If I am trying to lose weight, should I eat before exercising or wait till after?

Posted 07/19/2013 | By HealthCorps

You make efforts to be active on a regular basis, but you still aren’t seeing your desired weight loss results. You’re not alone. In fact, this is a familiar scenario for many people. Health professionals and dieticians emphasize the importance of eating well time and time again. A balanced diet is key. But perhaps it’s not only what you eat, but when you eat that can propel you forward in your weight loss journey.  

Fasted Exercise 

According to a recent British study, working out before you eat breakfast in the morning can help you burn an extra 20% of body fat. The study compared the fat-burning results of men who walked briskly and then had breakfast on one day with the same group of men who walked briskly after having breakfast on another day. Tests showed a greater reduction of circulating fats in the bloodstream on the day the men exercised before eating. Exercising on an empty stomach may help you burn more body fat and can trigger a greater reduction in artery-clogging fat as well.  

How Do You Burn Fat? 

Glycogen is a stored carbohydrate and is our body’s preferred energy source. Your body has about 90 minutes to two hours-worth of stored glycogen at any given time of the day. But in the morning following a night of sleep, the glycogen stores in your body are often depleted. This increases your body’s likelihood of burning fat instead of carbohydrates. Your body can’t burn this fat, however, without an ample supply of oxygen. This is key! Fats from specific tissues are broken down into fatty acids, which travel through your bloodstream to your muscles where they are ultimately “burned” in the presence of oxygen. The digestive system, however, also requires oxygen when processing the food you’ve eaten. Thus, on an empty stomach, less of your oxygen supply is used for digestion, allowing for more oxygen in your muscles to help break down fat. 

So, Should I Always Fast Before I Exercise? 

Ultimately, everybody is different and even though some research has pointed towards the benefits of fasted exercise, not everyone experiences the same drastic results. The difference between working out on an empty stomach or not is not particularly huge. It’s most important to listen to what your body needs. Many people find that they need some fuel in the morning before a workout, especially if it’s a strenuous or prolonged one. To prevent lightheadedness or fatigue, having a small serving of protein like a Greek yogurt or a few baked crackers with nut butter will give you the boost of energy you need while still allowing you to achieve your weight loss goals.  

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