Does exercising before breakfast burn more fat?

Exercising before breakfast can boost health benefits for people, including burning significantly more fat and helping them better control their blood sugar, according to a new study published this month in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism by health scientists at two British universities


couple running in the morning
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Should you eat before or after exercise in the morning? The debate has raged for years.

The eat-first camp says food before exercise boosts blood sugars, giving the body fuel to increase the intensity and length of a workout. It also keeps you from being fatigued or dizzy.

The eat-after camp says you burn more fat if you fast before exercise.

A small UK study published Friday supports the latter point of view: In 30 obese or overweight men, those who exercised before breakfast burned twice the fat as men who ate breakfast before they worked out.

The research, carried out by the Universities of Bath and Birmingham and published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, is only small – meaning more research into the topic is required to make any firm conclusions.

That’s because exercising with no fuel forces the body to turn to stored carbs, and when those are quickly gone, to fat cells.

Unfortunately, the eat-after group didn’t lose more weight than the eat-before group during the six weeks of the study, but it did have “profound and positive” effects on the health of the group that fasted, researchers said.

Skipping the meal before exercise made the men’s muscles more responsive to insulin, which controls high blood sugars, thus reducing the risk for diabetes and heart disease.

“The group who exercised before breakfast increased their ability to respond to insulin, which is all the more remarkable given that both exercise groups lost a similar amount of weight and both gained a similar amount of fitness,” said exercise physiologist Javier Gonzalez, an associate professor in the department for health at the University of Bath, in a statement.

“The only difference was the timing of the food intake,” Gonzalez added.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Shilpa Joshi, a dietician, informed, “You should not exercise on an empty stomach if you are suffering from a metabolic disorder like diabetes. You should not eat a heavy breakfast before you exercise, as it can cause discomfort. It is advisable to eat a light snack like a banana.”

If you do choose to work out on an empty stomach, keep these tips from the US Figure Skating Association in mind to keep your muscle tissue from breaking down:

Use the four R’s of recovery: rehydrate, replenish, repair and reinforce.

  • Do that by drinking water or sports drinks.
  • Within 15 to 30 minutes, eat a meal with a 4:1 carb to high quality protein ratio.
  • Some good choices are fruit and low-fat Greek yogurt, mixed nuts, or a banana with peanut butter.

Source: CNN