What and When to Eat Before a Morning Walk

Fuel Your Morning Walks Before and After

Making a Smoothie
Quick Smoothie Before Walking. SelectStock/Vetta/Getty Images

What should you eat before a morning exercise walk, and when should you eat it? When you talk to your friends, everyone seems to have a different opinion. Is it a matter of personal preference or are there guidelines you should follow?

A Little Fuel Is Good for a Morning Walk

Your body needs fuel in order to have better stamina and get the most out of exercise, including walking. But too much food awaiting digestion can leave you feeling uncomfortable. Each person has different needs and tolerances, and it also depends on how far and how fast you'll be walking. You may not need any fuel for a 15-minute easy stroll with your dog. But you'll need some for a long, brisk exercise walk.

Don't Start on an Empty Stomach

You should have at least a light snack before morning exercise as your body has been fasting all night. Even if you are a person who normally skips breakfast, give your body some fruit juice or sports drink to get at least a few calories to work with. Without any available calories, you are less likely to work out as intensely or for as long as you could. If your goal is to get exercise with a brisk walk, you should have a light snack or breakfast drink.

Eat a Small Meal One to Three Hours Before Exercise

If your breakfast is a light, low-fat meal you can workout within one to three hours and get the benefit of the calories with less risk of stomach distress. Also, be sure to have water and other fluids so you don't start the day dehydrated.

No Breakfast? Opt for a Carb Snack 30 to 90 Minutes Before Exercise

If you want to eat close to your workout time, focus on easily-digested carbohydrates for a quick fuel boost. Ideas for this snack include the classic banana, fruit juice, a low-fat bagel or English muffin, or low-fat yogurt. Be sure to include water or other fluids so you have some hydration on board. If you have diabetes, use the guidance provided by your health care team when deciding what you should eat.

  • Coffee with milk or almond milk
  • Fruit juice
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Half of a banana
  • Half a bagel, English muffin, or a piece of toast with peanut butter or light cream cheese
  • Small smoothie
  • Small energy bar (or half of a full-sized one)
  • A handful of trail mix
  • Small portion of oatmeal

You can then enjoy your usual breakfast after your workout, or have a post-workout recovery snack that includes protein and carbs to replenish your muscles.

Wait for Three to Four Hours After a Large Meal Before Working Out

If you love a big breakfast, your body will take three to four hours to digest the fats and proteins. It is better to have only a light breakfast before a morning walk and save the bigger meal for afterward. Otherwise, your body will divert blood that could be going to your muscles to your stomach so it can work on digestion. If you ask your muscles to kick in for a good workout, you divert the blood from your stomach and digestion slows down.

Experiment to See What Works for You

People vary in how well they tolerate eating or not eating before exercise. Foods that sit well in the stomach when not exercising may produce nausea or gas when combined with exercise. Try different combinations to find what works best for you.

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