Exercising before eating breakfast burns twice as much fat, study finds

BATH, England — Like to get in your workout during the morning? Make sure you do it before you scarf down your daily bowl of cereal or plate of eggs. A new study finds that people who exercise prior to breakfast burn twice as much fat as those who hit the gym after eating.

Researchers from the universities of Bath and Birmingham in England report that because we’ve fasted while sleeping, our bodies have lower insulin levels during exercise should we begin working out right after waking up. That means our bodies are forced to turn to fat for fuel.

The remarkable response to insulin suggests that exercising before breakfast lowers one’s risk for developing type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“This work suggests that performing exercise in the overnight-fasted state can increase the health benefits of exercise for individuals, without changing the intensity, duration or perception of their effort,” comments study co-author Dr. Gareth Wallis of the University of Birmingham in a release.

For the study, researchers monitored 30 overweight men over a six-week period. Some of the men were tasked with eating breakfast and then working out, while another group exercised before eating. Both groups were provided identical diets and exercise routines during the trial. A control group was assigned to make no lifestyle changes at all.

“We found that the men in the study who exercised before breakfast burned double the amount of fat than the group who exercised after. Importantly, whilst this didn’t have any effect on weight loss, it did dramatically improve their overall health,” notes co-author Dr. Javier Gonzalez of the Department for Health at the University of Bath. “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. The only difference was the timing of the food intake.”

The scientists say that the muscles of men who exercised before their morning meal were more responsive to insulin and showed greater increases in key proteins needed to help transport glucose from the bloodstream to the muscles. They also note that the insulin response for participants in the after-breakfast group was, surprisingly, no better than men in the control group.

“Our results suggest that changing the timing of when you eat in relation to when you exercise can bring about profound and positive changes to your overall health,” concludes Gonzalez.

The authors now plan to conduct a similar study on women to see if the results are any different.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.