Should Pilates Be Done on an Empty Stomach?

Pilates is a widely popular form of exercise, but many people make the mistake of either doing it on an empty stomach or right after a hefty meal. So, what’s the right thing to do?

Pilates shouldn’t be done on an empty stomach. If you’d like to perform Pilates first thing in the morning, be sure to fuel up with lights snacks like a banana and a smoothie. It’s recommended that you wait for about 2 hours after a meal before performing Pilates for proper digestion.

Over 9 million Americans practice Pilates, but not everyone knows how to time it right with their breakfast or meals. Read on to learn how you should go about it!

Can You Do Pilates First Thing in the Morning?

It’s refreshing to get your daily workout first thing in the morning. It’s a productive way to start the day and helps keep you in a good mood. But what about your breakfast timings?

You can do Pilates first thing in the morning, but it’s best to do it at least an hour or so after eating. This way, you’ll satiate your hunger without making your stomach uncomfortable during ab exercises. Before breakfast, you may also do Pilates; but first, take light carbs like bananas.

Remember to keep yourself hydratedOpens in a new tab. before and during your session. If you’re planning on doing it first thing in the morning, remember to have a glass or two of water beforehand.

Wondering when is the best time for your workout?  Check out: Is there a best time of day to do Pilates?

Don’t Do Pilates With an Empty Stomach

You might think these eating rules and recommendations are restricting. They might even get in the way of your motivation to work out on some days, but they’re essential to look after your body. 

That’s because your stomach needs time to digest food before you put your body through an intense workout. There are two significant reasons for this, as discussed below.

Your Digestive System Needs the Bloodflow

Right after eating any meal, your digestive system, such as your stomach and intestines, gets rushed with blood to transport digestion products and provide the relevant systems with sufficient oxygen to function well. 

While this process is at its peak it isn’t a good idea to do any type of exercise as making your body go through a challenging physical workout only makes matters worse. Your warm-up alone demands a lot of blood to flow throughout your body.

As your Pilates session gets more intense, the body gets forced to direct blood flow into your muscles and away from the stomach and intestines to sustain your workout.

This cuts off the digestive process mid-way and leaves you with a bad feeling of nausea. It might even lead to vomiting or diarrhoea, so yes, reason number 1 is pretty compelling. 

That’s why you should wait for at least an hour or so after breakfast or limit yourself to a light snack that’s easy to digest but still provides you with a burst of energy to help sustain a Pilates sesh.

Pilates Is Uncomfortable When Your Belly Is Full

While reason no. 1 applies to all types of exercises, reason no. 2 is more specific to Pilates. That’s because it’s a type of workout that tends to focus on your core muscles with movements that get you to bend your stomach. As you can imagine, you wouldn’t want to do those movements with a full, bloated belly.

Eating right before your Pilates workout puts you at risk of indigestion issues and discomfort during the session, whereas eating too early can have you struggling for energy halfway through. The solution is to exercise after at least 1 to 2 hours of eatingOpens in a new tab.. Or, if you want to do it first thing in the morning, have a light, energy-filled snack right before the workout.

This brings me to my next point: what should you eat before your Pilates workout? Let’s look at some tips to help you out. 

Pre-Pilates Eating Tips

Here are some tips to keep in mind so that you know what you can and can’t eat before your next session!

Eat, but Not Much

As I’ve established above, you need to eat something before your workout but don’t go overboard. Doing Pilates on an empty stomach could lead to a lack of focus (a crucial part of Pilates), low physical energy, very long recovery times, and sometimes even failing to get through the entire session. 

However, the less you eat, the easier it is for your body to digest the food before you take on another exercise routine.

Rather than a full meal, stick to smaller portion sizes, especially if you’re about to hit the mat right after. Again, it’s recommended to give your body at least an hour or so to digest before exercising.  And remember to drink plenty of water to keep well hydrated.

Eat Carbs and Protein

You need the energy to get through a workout and protein to maximize your gains as you recover from it.  Carbs and protein are excellent in those areas, respectively. 

For your light pre-workout meal or snack, strike a balance between these two macros for optimal performance and results. Also, stick to healthy sources of these two macronutrients and stay away from high-sugar or overly processed foods.

Your blood sugar levels play an important role in how you feel and the amount of energy you have. If your blood sugar is too high, it can cause fatigue, mood swings, headaches, and even confusion or hallucinations. If your blood sugar level is too low, you may experience light-headedness, weakness, and drowsiness.

Also, don’t go too carb-heavy on your pre-Pilates meal/snack. That’s because Pilates isn’t as demanding as something like running, cycling or strength training. 

Avoid Spicy Food

Remember the no. 1 risk of eating right before exercising? It’s indigestion. Guess what naturally makes it worse…spicy food! 

No matter how much of a fan you are, keep your pre-Pilates recipes as serene and spice-free as possible. Exercise aside, spicy food can cause an upset stomach via indigestion and heartburn on its own, so it’s nearly one of the worst things you can pair up with Pilates.

Have a Snack or Proper Meal Before Pilates

Now that I’ve covered the science behind eating before Pilates, the tips, the do’s, and don’ts, let’s look at some recipes and snack ideas you can have before your class.

Depending on your daily routine and preferences, you might be on one of these two teams: 

  • Light snack right before
  • Meal 1.5 to 2 hours before

As discussed above, both are perfectly healthy options! So here are a few food ideas for both types.

Light Snack Ideas

Here are a few things you can munch on before your class, to get a quick jolt of energy that’s quickly metabolizable:

  • Nuts
  • Banana
  • Yogurt
  • Boiled eggs
  • Green smoothie 
  • A piece of fruit
  • Cheese
  • Hummus
  • Low-sugar protein bar 
  • Berries

Pre-Pilates Meal Ideas

Here’s a list of food you can have about 2 hours ahead of your session:

  • Light turkey wrap
  • High protein salad
  • Veggies and fish
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Lettuce wrap with chicken (or any other protein source)
  • Avocado with eggs
  • Berries and nuts mixed in greek yogurt
  • Nut butter and whole-grain toast


Remember that the earlier you eat before a pilates session, the more you can safely eat and digest your food in time. So, if you plan on waiting for at least 2 hours before hitting the gym, you can get away with having a healthy meal. 

However, if you only have an hour or less before your Pilates class, it’d be best to stick to one of the many snack ideas listed above. Steer clear of highly processed or high-sugar foods, and you should be good to go. All the best!


Donna Finnie

Donna loves to share her passion for Pilates with others. She is a fully qualified instructor who believes Pilates is for everyone, regardless of age, as it can truly help to increase strength, flexibility mobility and athletic performance.

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