better sleep. However, once you make yourself start waking up earlier and putting together a solid morning workout, the question becomes “should I eat before a morning workout?”.

The answer to should I eat before a morning workout is hard to answer directly, without knowing what your goals are first. Here’s what we mean by that.

If your goal is to build muscle mass through strength training, then the answer is yes, you should definitely eat before your morning workout and probably eat afterward too.

For most people who want to start working out in the morning, the goal is normally going to be fat burning and weight loss. If fat burning and weight loss is your goal, then the most effective way to do that is to take advantage of the naturally occurring fasted state your body is in after sleeping all night.

If fat burning and working out in a fasted state is the goal, no you shouldn’t eat before a morning workout. That is not written in stone though, and you don’t have to be in a fasted state necessarily to burn fat.

You should always listen to your body and gauge your own individual nutritional and diet needs.

However, if you want to burn fat at a higher rate, then using your body’s fasted state to your advantage is the most efficient route to fat burning.

If you have decided that you should eat before a morning workout, we’ll also cover the best things to eat before a morning workout.

  • Should You Eat Before a Morning Workout?
  • Eat Before or After Morning Workout?
  • What to Eat Before a Morning Workout
  • What to Eat After a Morning Workout
  • Should You Eat Before or After a Morning Workout?

Should You Eat Before a Morning Workout?

workout food
If you decide you want to (or need to) eat before a morning workout there are some general guidelines you should remember to follow.

First, you need to allow yourself enough time before you begin your workout in the morning to eat so your body has some time to digest the food.

The recommended time can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. It’s unlikely to imagine many people will wake up 3 hours in advance for their morning workout. So, try to stay somewhere in this recommended range.

Intermittent Fasting with Morning Workout

No matter if you are following a specific intermittent fasting program or not, you will more than likely already be in a fasted state after you wake up from sleeping 7-9 hours at night.

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If you decide to forgo eating before your morning workout, either for the additional fat burning or personal preference, here are some general guidelines.

Drink plenty of fluids before your morning workout. It’s recommended to drink 2-3 cups of water several hours before the workout (if possible).

Also recommended is to drink at least a cup of water every 15-20 minutes during the workout. This is because your body won’t have additional carbs for energy, and you’ll want to replace lost fluids without breaking your fast.

Also, if you’re a coffee drinker, grab a cup beforehand. Just make sure it’s straight black coffee so you won’t break your fast before starting the workout.

Eat Before or After Morning Workout?

man resting after morning workout
What is better for you from a fitness stand-point? Unfortunately, we have to say it depends.

This is because if you’re taking advantage of low carb stores due to being in a fasted state, or “fasted cardio” you wouldn’t necessarily want to eat before your morning workout.

If you are preparing for a longer workout session in the morning (think 60-90 minutes) you will want to eat something before your morning workout. Also, if you plan on a very high intensity workout in the 30-60 minute range you would also want to eat before.

If eating before your morning workout, you’ll want to steer yourself toward easily digestible carbs and stay away from high-protein and high-fat foods that will digest slower.

As you’re working out, you won’t want your body to also be trying to digest your breakfast at the same time. This is especially true if you plan on eating an hour or less before starting your workout.

Eating Before a Morning Workout

If you’ve decided that eating before your morning workout is right for you, here are some general guidelines to follow depending on the style and type of workout you have planned for that day.

Remember, the type of food, how much of it and when you should be eating it before your workout is important.

When it comes to optimizing our workouts, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution. Below we’ll show guidelines for eating before a strength training morning workout and a slower, steady state cardio workout.

Eating Before Morning Workout for Strength Training

Before a strength training workout, you’ll want to eat at least one hour before starting.

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This is not enough time to get the full digestive effect of the food, as it takes 6 to 8 hours for the food to fully pass just to the small intestine. Even at this rate, some nutrients and carbs will be absorbed right away.

How Much?

30-40 grams of carbs and 10-20 grams of protein

What Does That Look Like?

  • 1 large banana and 1 slice of toasted whole grain bread with peanut butter
  • 1 container fat free greek yogurt

Eating Before Morning Workout for Cardio

If you are going to doing steady state cardio, like running on the treadmill, swimming or biking, the food you eat will be slightly different than you’d eat for strength training.

You’ll want to focus more on carbohydrates over protein.

How Much?

30 grams carbs at 30 minutes before

What Does That Look Like?

1 large banana or a granola bar and small piece of fruit

60-70 grams carbs one hour before

What Does That Look Like?

  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal with water, toasted whole grain bread and a large banana
  • 1 energy bar, 12 oz fruit smoothie and whole grain toast

Portion Size of Meal Before Workout

It’s important to remember that the larger the portion of the pre-workout meal, the longer you should be giving yourself to digest the food. The absolute minimum is normally 30 minutes before you begin your workout.

At 30 minutes pre-workout, your portion should be limited to whole grain toast, a banana or just a handful of granola with water to give you quick energy in the form of carbohydrates.

A larger meal before a morning workout might consist of a bowl of oatmeal, an egg sandwich or a fruit smoothie.

What to Eat Before a Morning Workout

If you are deciding to eat before a morning workout, here is a list of the most common and healthy foods to try before each morning workout. These will be heavier on the carbs, so you can replenish your energy stores after a long nights sleep.

Whole Grain Bread

whole grain bread

Carbs per serving: 20g

Protein per serving: 5g

Fat per serving: 0g

Juice

apple juice

Carbs per serving: 28g

Protein per serving: 0.3g

Fat per serving: 0.3g

Low Fat Milk

low fat milk

Carbs per serving: 12g

Protein per serving: 8.2g

Fat per serving: 2.4g

Banana

banana

Carbs per serving: 27g

Protein per serving: 1.3g

Fat per serving: 0.4g

Greek Yogurt

greek yogurt

Carbs per serving: 6.1g

Protein per serving: 17g

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Fat per serving: 0.7g

Oatmeal

bowl of oatmeal

Carbs per serving: 28g

Protein per serving: 5.9g

Fat per serving: 3.6g

Energy Bar

energy bars

Carbs per serving: 44g

Protein per serving: 10g

Fat per serving: 4g

Fruit Smoothie

fruit smoothie

Carbs per serving: 34g

Protein per serving: 5.5g

Fat per serving: 1.7g

Granola Bar

granola bar

Carbs per serving: 20g

Protein per serving: 1.6g

Fat per serving: 1.7g

Apple

apples

Carbs per serving: 25g

Protein per serving: 0.5g

Fat per serving: 0.3g

What to Eat After a Morning Workout

Eating a meal after your morning workout will focus on carbs and mostly protein. This is so your body can recover properly and repair muscles after a hard workout.

Greek Yogurt

greek yogaurt

Carbs per serving: 6.1g

Protein per serving: 17g

Fat per serving: 0.7g

Fruit

bowl of fruit

Carbs per serving: 24g

Protein per serving: 1.4g

Fat per serving: 0.5g

Whey Protein Shake

whey protein shake

Carbs per serving: 2g

Protein per serving: 25g

Fat per serving: 0.5g

Turkey or Chicken

chicken breast

Carbs per serving: 0g

Protein per serving: 37g

Fat per serving: 1.2g

Oatmeal

oatmeal

Carbs per serving: 28g

Protein per serving: 5.9g

Fat per serving: 3.6g

Chocolate Milk

chocolate milk

Carbs per serving: 26g

Protein per serving: 7.9g

Fat per serving: 8.5g

Protein Bar

protein bar

Carbs per serving: 21g

Protein per serving: 20g

Fat per serving: 5.2g

Cottage Cheese

cottage cheese

Carbs per serving: 3.7g

Protein per serving: 12g

Fat per serving: 4.7g

Almonds

almonds

Carbs per serving: 0.3g

Protein per serving: 0.3g

Fat per serving: 0.7g

Low Fat Cheese

cheese platter

Carbs per serving: 0.5g

Protein per serving: 6.9g

Fat per serving: 2g

Eggs

scrambled eggs

Carbs per serving: 0.4g

Protein per serving: 6.3g

Fat per serving: 4.8g

Should You Eat Before or After a Morning Workout?

Deciding whether you eat breakfast before or after morning workout should be a decision made based on your personal preference and type of morning workout. Use the guidelines above for help deciding what might work better for you.

We recommend eating after a morning workout if:

  • You are trying to burn fat through a steady state cardio workout
  • You find that eating food before a workout does not sit well with you during the workout, or you have GI issues.

We recommend eating before a morning workout if:

  • You are trying to build muscle through strength training.
  • You find that you are feeling fatigued, very low energy or light-headed during your workout