ask our dietitian your question today1- best time for a healthy breakfast is before you workout

question-answer-color-v-2I work with a personal trainer for 30 minutes 3 times a week, mostly in the weekday evenings. Arms chest, core & legs program is varied every 4 weeks. I also run about 3 times a week, always early in the morning as I need to be on the road by 6 am. I’ve been losing a couple pounds every month or so, which is good & I feel good!

I have been encouraged to eat breakfast soon after wake up for metabolic benefit and have been doing that. Breakfast always some variation of eggs & egg whites & whole grain toast. I am starting to occasionally eat breakfast after run, maybe 1.25 to 2 hours after wake up.  Is there an ideal breakfast time that is more advantageous or efficient nutritionally and metabolically? -Bill



Metabolically speaking, you benefit from fueling before exercise for optimal delivery of substrate to working tissues and cellular energy production. Fat oxidation, though is increased when you exercise in a fasted state since there is less available free carbohydrate to burn. With a fasted state your performance may suffer and poor biomechanics may result in an injury. Get the best of both worlds with a fluid pick-up upon wake up then a full meal after your run.

Sleep is precious and though you could manage it, waking up prior to 4 am just to eat (and allow for digestion) doesn’t make sense. So long as you have the energy to finish your run strong and can eat immediately afterward, having your breakfast post-run is fine. Perhaps all you need beforehand is a small glass of apple juice (it’s low-acid) or Cup of a light protein shake to prevent low blood sugar or protein catabolism for energy. If you’re on the trail or pavement for over 6 miles, you’ll need to consume a sports drink during the run anyway. You can use sports gels, blocks or energy chews containing non-fiber carbohydrates to keep blood sugar up for longer distances.

I would advise, however, that since you might be working out the evening prior, you should eat a sensible bed time snack with complex carbohydrates to build up glycogen stores.  By the time you wake up in the morning your busy liver’s glycogen stores are roughly 50 percent depleted. (Your inactive muscles remain fully glycogen loaded from the previous day.) Good PM snack choices include a bagel, small bowl of oatmeal, plain yogurt with granola, soybeans, hummus with wheat crackers, popcorn or pretzels.

International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. Kerksick, C., et al. (2008). Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 5, 17.

Pre-Exercise Nutrition: The Role of Macronutrients, Modified Starches and Supplements on Metabolism and Endurance Performance. MJ Ormsbee, CW Bach, & DA Baur. (2014). Nutrients, 6(5), 1782–1808.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

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Debbie James is a registered dietitian. Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or recommendations of Fitness International, LLC.



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