When to Eat Before Your Morning Walk

How to Fuel Your Morning Walks Before and After

Making a Smoothie
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It can be confusing to know 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? These suggestions come from sports nutrition experts to help you get the most out of morning exercise.

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 do a moderate-to-vigorous intensity 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. It's always a good idea to drink a big glass of water 60 minutes before exercise. This ensures you are hydrated but you have time to eliminate any excess and avoid a bathroom stop during your workout.

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.

Here are quick morning snack suggestions:

  • 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 Three to Four Hours After a Large Meal Before Working Out

If you have a large breakfast, it is OK to go for a walk at an easy pace. It's better for digestion than sitting. But your body takes time to digest the fats and proteins, so it's best to wait that time before a moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise session. If you ask your muscles to kick in for a good workout, you divert the blood from your stomach and digestion slows down. That can lead to unpleasant sensations such as cramping or side stitches. You may also have poorer performance on a stuffed stomach as your body is working on digestion rather than on fueling your muscles.

It is better to have only a light breakfast before a morning walk and save the bigger meal for afterward.

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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Article Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition.

  2. Rodriguez NR, Di marco NM, Langley S. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(3):709-31. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31890eb86

  3. American Heart Association. Food as Fuel Before, During and After Workouts.

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