Running on fumes: Why you should exercise before breakfast

Running on fumes: Why you should exercise before breakfast

Are you an early bird, a midnight owl, or something in between? Most of us prefer a certain time in the day to get a sweat on or after we've kickstarted our daily routine in a certain way.

There's always been a belief that your body should be adequately fuelled before a workout. On the whole, this is true, after all, how can you work at your peak if you don’t have enough energy to keep you going?

Despite this, there's a big argument for doing some of your exercises before the first meal of the deal, especially if you've got certain goals in mind.

Your goals could vary from losing weight, increasing muscle mass and even running a marathon but they might not all respond as well to training while your body is an overnight fasted state.

What’s more, training in a fasted state might not be for everyone and that means that you have to listen to your body in order to give it what it needs.

So Why Train Before Breakfast?

 You have been sleeping all night.  Your alarm pings and you jump out of bed (maybe?). Instead of reaching for your granola and yoghurt you grab your kit bag and head to the gym or get your running shoes on. Sounds crazy because after all, how are you going to work out with an empty stomach?

There is growing research that suggests that training before breakfast is the ideal way of burning calories and eating into your fat stores, ultimately helping you to lose fat. Of course, there are things that you need to think about such as your blood sugar levels as it can leave you feeling slightly strange but if it works for you then you could turn your body into a fat-burning machine.

When you hit the gym for a workout, your body will usually rely on glycogen as its energy source, in simple terms, it's nothing more than sugar that is stored in the body. This energy source is relatively fast-acting and is processed at a fairly consistent rate even while you sleep. When the body 'notices' that these stores have been used up, it then tells the body that it needs an energy source from somewhere. First stop: fat.

When you decide to train on an empty stomach, the body turns to your fat stores for energy. Great. Who doesn't want to burn fat off!?

How should I exercise while fasted?

One of the caveats of exercising fasted is that fat is significantly less efficient an energy source as glucose. For that reason it's best to exercise at a low intensity. Make a mid-length jog, a nice chilled out ride on a bike or even some yoga.

Don't be afraid to give yourself a nice caffeinated boost too, just cake sure to avoid milk or sugar as these will provide your body with glucose.

Extra benefits of running before breakfast

An additional benefit of burning the fatty acids used for energy is a reduction of appetite after the exercise. This can help prevent you from eating too much after a run or hitting the gym and help you meet your fitness goals. In a nutshell, fasted exercise can help you to burn more fat as it used it for fuel while helping you to keep calories low when it comes mealtimes which is another bonus in your quest to lose weight.

What’s more, working out first thing in the morning could mean that your body experience insulin sensitivity and that can help to enhance blood sugar levels, moving them into the healthy range. What this means for those who are suffering from prediabetes is that they might benefit as it can help to remove sugar from the body at a faster rate.

That said, it's important to eat after any exercise. Your body will start to crave energy and you'll start to feel a bit lethargic or grumpy without it. We'd recommend a tasty high protein snack that's low on sugar like our protein bars, or maybe take a look at our guide to healthy low-GI snacks.

Training before breakfast is all about getting your body in a fat-burning state and more studies have found that those who trained before breakfast burned twice as much fat as those who consumed breakfast first.

As mentioned, whether you train before breakfast or not comes down to personal preferences as well as how your body responds. If it doesn’t work for you then it could be worth looking for a different kind of training. However, if it does work then you are going to give yourself the best chance of losing weight quickly. If you want to put on weight in the form of muscle mass then it might not be the best time to train as the body will use different energy sources and that could stall muscle growth or suppress it completely.