As the popular saying goes: "Breakfast is the most important meal of day." For some, a well-rounded breakfast has to be their first meal of the day, while others feel that they function the best when they skip out on breakfast completely.
Whether or not you should eat breakfast before exercise in the morning has been a widely discussed topic. Some say it's important, as it provides you with energy and fuels your muscles, whereas others believe in fasted workouts in order to burn more fat, if that's what you're after. According to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, eating breakfast before working out may "prime" the body to burn more carbohydrates during exercise and accelerate metabolism after working out.
Researchers at the University of Bath were studying the effect of eating breakfast vs. fasting overnight before cycling for one hour. In a controlled test, 12 men completed three trials: eating breakfast followed by three hours of rest, eating breakfast two hours before exercise, and overnight-fasted exercise.
After the exercise or rest, researchers tested the blood glucose levels and muscle glycogen levels of the volunteers. They found that eating breakfast increased the rate that the male volunteer's bodies were burning carbohydrates during exercise and also increased the rate that the body digested and metabolised food eaten after exercise.
"This is the first study to examine the ways in which breakfast before exercise influences our responses to meals after exercise. We found that, compared to skipping breakfast, eating breakfast before exercise increases the speed at which we digest, absorb and metabolize carbohydrates that we may eat after exercise," Dr. Javier Gonzales, senior lecturer in the department for health and colead of the study, said, according to ScienceDaily.
"We also found that breakfast before exercise increases carbohydrate burning during exercise, and that this carbohydrate wasn't just coming from the breakfast that was just eaten, but also from carbohydrate stored in our muscles as glycogen," said Rob Edinburgh, PhD student in the department for health and study co-lead.
Because of the increase in the use of muscle glycogen, this may be why there was a rapid clearance of blood sugar after lunch when breakfast was consumed before exercising, Rob explained. "This study suggests that, at least after a single bout of exercise, eating breakfast before exercise may 'prime' our body, ready for rapid storage of nutrition when we eat meals after exercise," the researchers concluded.
This study only assessed the short-term responses to breakfast after exercise and longer-term implications are unclear. Instead of drinking water first thing in the morning, with the hopes of boosting your metabolism, simply start eating breakfast before your morning workout!