When I just started getting into exercise a few years ago, I was really interested in maximising my efforts to lose fat. In every magazine I opened I would head to the fitness section. One magazine would recommend working out after eating, others would recommend before eating, others would recommend working out after dinner or before breakfast… There are way too many opinions out there from self-professed gurus.
A lot of these gurus claim that working out in the morning on an empty stomach maximises fat loss. It DOES make sense after all- when you wake up your body is starved of sugars and if you work out it should make sense that you should burn fat.
The results of this study however shows that eating a light meal before your morning workout is the best way to lose fat.
The study compared a group of men who ate a light breakfast before a 36 minute moderate intensity workout on a treadmill (a fed state) with a group who did the same workout and ate the same meal after their workout (a fasted state).
It’s main results were:
- The group in the fed state burned more calories shortly after the workout and utilised more carbohydrate instead of fat in this energy expenditure
- The group in the fed state burned more calories throughout the day (measured 12 and 24 hours after workout)
- The group in the fed state were burning more fat throughout the day (measured 12 and 25 hours after workout)
In the short-term, fasting before exercise burns more fat, but in the long-term, eating brekky before exercise burns more calories and more fat.
By eating breakfast before a workout, your body goes into energy burning mode. Hormones are triggered to tell your body that you are in a nourished environment and you can afford to use your energy stores. If you workout in a starved state (before breakfast for example), your body goes into starvation mode and doesn’t want to burn fat.
While the results of this study are significant, we can’t ignore some of it’s limitations. It used only a small group of 8 men of around 27 years old, and did a moderate intensity workout. If we changed the group to women or high intensity, we don’t know whether that would change results.
Nonetheless, it provides some strong evidence that exercising after a light breakfast is more effective than fasting to achieve fat loss.
Eat a light breakfast high in carbohydrates and with low glycemic indexes 30 minutes before your workout. Fruits, breads, cereals, energy bars all make great options!
What is your personal experience with the eating before or after the workout debate- what worked for you? Have you found any studies that have different results (remember I have only quoted one study!) Leave me a comment 🙂