Timing of eating and working out…

Wednesday Apr 14, 2010

Exercising in the early hours of the day – There are many benefits to exercising in the morning.  In the morning your body and mind are fresh, after a long day at work you are more likely to find excuses or make other plans rather than exercise.  By working out in the morning you will wake up faster, and be more mentally alert for the rest of the day.

The big question here is whether you should eat breakfast before a morning workout or is it better to go on an empty stomach?

It is supported by many research studies that consuming a pre-exercise meal is the right way to go! The goals of a pre-exercise meal are to supply the body with glucose for use during exercise, and to minimize fatigue during exercise. It is recommended to consume the pre-exercise meal 2-4 hours before the exercise; yet it can be safely eaten as late as 1 hour before exercise.

The meal should be small, easy to digest, and familiar to the individual.  The pre-exercise meal should be: high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, low in fat and fiber, and moderate in size.  People engaging in early morning activities may want to schedule a very early morning snack or carbohydrate beverage (e.g. fruit juice) instead of skipping everything all together.  The timing and amount of food consumed depends on individual preferences and on the type, intensity, and duration of the workout.

Exercising in the afternoon – Research suggests that your maximum body temperature occurs between 2 – 4 pm, therefore the muscle strength is at its peak and you are going to be less likely to injure yourself. It’s also a time when people are most awake and alert.

You should eat a low glycemic meal 2 – 4 hours before the workout.  You can also consume a high glycemic food about an hour before the workout with some water to maximize energy stores and energy during the workout (refer to my previous post “Sugar Rush” for explanation about glycemic foods).

Exercising in the evening – Research suggests that exercising in the evenings will produce better sleep as well as lower daytime sleepiness for the whole day!  Here again, it is recommended to eat a low glycemic meal 2 – 4 hours before the workout.


Whether you exercise in the morning, afternoon, or evening; you must eat after the workout to replenish muscle glycogen and refuel the body.  It is important to consume both carbohydrates as well as proteins post-exercise.  Many believe they should consume only proteins after a workout which is incorrect; protein and carbohydrates are equally important.

Carbohydrates help replenish the muscle glycogen stores, while protein helps rebuild muscle tissue.  Carbohydrates actually help protein absorption.  It is recommended to eat small frequent meals throughout 2 hours post-exercise (rather than one big protein shake, or one big meal.)

So, what is the best time of the day for a workout? It depends on the individual!  Do you need an extra push in the morning to wake up, do you have your energy peak in the afternoon, or do you need a better sleep and need to reduce fatigue during the day – choose the best time for you.  Always remember to eat before and after the workout! This is a very important part of being physically active, which many tend to ignore or just uncertain about.

If you have any additional questions, concerns, or comments – please let me know 😉

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April 22nd, 2010 | 11:40 am

I never head about limiting fiber intake prior to morning workouts. What evidence exists for this claim? Why is fiber bad in this case? Is it due to the slow digestion and low energy content per volume?

May 22nd, 2010 | 3:58 pm
Crissy Kersten:

Whey protein is ok for any veggie diet that allows dairy products including lacto-ovo, lacto, and ovo types of veggie diets.

June 11th, 2010 | 5:58 am
Elwanda Burby:

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August 20th, 2010 | 3:27 am
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