Is Eating Breakfast Good for You? Meal Primes Body to Burn More Carbs

Eating breakfast before working out could help the body burn carbohydrates during exercise and digest food more quickly afterwards, according to a small study.

U.K.-based researchers wanted to understand whether the human body responds differently to eating breakfast before exercise versus fasting.

For their small study, the researchers recruited 12 healthy male volunteers and tested their blood glucose and muscle glycogen levels while resting, and again after exercise.

Participants were randomly assigned one of three options. One group ate a breakfast of porridge with milk two hours before exercise, and then cycled for an hour. The others fasted overnight and skipped breakfast before the task. In a control test, participants ate breakfast and rested for three hours.

Eating breakfast before exercising could help the body burn more carbohydrates during exercise, according to a study. Getty Images

The team found those who ate breakfast before exercise burned carbohydrates more easily during exercise. And after working out, their bodies digested and metabolized food more quickly.

Researchers at the University of Bath, University of Birmingham, Newcastle University and the University of Sterling worked together on the paper published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Read more: Why is the FDA cracking down on almond milk and other nondairy products?

Rob Edinburgh, who co-led the study at the University of Bath, said in a statement: "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."

Dr. Javier Gonzalez, co-author of the study and senior lecturer in the Department of Health at the University of Bath, told Newsweek: "We were surprised to see how the breakfast altered muscle metabolism during and after exercise, the extra carbohydrate burned during exercise after breakfast wasn't just the carbohydrate from the breakfast but also extra carbohydrate burning from the carbohydrate (glycogen) stores in our muscle."

Switching between occasionally performing exercise before breakfast and performing exercise after breakfast might be beneficial when it comes to optimizing how our bodies use fuel, according to Dr. Gonzalez.

"This is likely to provide different stimuli for our metabolism to become highly adaptable. This broadly translates to most forms of endurance-type exercise like walking cycling and running."

However, the study doesn't present any hard and fast rules when it comes to fueling our bodies, Gonzalez explained.

"With increased carbohydrate burning during exercise, there is less fat being burned. This may not be desirable under certain conditions, and therefore the guidance to eat breakfast before or after exercise would depend on what the individual would like to achieve."

The results follow a 2016 study carried out by scientists at the University of Surrey, U.K., which investigated how timing meals around exercise could help a person burn fat.

The team concluded women should eat 90 minutes before exercise to burn fat, and to avoid consuming carbohydrates immediately after working out. Men, meanwhile, should eat 90 minutes after exercise if they want to burn fat.