For overweight men, exercising before eating breakfast could double your ability to burn fat, according to a new study published October 18 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Researchers from the University of Bath and the University of Birmingham looked at 30 obese or overweight men. They divided the men into three groups: a group who exercised before breakfast, a group who exercised after breakfast, and a control group who made no changes to their daily routines.
Participants ate the same breakfast and did the same exercise - 60 minutes of cycling.
Over the course of the six-week study, the researchers found the men who exercised before breakfast burned twice as much fat as those who exercised after breakfast. Those fat-burners had fewer stored carbohydrates to burn for energy, so their bodies more quickly transitioned to burning fat to fuel the exercise, according to the research.
The study did not find any link between when the men exercised and how much weight they lost, however.Exercise before breakfast has other promising health benefits
Researchers noted that pre-breakfast exercisers also had a better response to insulin, helping regulate their blood sugar. This could also improve health and decrease the risk of illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, according to Dr. Javier Gonzalez, co-author of the study and senior lecturer in the Department for Health at the University of Bath.
In contrast, the insulin levels of those who ate breakfast first were no better than 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," Gonzalez said in a press release.
However, because of the small sample size and limited scope of the study, it's not clear whether these findings will apply more broadly to people other than overweight men. Plus, past research on the topic is mixed. While an earlier, and even smaller, study by Gonzalez also found that exercising pre-breakfast was superior, fat-burning wise, to eating first, calorie-burning wise, the opposite was true.
And, many exercise professionals encourage eating prior to exercise in order to help fuel a workout that may otherwise fall flat.
The bottom line: More research is needed. Still, exercising whenever suits you - whether before or after breakfast, or any other time of the day for that matter - is better than not exercisng. As Chris Jordan, an exercise physiologist and creator of the viral "7-Minute Workout" previously told Insider,"The best time of day to work out is the time you're most likely to work out."
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