What's Healthier: Eating Before or After the Gym? Here's the Verdict

Kelsey Clark

When you consider how hard it is to actually make it to the gym, you want to make sure that the time you spend there is worth your while. Unsurprisingly, what is (or isn't) already in your stomach can have a big impact on how your body burns calories and generally reacts to the workout. Which brings me to the question on everyone's minds: Should you eat before going to the gym or wait until after?

Researchers from the University of Bath sought to settle the score once and for all, asking 60 overweight male volunteers to work out before and after a hearty breakfast (and we mean hearty; it consisted of white bread, butter and jam, corn flakes, milk, and orange juice). As it turns out, the participants' metabolisms were fueled by their stored fat, as opposed to the carbs from the breakfast. In other words, even if you do enjoy a meal before your workout, your body likely won't even use it to sustain you during the exercise.

What's more, the participants' bodies were "busy responding to the meal" during the post-breakfast workout, meaning that "a bout of exercise at this time will not stimulate the same [beneficial] changes in adipose tissue," or the connective tissue that stores energy in the form of fat, explains study author Dylan Thompson. "This means that exercise in a fasted state might provoke more favorable changes in adipose tissue." Translation: You'll likely see more results if you wait to eat until after your workout.

Of course, it's worth acknowledging the small, homogenous sample size included in the study; gender, weight, the size and content of the meal, and the type of exercise could all potentially alter this outcome. And as personal trainer and fitness blogger Kayla Itsines points out, the most important thing is to "listen to your body and do what makes you feel comfortable." If you'd rather eat before your workout, Itsines typically reaches for an apple with peanut butter, a fruit cup, or eggs on toast.

For more, read up on the two workouts that burn more calories than a three-mile run, and share your opinion on the study below! 

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