22 October 2019

When is the best time to exercise?

When is the best time to exercise? And when should you eat? Here’s what the experts reckon.

We all have our favourite times of day to work out. Some prefer to do it as early as possible and get it out of the way. Others prefer to save their exercise for after work to get a clear head and rid themselves of the frustrations of the day.

But experts believe that you can reap extra health benefits if you work out before breakfast.

According to a new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, scientists at the universities of Bath and Birmingham found that you can control your blood sugar levels more effectively when working out before breakfast.

What the research entailed

The study ran for six weeks and involved thirty male participants who were either obese or overweight. According to the news report on the study, results from two intervention groups (who ate breakfast before or after exercise) and one control group (where no lifestyle changes were made) showed that those who exercised before breakfast burned double the amount of fat compared to those who exercised after breakfast.

The reason? The difference is mainly because of lower insulin levels of those who were still in a fasting state before breakfast, meaning that more fuel is utilised from tissue and muscle instead of food.

There were no weight changes in the participants over the six weeks, but researchers maintain that the study results could have a profound effect on health – bodies are better able to respond to insulin and keep blood sugar under control in those who exercise before breakfast. This means that there is less risk for heart disease and diabetes in the future.

Dr Javier Gonzalez of the Department for Health at the University of Bath explained: "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.

Muscles more responsive to insulin

"We found that the men in the study who exercised before breakfast burned double the amount of fat compared to the group who exercised after. Importantly, whilst this didn't have any effect on weight loss, it did dramatically improve their overall health.

"The group who exercised before breakfast increased their ability to respond to insulin, which is all the more remarkable given that both exercise groups lost a similar amount of weight and both gained a similar amount of fitness. The only difference was the timing of the food intake."

The scientists also found that the muscles of those who exercised before breakfast were more responsive to insulin and showed a greater increase in key protein.

Image credit: iStock




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