Exercise Before Breakfast: All the Benefits Explained

Wednesday Jul 23 | BY |
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A friend of mine swears that the best way to lose body fat is to exercise (primarily “cardio” type of exercises) before breakfast or on an empty stomach. He’s a personal trainer and man’s style consultant who sees the best results with his clients who want to lose body fat when they start exercising on an empty stomach.

I started running again, and I’ve also been doing it before breakfast, first thing in the morning (after a cup of green tea, without sugar or milk). I’m finding that this is the best time for me to go out for a run — primarily because it just gets done — but it seems to be having a beneficial effect on my body composition as well.

Now, science is revealing that there are real benefits to exercising before breakfast. This method of exercising seems to be particularly beneficial to counter the effects of overeating: for example, during summer excesses (BBQs!) and winter Holidays.

In a recent study done in Belgium, 28 young men were stuffed with a terrible diet: 30% more calories than what they normally ate, and with lots of high-fat food.

Some of the men agreed not to exercise during the experiment.

The other men were split into two groups:

– One group exercised before breakfast.
– One group exercised after breakfast.

They both ate the exact same breakfast and followed the exact same exercise routine, and burned the exact same number of calories.

The exercise sessions were strenuous: 60 to 90 minutes of running and cycling.

The group that exercised after breakfast had a carbohydrate- and fat-rich breakfast and also consumed sports drinks during the workouts.

The group that exercised before breakfast only drank water during the workouts and then also had a carbohydrate- and fat-rich breakfast. Again, the calories were almost identical in both groups.

So, in recap, we have three groups:

– Non-exercisers
– Exercisers before breakfast
– Exercisers after breakfast

After six weeks, here’s what happened:

– The non-exercisers gained a bunch of weight. Six pounds, on average. They also developed insulin resistance.

– The “exercisers after breakfast” also gained weight: an average of 3 pounds. They also developed some insulin resistance.

– The “exercisers before breakfast” gained almost no weight, and did not experience any insulin resistance.

Remember that those people were ALL eating 30% more calories than they usually ate. You could imagine that if the calories and the quality of the diet had been controlled, the exercisers would have lost weight, and based on the results of the study, the ones who exercised before breakfast might have lost more weight and more body fat, too.

A Great Way to Combat the Ills of Overeating

Do you have a big family reunion coming up, where you know you’ll be eating extra calories? Use this strategy to avoid the effects this food could have on your health. Wake up a little earlier, and go on a run or use an exercise machine for about an hour. Even a low intensity workout would work.

The director of the studies said: “I would recommend this as a way of combating Christmas.” Let’s add to that all of the other occasions when we’re “cheating!”

What about you? Have you found it beneficial to exercise before breakfast? What’s your favorite time to exercise?

Study can be found at:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20837645

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

13 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Ellie says:

    I really love exercising before breakfast – it makes me feel like I’ve started the day off on a positive note, I feel achieved and can definitely see more muscle definition during this time of day. It typically takes me about 30-45 minutes to build up an appetite after the exercise, and when I do eat (oatmeal, green protein smoothie, omelet and salad, etc.) I totally crash. I don’t know why it happens, but it does, a lot. Maybe I should only eat certain foods or need a special type of “refuel” carb-fat-protein ratio after my morning workout, but I haven’t been able to figure it out yet. Also, I find that the TYPE of exercise I do also makes a difference. If I do more strenuous high-cardio boot-camp style interval exercises, I’m very fidgety and nervous throughout the day, if I do yoga I’m more calm, somewhere in between usually works for me like a bike ride or a jog.

  2. Ellie says:

    Also, I find that meditating first thing in the morning is also pretty awesome. We need to prepare and energize both our physical AND mental bodies for the day ahead and there’s nothing better than starting with a clean mental slate each day.

    • Lilija says:

      Totally agree on that! 🙂
      And after meditation and pranayama I also do a combination of yoga and some power exercises. That is all before breakfast, after drinking a glass of water. Have never done differently, so I don’t really have comparison, but it definitely works for me to keep the perfect weight and muscle mass balance.
      However exercising on empty stomach is always more pleasant, hard to imagine doing that with full stomach.

  3. sherry says:

    I recommend to always exercise before breakfast or any meal for that matter..This is your best bet!

  4. Natalie says:

    I would have liked to see them do this study with calories NOT increased. What I have found, (I exercise regularly), but the times I have dropped weight, has been diet induced, not exercised induced.

  5. JT says:

    This is some really great information. I have always wondered about this. Now this is the kind of really helpful information I really enjoy getting. Thanks for always being willing to give some practical advice! Is it true that after 30 minutes of walking (fast or not) or jogging that the health benefits are not as great. I was told it was not all that beneficial to go past 30 minutes. True or untrue?

  6. Julie says:

    I was interested and curious until I got to “The group that exercised after breakfast…also consumed sports drinks during the workouts.” How can the group drinking a sugary drink during exercise even be compared to the group only drinking water? That’s not apples to apples. It seems that regardless of the exercise being done before or after breakfast, the group ingesting sugar during the workout would fare worse than the water-only group.

  7. Gina says:

    I experimented on myself for many years & found this to be true. The exercise doesn’t even have to be very strenuous. The body is in flushing cleansing mode in the morning so it’s a good time to drink water & build up a little sweat.

  8. Boyd Starkey says:

    A surf fist thing in the morning before eating anything is definitely the most positive way to start the day. Not only are you exercising at something that is a complete hoot, but you are sitting in the water being earthed, and the joy of nature all around cannot help but inspire, relax, and energise you.
    There is nothing like it. It is pure heaven ! This morning there were whales at play right in front of us whilst we were surfing. How could you not feel blessed .
    Cheers.

  9. Maria says:

    Wonderful. Back when I was going to college I ran regularly early in the morning, before breakfast and before the annoying traffic. It felt soooo good. I can’t explain the “high” I would feel after my morning run. It set my day off right. This is about the only time that I was most consistent with my weight. I was a lean machine!! I didn’t make the connection then, but my early pre breakfast runs could have been part of the reason I was able to maintain my weight so effortlessly during this time. Ok…it’s back to early pre breakfast runs for me. Thank you for this!!!

  10. Betsy says:

    Have never wanted to go an exercise before breakfast – but this information might definitely change my mind!
    It’s easy enough and if that could be the key to getting leaner – I will just have to give it a try
    I normally like to exercise either after breakfast, or before or after dinner – but never first thing. Hmmm

  11. Janet says:

    Yup! Not surprising. This is exactly what Craig Balentyne says:

    If you want to lose weight keep your insulin low before you exercise and then eat after you exercise. If you eat carbs afterwards it feeds your muscles glycogen, and if you eat more akin to Paleo or at least low glycemic you lose fat.

    Good article Fred!

  12. Super duper agree. Fasted cardio is so beneficial and just kicks off the day with a bang!

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