Eating breakfast before exercise may “prime” your body to burn more carbohydrates

According to a recent study, eating a healthy breakfast may promote weight loss better than fasting. The findings revealed that eating breakfast before you work out can help “prime” the body to burn carbohydrates and digest food faster after you exercise.

The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, involved researchers from the University of Bath’s Department for Health who worked with other scientists from the University of Birminghamthe University of Newcastleand the University of Stirling.

For the study, the team of researchers observed 12 healthy male volunteers.

The researchers observed the effect of consuming breakfast compared to fasting overnight before the volunteers cycled for one hour. In a control test, participants ate breakfast then rested for three hours. Meanwhile, the volunteers in the experimental group ate a breakfast of porridge made with milk two hours before they exercised. The researchers measured the blood glucose levels and muscle glycogen levels of the participants after they exercised or rested.

The results revealed that eating breakfast helped boost the rate that the body burned carbohydrates during exercise. Eating breakfast before working out also helped increase the rate that the body digested and metabolized food consumed after exercising. (Related: Eating breakfast regularly can help you stay slim.)

Dr. Javier Gonzalez, a senior lecturer in the Department for Health who co-led the study, shared that this is the first study of its kind to analyze how having breakfast before exercising can affect the body’s responses to meals eaten after a workout. Unlike fasting or skipping breakfast, eating breakfast before working out can help boost the speed that an individual digests, absorbs, and metabolizes carbohydrates that you eat post-exercise.

Rob Edinburgh, a doctorate student from the Department for Health, added that based on the findings, eating breakfast before exercising boosts carbohydrate burning during a workout. In fact, these carbohydrates didn’t just come from the breakfast that was just eaten. Edinburgh, who also co-led the study, commented that they also come from carbohydrates stored in the muscles as glycogen.

The human body prefers to use glycogen as an energy source when you’re exercising. Since glycogen is more readily available, glycogen is “a better source of energy when training for athletic performance.”

Edinburgh noted that this increase in the use of muscle glycogen could be the reason why there was a more rapid clearance of blood sugar after you eat lunch, but only if you had breakfast before you exercised. Data from the study implies that eating breakfast before exercising can help “prime” the body so it’s ready for the rapid storage of nutrition when you eat after working out.

One aspect of the study suggests that data from other trials conducted on individuals who fasted may not always be accurate. Fasting is the norm for metabolism experiments, but consuming food changes a person’s metabolism. Dr. Gonzalez added, “Whilst fasting prior to laboratory trials is common in order to control for baseline metabolic status, these conditions may preclude the application of findings to situations most representative of daily living, because most people are not fasted during the day.”

Edinburgh explained that the study only focused on the short-term responses to breakfast and exercise and its longer-term implications remain unknown. He shared that there are also ongoing studies that are monitoring how eating breakfast before or after exercise regularly can affect someone’s health.

You can read more articles about studies on weight loss at

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