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Cardio BEFORE or AFTER Breakfast?

Cardio BEFORE or AFTER Breakfast?

I have a simple question for anybody who's trying to get in better shape. Should cardio exercise be done BEFORE or AFTER breakfast for the best results? Before you answer, try to put together an argument why one would be better than the other. When you've thought it over, read on.

Cardio exercise, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, has been promoted for years by diet books and fitness professionals. The idea behind it is that your body burns up carbohydrates (your glycogen stores) while sleeping. If you do cardio on an empty stomach, your body doesn't have much carbohydrate energy left, so you burn fat instead.

It's a neat theory, that's simply wrong. When scientists compared people who exercised on an empty stomach versus those who ate a small meal first, they found no differences in what people used for energy.

Let me say that again. When people who exercised on an empty stomach were compared to those who ate a small meal first, there were no differences in what either of them used for energy. But one group did have better long term weight loss and muscle building results. Can you guess which one?

The people who ate breakfast FIRST were the fittest. Here's why. Eating breakfast gives you energy. You need energy to get through a workout. Eating a small breakfast, 30 minutes to an hour and a half before exercise gives you the energy to push harder and get through a more intense workout.

Think about it. When you work on something for a few hours, eventually you'll hit a "wall." It's a point when you're mentally and physically exhausted. The common solution is to take a break and have something to eat. After your meal, your body has more energy to draw from, you feel refreshed and you're able to get more work done. It's the same principle when you eat before exercise in the morning.

The tricky part is figuring out the best things to eat. Here are some guidelines.

  • Avoid taking in more than 300 calories. If your meal is too big, you'll feel bloated and sluggish.

  • Skip higher acid food and fruit juices (like orange or grapefruit), they can lead to an upset stomach. Simple sugars in fruit can also cause diarrhea for some people when eaten within sixty minutes of a workout.

  • If you've got less than an hour before exercise, avoid really high fiber foods because they can give you gas or cause cramping.

  • Finally, skip the fats. They take longer to digest and can remain in your stomach making you feel uncomfortable.

For meals that work, try these ideas. Look for food that's higher in carbs and protein, but lower in fat. Try a bowl of cereal with 1% or fat-free milk. Oatmeal with a little lower-acid fresh fruit like a banana is good. If you're pressed for time, a simple low-fat protein shake in the blender or even one of the pre-packed ones can be a healthy start.

It may take a little experimentation to figure out what works best for you, but the effort is worth it.

For those of you sending kids off to school, the same rules apply to them. Here are a couple of startling statistics about children who eat breakfast and exercise.

Young or old, before heading off to the gym, school or work, put breakfast on the top of your list.

UPDATE 10/4/2020

Additional studies show that eating breakfast is critical for weight loss and muscle growth. You can read more here: Is Skipping Breakfast a Good Way to Lose Weight? - Intermittent Fasting, Breakfast and Weight Loss

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Updated 10/4/2020