Workout Before or After Eating?

Workout Before or After Eating?

As a coach, I get this question a lot. People want to know when the best time of day is to run and how long they should wait after eating before going on that run.

For years, I have always felt best when working out first thing in the morning. Like, roll out of bed into my shoes and make a stop at the bathroom before I’m straight out the door. I felt like if I gave myself too much time, then I would find some sort of excuse to put it off until later. And eating the wrong thing before running could often be the easiest excuse to get away with.

Running first thing in the morning was also a great way to get up and moving early and not risk sleeping in too long, being rushed, and then having a bad day. Running in the morning just honestly made me feel great for the rest of the day.

But in the back of my head, I was always hearing that age old saying “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” If it’s the most important meal, then why shouldn’t I be fueling my body before taking it out through a grueling run.

And you can’t always roll out of bed and straight into a run. Sometimes waiting just 20-30 minutes after waking up, I would start to feel that rumbling start to happen in my stomach.

And even some mornings, you don’t have time to run before starting your day, so you’re forced to run after work or in the evenings. Most of the time, you’ve had two meals and probably a snack at this point and you’re starting to think about dinner.

So when should you work out and how should your meals factor into your workout? From my experience and research, I have decided that morning is the best time to work out. I feel better, run better, am more productive throughout the day, and tend to go to bed a bit earlier which makes me feel well-rested. I don’t have time to find excuses to shorten or skip my workout, and I can be a bit more flexible with my plans for the rest of my day.

As far as eating goes, I always preferred to eat after working out, but there have been a few studies that have backed me up on my preferences. Men’s Fitness has a study that showed that people who ate after working out in the mornings showed better health projections and were more likely to loose weight. This article really supported eating after running. There is also the opinion that training your body to run a little low on fuel (after a 10-12 hour fast e.g., overnight) is a very strategic and helpful strategy in making your body able to last through a longer distance race. Running Times had a slightly different suggestion. They suggest that it really depends on a lot of factors and only stress that eating breakfast at some point is the most important conclusion.

In the end, you really have to test it out for yourself because there is no solid answer.

There are a few things we know for sure

  • There are many benefits of running in the morning as opposed to after you’ve gone through most of your day.
  • You have to eat something in the morning in the critical time after finishing a workout (within the first 30 minutes).
  • Breakfast is, in fact, the most important meal of the day after running.
  • If something isn’t working for you or you really feel that your performance is slowing part of the way through your run, try something new. It may take a little bit of time, but finding a perfect routine always takes a few tries.

So, if at all possible, go on that morning run and have the rest of your day flexible for whatever comes your way.