Does exercising before breakfast help lose more fat?

Do you struggle to get up in the morning? Is hitting the ‘snooze’ button the most active thing you do before breakfast? Does the thought of a workout before your first cup of coffee send a shiver down your spine?

Well, you might want to consider a change in habit, as research is increasingly suggesting that by exercising before breakfast you will burn more fat than when you exercise later in the day.


There have been arguments for and against exercising before breakfast for many years, with compelling evidence on both sides, but recent research published in the British Journal of Nutrition says that by exercising on an empty stomach in the morning you may burn up to 20 per cent more body fat compared to exercising after eating your breakfast.

It is not a cut and dried case however; in 1984, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in a study conducted by S Welle that ‘postprandial (after eating) exercise would be no more beneficial than preprandial (before eating) exercise in increasing energy expenditure.’

But in another recent study, researchers found ‘people who exercise in a fasted state burn almost 20 per cent more fat compared to those who consume breakfast before their physicalactivity.’

As part of the study, researchers at Northumbria University asked 12 physically active-males to engage in treadmill exercise early in the morning.

Some of the participants had eaten breakfast, while the others had eaten nothing since the evening before. The results suggested that by exercising while your body is in a state of fasting, you will burn more fat.

Which begs the question, why?

Exercising before breakfast2

This increase in fat burning activity is down to the fact that in order to burn fat we need to utilise more of it. The first source of energy your body uses to fuel exercise is carbohydrate, but if you have not eaten carbohydrates recently, then the body turns to its emergency supply of energy – stores of fat.

During the course of a day, the activities that you take part in will burn carbohydrates first, and weight loss only occurs when the exercise fuel requirements are greater than the fuel intake.

Exercise first thing in the morning, and the body’s energy requirements are already greater than the fuel intake

There is also the additional benefit of exercising on an empty stomach; you will not feel heavy and sluggish throughout the workout session. Many people do not leave enough of a time-gapbetween exercising and their meal and can feel uncomfortable, ill or unable to train at the most intensive level.

Getting your daily exercise in before breakfast can also provide a huge psychological boost – exercise done, endorphins released, a glow in your face and a spring in your step – it is a far cry from the grey, half awake person who stumbles from their bed straight into the workplace.

Of course, exercising before breakfast will not suit everyone. You may feel that you lack energy,you may even feel a little sick during exercise on an empty stomach, but there will be no long term damage.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by G L Paul et al in 1996 says ‘pre-exercise meal consumption affected tryptophan (an essentialamino acid) before, during, and after exercise, but these changes were not sufficient to alter physical and cognitive performance.’

It is a good idea to mix up your training times and experiment to find out what suits you best. But there really is no excuse not to make the most of the morning hours and get a training session in before your first meal of the day.

Written by: Priyanka Droga

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