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Weight Loss Myth? You Must Eat before You Work Out in the Morning

Jul 2, 2010
If you are pursuing weight loss, you've probably heard a lot of myths. A popular one is that you must eat before you work out in the morning. We all have different eating habits, and rightly so. When it comes to eating and morning work outs, there are only two options: either you eat before you work out or you eat after you work out.

Timing: When to Eat

When you first wake up in the morning, you are going to be low on energy. This is because your body burns calories even when you do nothing at all. After a full night's sleep, you may have burned around a thousand food calories without having done anything more strenuous than dream. For some people, this means that it is an optimal time to start exercising without replenishing fuel. Self-proclaimed weight-loss gurus like Ti Caudron say that, because you are low on fuel at this point, whatever working out you do will go toward burning fat. Thus, it is best to avoid eating before your morning workout, if your goal is to shed weight as fast as possible.

Exploring the Truth

In a way, the alternative weight-loss "experts" like Caudron are right; in the morning, you are indeed starved for energy, and if you do strenuous exercise without eating something first, you will indeed be taking energy from your stored fat. Yet, that's not the whole story.
In order to burn fat, you need glycogen, which comes primarily from carbohydrates. When you work out without replenishing your glycogen first, especially after a thousand calorie burning session overnight, you will be using up all of the glycogen stores in your body, which is not a good thing for weight loss.

By the time you finish your workout, your body will be severely famished, and will do anything for fuel. You may not at first realize it, since one of the symptoms of starvation is, ironically enough, diminished hunger, but the end result will be, for many people, a huge demand for overeating later on. Your body will be in starvation mode and will try to get you to overeat as much as possible, so it can store as much energy as it can in fat cells. In other words, if you do not eat before working out in the morning, you will be far more likely to gain whatever weight you lose right back—and then some. That's because your impulse will be to overindulge in food later on.

The Healthy Choice

Therefore, despite what so-called weight loss "gurus" like Caudron say, you do need to eat before working out. Just don't overdo it.
Yet, this still isn't the end of the story. That's because eating after exercising is also good for you. The first forty-five minutes after an intense exercise session are the best time for you to lock in your performance with tangible results by eating carbs and protein, like a peanut butter sandwich or a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese. It's best to eat after working out, because it is then that your insulin and muscle carbohydrates are at their peak. Eating immediately post-workout will build muscles and reduce body fat.

However, it gets even more complex than that. You can always eat during a workout. In fact, if your morning workout session lasts for an hour or longer, it's probably a good idea to recharge in the middle of exercising. Bread, juice or fruit are your best options for something quick to eat before you get back to working out. Just remember not to overdo it too much—once you get in a minimal amount of exercise, around an hour or so each day, whatever more exercise you do should be with a purpose in mind. If you're training or otherwise specifically need your muscles to do things they won't otherwise do, then by all means should you exercise accordingly. However, if all you're trying to do is lose weight, remember that slow and steady is the way to go. Exercising too much too quickly is just as bad as never exercising.

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