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Fitness & Health

07th Jul 2019

Skipping breakfast has been proven to leave you weaker in the gym

Skipping breakfast could be hindering your strength gains. In those going without, the total number of reps completed on the squat and bench press was lower

Alex Roberts

Training on an empty stomach is certainly popular, but so is The Big Bang Theory

Until now, whether or not to eat breakfast before exercise was seen as a matter of personal preference.

But new research published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research shows those skipping breakfast may be hindering their progress in the gym – particularly if lifting weights is on the agenda.

Scientists took 16 men, all of whom were regulars in the weights room. The group were split between those who had a carb-heavy breakfast, and others who were given water and no food.

Two hours later, they were asked to perform four sets to failure of the barbell squat and bench press. Each set was to be done with 90% of each person’s 10 rep max.

In those going without breakfast, total number of reps completed was lower on both the barbell squat and bench press.

Scientists didn’t just measure performance in the gym. They also discovered that those who ate breakfast before hitting the gym felt fuller for longer, and had lower levels of hunger and desire to eat. 

For those following a strict diet plan, eating first thing before training could also prove to be a good method of managing calorie intake as cravings appear to be lower.

The scientists behind the study say, “The results of this study demonstrate that omission of a pre-exercise breakfast might impair resistance exercise performance in habitual breakfast consumers. Therefore, consumption of a high-carbohydrate meal before resistance exercise might be a prudent strategy to help maximise performance.”

So, there you have it. Carbs aren’t the devil, and going without them – or breakfast in general – may negatively affect your efforts in the gym.

How much carbohydrate?

Those in the study were asked to consume 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilo of bodyweight. For a 70 kilogram guy, that’s 105 grams.

Two slices of wholegrain bread will contain around 40-50 grams of carbohydrate. While it’s not known exactly what participants involved in this study ate, you could reach this target by consuming a meal containing the following:

  • Two egg sandwiches (four slices of wholegrain bread)
  • One banana

That may seem like a lot of carbs to get through, but if you’re hitting the gym 2-3 hours later, the energy will be put to good use. If you’re heading to the office after breakfast and not training till much later in the day, it wouldn’t be a good idea to eat this much food on waking.

Instead, ensure your lunch or pre-workout meal is the highest in carbs.

While this study seemed to focus on the amount of carbs involved in a pre-workout meal, don’t forget protein too. Protein arms your body with amino acids that assist in the growth and recovery of muscle tissue. Training early? You might want to opt for a protein source that digests rapidly, such as eggs, milk or whey protein. For the veggies out there, mycoprotein (Quorn) could also do the job.

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