One of the questions I hear on a regular basis is should I exercise before or after breakfast?
Well, it depends.
For some people, eating soon before exercise can make them feel sluggish or nauseous. Others feel weak and fatigued without having something to eat before working out.
As a general rule, if you're heading out on a steady state run or a ride first thing in the morning, you’re fine to go in an overnight fasted state as long as you keep it under 90 minutes. This should encourage your body to tap into the carbs (glycogen) stored in your muscles and liver for energy. Once these stores start running low, your body turns to burning stored fat, but this takes longer to convert into energy.
If you want to complete an intense cardio session, a cardio session which is longer than 90 minutes, an intense HIIT workout or heavy weight training session, consuming an easily absorbable, protein rich meal or snack anywhere from 90 minutes to 30 minutes prior to training (depending on what you have and the workout you are doing) will help you to optimise your efforts.
Particularly for HIIT training, without the right fuel before your session, you may not be able to achieve the same level of intensity as you would when you have something in the tank. This means you could miss out on the after-burn associated with HIIT training, so eating first may be the preferred option.
This then leads to WHAT you should eat before training.
Research suggests that consuming high quality bio-available protein (e.g. a protein shake) approximately 30 minutes prior to exercise will provide the right fuel for your workout, that’s why I go for a meal replacement, protein shake is always my first choice.
Another plus is that it’s easy to digest and doesn't cause insulin spikes as carbohydrates alone may.
And while we are on the subject of workout nutrition, after your workout, you have a 20 minute window in which you can really maximise your workout and recovery by consuming high quality protein, bio-available protein. I use undenatured whey protein, to ensure that I lock in all of my efforts.
While the importance of eating before a workout may differ based on your training style, most agree that it IS beneficial to eat after exercise - especially if you trained fasted. Research shows that some nutrients, particularly protein and carbs, can help your body recover and adapt after exercise.