Exercising on an empty stomach could burn more fat

For those looking to lose weight and shift excess body fat, exercising first thing in the morning on a pre-breakfast empty stomach could be the key according to the findings of a study recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Some people who muster the motivation to get out of bed in the early hours to exercise before going off to work may insist on eating a large breakfast first as they want to take in the kilojoules of energy within the food. However, the study conducted by experts from Northumbria University, may force the early morning gym enthusiasts to reconsider their strategy.

Researchers, led by Dr Emma Stevenson and PhD student Javier Gonzalez, say it is widely believed that exercising following an overnight fast can have benefits, and now they have clear evidence to support this theory. They say that exercising on an empty stomach in the morning can help to burn up to 20% more body fat than exercising after breakfast.

For the study, 12 ‘physically active’ men were instructed to do moderate intensity running on a treadmill at 10am. Some of the participants were specifically told not to eat any breakfast after their ‘overnight fast’, whilst others were allowed a pre-workout meal. After 90 minutes, all men were given a chocolate milk recovery drink and then a pasta-based lunch a short while later. They were allowed to eat as they wished until feeling ‘comfortably full’.

The men’s consumption of energy and fat over the lunchtime period was analysed after taking into consideration how much energy and fat was burned over the morning.

It was discovered that the fasting exercisers had less of an appetite later on in the day and did not need to consume any additional calories to make up for their early-morning hunger in comparison to the group who had eaten prior to their workout.

Javier Gonzalez, currently studying Exercise and Metabolism, said: “In order to lose body fat we need to use more fat than we consume. Exercise increases the total amount of energy we expend and a greater proportion of this energy comes from existing fat if the exercise is performed after an overnight fast. Our results show that exercise does not increase your appetite, hunger or food consumption later in the day and to get the most out of your session it may be optimal to perform this after an overnight fast.”

The process of losing body fat as Gonzalez describes, in addition to the myths about a supposed ‘slow metabolism’ is a subject Medical Specialists Pharmacy explained in great depth last year as we all probably know at least one person who blames failure to lose weight on such a problem. Exercising at the gym is all well and good but if you are consuming a far greater number of calories than you are burning off, then weight loss is impossible and the slow metabolism reason suddenly looks rather suspect.

Adding to Gonzalez’ comments, Dr Emma Stevenson said: “This research is very important in helping to provide practical guidelines relating to food intake to individuals who are exercising to maximise fat mass loss. It must be highlighted that this is a short-term study and we can only speculate on the longer term outcomes of such nutritional practices.”

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