Exercise Before Breakfast Is Better for Blood Sugar, Fitness

Getting motivated and getting moving is hard for some of us when it comes to exercise. When we find a rhythm and can finally find a time that works for our schedule and an exercise we enjoy, most of us don’t want to change the routine until we’re bored or reaching for other health and fitness goals. But, research may make you want to swap your evening walk for a jaunt outside in the morning. A study found that exercising before breakfast made men burn fat better than people who had already eaten that day.

Researchers looked at thirty men who were overweight. Half exercised before breakfast and half after eating. The people who ate first had a vanilla shake two hours before working out. The men who were fasting had the shake two hours after their workout. All the men cycled for their activity.

Both groups lost weight and were physically fitter at the end of the study. The men who exercised first and burned more fat strengthened their muscles and their body’s response to insulin over the six-week trial. And the results were very impressive: they burned double the amount of fat than the other men did. The researchers concluded that, without a meal to burn, the body burns stored carbohydrates as fuel for exercise.

We found that the muscles adapted more to exercise, and people’s overall response to insulin was improved,” said Prof. Javier Gonzalez of the Univ. of Bath. Though, he points out that the routine might not be for everyone. The people in the study were overweight, thinner people, and people with low blood sugar, may find it hard to exercise prior to a meal.

Older studies saw that men who exercised before breakfast burned more fat but disagreed in their results about what happened to the group of breakfast eaters. Some showed those men lost weight, other studies didn’t. All the studies showed that exercising before breakfast had the most significant weight and wellness impact. They said that, when you work out on an empty stomach, you should follow the “four R’s of recovery.” You should rehydrate, replenish, repair and reinforce. Meaning you should drink water, eat breakfast afterward, go for healthy foods that aid muscles and stick to your routine.  

Prof. Gonzalez thinks the time of day may be incidental to the body’s fasting period. He believes you could get the same results in the afternoon if people fasted beforehand. “We believe that the key is the fasting period, rather than the time of day,” he explained.

Other fitness experts suggest morning exercise for a different reason: you get it out of the way and move on with your day. You won’t get derailed from exercising later if you do it before your day really starts. Even if you can’t exercise without eating first because of your particular health circumstance, doing it in the morning can still be beneficial. You can do it and then get on with your day. And, for people with blood sugar concerns, having an exercise schedule that improves insulin response can help your whole day feel great!

The biggest takeaways from this study,” said Dr. Gonzalez, “are that the timing of meals in relation to exercise can have a profound impact on the responses to exercise. For people looking to maximize the health benefits of exercise, performing some sessions in an overnight fasted state is likely to provide greater benefits than performing all sessions after breakfast.”
February 28, 2020
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