Exercise before breakfast to beat holiday gluttony

Runner in the park at dawn

This guy is probably running off the flaming, cheese-covered, deep-friend snickerdoodle from the previous night's office party.

There’s no shortage of advice this time of year on the best ways to avoid packing on pounds amid office holiday potlucks, cocktail parties and that mother-in-law who won’t stop sending you Christmas cookies.

Turns out there may be a simple antidote to holiday weight gain: Exercise first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach.

The New York Times reports today on a new study that found that, of a group of 28 healthy male subjects, a group that ran and cycled vigorously in the mornings without eating first had far and away the best results.

The other groups included one that exercised during the mornings but after eating a hearty breakfast and a control group that did not exercise at all. All participants were fed a high-fat, calorie-rich diet throughout the six-week experiment.

From the Times:

Only the group that exercised before breakfast gained almost no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance. They also burned the fat they were taking in more efficiently. “Our current data,” the study’s authors wrote, “indicate that exercise training in the fasted state is more effective than exercise in the carbohydrate-fed state to stimulate glucose tolerance despite a hypercaloric high-fat diet.”

Why? The researchers think that part of it has to do with the fact that, barring the presence of carbohydrates, the body during exercise relies on burning fat for energy. The fasting group also showed higher levels of a muscle protein that plays a key role in regulating insulin sensitivity.

As a runner who sometimes runs before breakfast, I’ve often wondered why I never seem to lack for energy during the early morning hours. Food consumption ― too much or too little ― nearly always becomes an issue for me after I’ve had my first meal of the day.

So I’d like to say I’m going to take the findings of this study to heart and start running more often before breakfast.

Now if someone has any tips on how to get out of bed and out the door when it’s 9 degrees, icy and dark outside, I’m all ears.

Photo credit: Randy Son of Robert

Sven Gustafson

About Sven Gustafson

Sven Gustafson is a senior writer in the Office of the President at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. He enjoys food, running, soccer and exploring Detroit and Michigan at large.
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