Breakfast Before or After a Workout?

Dear Davey,

I’m switching my workouts from night to morning and was wondering when the best time to eat breakfast is? Before the gym? Or after?


Muesli for Breakfast f4.0Hey Jared,

Great question! And welcome to early morning exercise. It’s such a wonderful way to start the day – and it’ll wake you up better than a cup of coffee.

As a fellow early morning exerciser, your question is near and dear to my heart. A number of studies have examined exercising before breakfast versus exercise after breakfast – and the findings have been split. One study found that exercising before breakfast resulted in muscle loss. Another study concluded exercise before breakfast resulted in fat being burned more efficiently.

Nonetheless, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. No one likes exercising on a full stomach. If you do eat a full breakfast before hitting the gym, it’s recommended that you allow 1 – 2 hours for digestion. If you plan on exercising sooner, something lighter will be a wiser choice. Otherwise you may feel sluggish or even nauseous.
  2. No one likes exercising on an empty stomach. Working out an empty stomach may not give you the fuel needed to power through an intense workout. If you’re hungry and feeling famished, it’s probably going to be a lot harder to get in that last repetition. The only thing worse than exercising on a full stomach is exercising on an empty stomach.
  3. Regardless of what you eat before the gym, know that you’ll still need to ingest protein and carbohydrates after the gym. If you ate breakfast before the gym, you’ll still need to eat something after the gym to give your body the protein and carbs it needs.

What do I recommend?

When I wake up, I eat a small protein shake and banana. Packed with carbohydrates, the banana gives me the energy I need for my workout. It’s just enough. After the gym, I eat a full protein shake and proper breakfast – usually consisting of cereal and almond milk. The shake and cereal give my body the protein and carbohydrates that it needs to rebuild and repair my muscles.

In the comments below, please share your morning workout/breakfast routine! I’d love to hear what you do.


About Davey Wavey

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  1. Justin Kerr says:

    I eat egg whites and ground turkey before my work outs. After, I have a protein shake and a chia seed energy ball.

  2. I generally do my running in the morning, and I have a bowl of oatmeal with fruit before. It’s neutral in flavor so you don’t get odd flavored burps (ugh sausage burps are the worst!) and all the water in the oatmeal helps keep me that bit more hydrated without having that belly full of water feeling. After, a couple of handfuls of nuts/seeds and some fresh or dried fruit.

  3. I mostly eat a little salad, and a bread with hummus and coleslaw. I’m trying to avoid eating eggs and dairy, so I eat eggs once a week or so, and dairy even rarely. I prefer drinking tea over coffee, but if I do drink coffee, I like it with soy milk or almond milk.

  4. Fernanda says:

    Before running I usually eat a slice of bread with low fat cheese, a glass of milk and a fruit. After I eat a fruit and one nut.

  5. I have a banana before my morning workout. I follow it with an omelet with cheese, mushrooms and onions and some nuts as well.

  6. Whole grain cold cereal, or occasionally oat meal, with a litte milk, dried frut & a sliced banana. About 50 minutes prior to workout. Never feel full or weak.

  7. My goal is muscle (weight) gain so I eat quite a lot in the morning. I also practice carb-stacking during this phase – no carbs after lunch. I still eat my daily requirement of carbs but all in the first half of the day. After lunch it’s protein and vegetables only.

    1 hour before workout: 1 homemade Protein Smoothie … 1/2 whole grain bagel with almond butter (or peanut butter) and raspberry jam

    Smoothie recipe – 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1/2 tablespoon non-alkalized cocoa powder (Good for flavanoids), 2 tbsp oatmeal flakes, 1 teaspoon smooth texture fiber, 2 tbsp frozen blueberries (good for anti-oxidants), 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup calcium enriched orange juice, 1/2-3/4 cup water

    Immediately post workout (in the locker room) : 1 1/2 scoops vanilla protein powder … 1/2 banana

    60-90 minutes post-workout: 6 boiled egg whites, 2 boiled egg yolks, 1 plain white bagel (this is about the only time for high-glycemic foods) with low fat cream cheese or PB&J, 1/2 cup low fat yoghurt

  8. My objective: remain healthy slender & lean
    Before the work out: 1 kiwi/apple
    Immediate post work out: protein shake with a banana
    Post work out breakfast 60-90min:
    3 boiled egg whites or 100g tofu with a cup of veggies (carrots, tomato, red bell pepper), 75g wholemeal oat flakes mixed with a small glass of soy milk (unsweetened, without salt), some nuts, berries, cinnamon & cocoa powder.

  9. For sure, work out before you eat breakfast. But yeah…grab a banana (or something like that) before hand. All my years in the Army…we always did Physical Training in the morning FIRST…then breakfast.

  10. Im a Elite swimmer and before morning practice i usually eat 2 slices of dark bread, with a cup of tea and on top op the bread i put mackerel and some mayonaise ๐Ÿ™‚
    It is small enough to not bother the swim practice, but after 1,5 hours i (of course) get really hungry.

    I have tried swimming on an empty stomach and its not bad. My streamline improves! And i can hold my breath for a longer time.

  11. I wake up 2 hours before i go to gym and have a latte, two or three slices of whole grain bread and a glass of juice. When back from the gym I have lunch, usually consisting in chicken (I fucking love chicken) and some veggies.
    Am I getting it right?

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