Exercising on an empty stomach could be better for you than doing so after a meal, according to a study.

Men who had a workout before breakfast lost more fat than those who did so after the first meal of the day, scientists found.

There might be an extra benefit from exercising before eating, although further study is needed to assess the longer-term effects.

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  • It Staves Off Cravings

    In the course of a <a href="http://news.health.com/2012/09/18/exercise-curbs-appetite/">Brigham Young University study</a>, 18 normal-weighted and 17 clinically obese women were followed for two full days. On the first day, they exercised for 45 minutes, walking briskly on a treadmill, and then looked at 240 photographs, 120 of which were food (the other 120 were a control: flowers). The researchers then tracked the women's food intake and activity level for the rest of the day. On the second day, one week later, the women were shown the images without the workout. Again their food and exercise choices were tracked. Researchers found that both the obese women and the women at a healthy weight had a lower brain response to the images of food and moved around more following the 45 minute morning workout.

  • It Frees Up Your Day

    This is an obvious one, but getting your workout in before work means that you'll be up for impromptu happy hour or dinner plans. No more "I can't, I have spinning" for you!

  • It Helps You Stick To It

    What's more, getting your workout out of the way first means you'll actually do it. "If you work out be­fore your day distracts you, your chances of exercising regularly go way up," Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise <a href="http://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/morning-workout">told <em>Women's Health</em></a>.

  • It Ups Your Energy

    When you exercise, the effort helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients to muscles, organs and other tissues. And that means your whole cardiovascular system will work more efficiently, <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ01676" target="_hplink">upping your energy</a>, according to the Mayo Clinic.

  • It Jump Starts Your Brain

    Exercise has both short-term and <a href="http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/ExerciseFitness/17907">long-term</a> brain benefits. Research shows that the short-term benefits<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19276839"> include better executive function and memory recall</a>. That brain boost means that a morning workout <em>could</em> take the place of a caffeine fix.

The study was carried out by Dr Jason Gill and Nor Farah of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow.

Ten overweight men who were not regular exercisers took part in the study which looked at the effects of exercising before and after breakfast on metabolic health and fat loss.


Each man underwent three trials, up to a fortnight apart. In one, they performed no exercise then ate breakfast. The other trials saw them walking briskly for 60 minutes before eating breakfast, or doing the same walk after eating their morning meal.

Participants were given lunch three and a half hours after breakfast and the amount of fat their body burnt and the level of fat, sugars and insulin in the blood were measured over an eight and a half-hour period on each occasion.
Both periods of exercise increased fat-burning over the day, the results indicated.

But exercise before breakfast resulted in greater fat loss and larger reductions in the level of fat in the blood.

Dr Gill said: "Any exercise you do is beneficial but the indications are that there might be an extra benefit associated with exercising before eating, compared to after. However, further study is needed to determine whether the present findings extend over the long term.

"In the end we would like to encourage everyone to do some form of exercise every day. The difference between exercising before compared to after breakfast was much smaller than the difference between exercising at either time compared to not exercising at all."

See also:

Unusual Exercises To Boost Your Autumn Fitness Routine

Top 10 Excuses We Use 'Not' To Exercise

The findings - in the research paper Effects of exercise before or after meal ingestion on fat balance and postprandial metabolism in overweight men - is published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Also on HuffPost:

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  • ...Are Leaner

    A 2003 study in <a href="http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/158/1/85.full">the <em>American Journal of Epidemiology</em> </a>showed that people who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely to be obese than those who take a morning meal. The study, which included 499 people whose diets were tracked over a year-long period, also showed that <a href="http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/158/1/85.full">eating out for dinner and breakfast</a> are linked with obesity risk.

  • ...Are All-Around Healthier

    A study presented in 2003 at the American Heart Association's annual conference showed that not only are breakfast-eaters less likely to be obese, they're also more likely to <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2824987.stm">have good blood sugar levels</a> and less likely to be hungry later on in the day, BBC News reported. "Our results suggest that breakfast may really be the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2824987.stm">most important meal of the day</a>," study researcher Dr. Mark Pereira, of Harvard Medical School at the time, told BBC News. "It appears that breakfast may play an important role in reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease."

  • ...Feel More Energized

    Eating a breakfast that's high in fiber and carbohydrates could help you feel less tired throughout the day, according to a 1999 study in <a href="http://www.colorado.edu/intphys/Class/IPHY3700_Greene/pdfs/atkins/Holt.pdf">the <em>International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition</em></a>. Researchers found that when people ate a high-fiber, low-carb breakfast, they <a href="http://www.webmd.com/diet/fiber-health-benefits-11/fatigue-fighters-six-quick-ways-boost-energy">had more energy</a> throughout the day compared with people who ate a high-fat breakfast, WebMD reported. <em><strong>CORRECTION:</strong> A previous version of this slideshow incorrectly stated that a high-fat, low-carb breakfast was associated with more energy. It has been fixed to say that a high-fiber, low-carb breakfast is associated with more energy.</em>

  • …Have Better Cholesterol Levels

    A study in <a href="http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/81/2/388.abstract?cited-by=yes&legid=ajcn;81/2/388">the <em>American Journal of Clinical Nutrition</em></a> showed that breakfast-skippers are more likely to have worse cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity than breakfast-eaters. The study also showed that the breakfast-eaters consume about <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500368_162-673419.html">100 fewer calories</a> a day, compared with people who skip their morning meal, CBS News reported.

  • ...Remember Better

    Eating high-energy foods for breakfast could help to <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/019700709190042K">boost short-term memory</a>, according to a study of 319 teens (between ages 13 and 20) in the <em>Journal of Adolescent Health</em>. Researchers also found that eating a high-calorie breakfast actually seemed to <em>hinder</em> concentration.

  • ...Consume More Nutrients

    People who rarely eat breakfast <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22125684">consume more fat and fewer nutrients</a> -- like calcium, potassium and fiber -- than regular breakfast-eaters and "often" breakfast-eaters, according to a 2011 study in the journal <em>Nutrition Research and Practice</em>.

  • …Have An Excuse To Eat Healthy Breakfast Foods

    Breakfast-eaters have an excuse to consume healthy breakfast-time foods like oatmeal, eggs, grapefruit and coffee. Oatmeal has been shown in many studies to be <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-01/uok-ohc010808.php">good for cholesterol levels</a>, and research has also shown that it could help <a href="http://ase.tufts.edu/psychology/spacelab/pubs/MahoneyEtAl.pdf">improve children's memory</a> and attention skills when eaten for breakfast, compared with ready-to-eat cereals. Grapefruit is high in vitamins C and A, and has also been shown in a <em>Clinical Cancer Research</em> study this year to <a href="http://www.ivillage.com/grapefruit-juice-may-give-boost-cancer-treatment-study/4-a-478748">boost the beneficial effects of cancer drugs</a>, HealthDay reported. Eating eggs for breakfast has been linked to <a href="http://www.jacn.org/content/24/6/510.full">increased satiety </a><em>and</em> less food consumed later in the day, compared with eating bagels for breakfast, according to a 2005 study in the <em>Journal of the American College of Nutrition</em>. (The study was funded by the Egg Nutrition Center.) And coffee, of course, has been linked to a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/31/coffee-health-benefits_n_1064577.html#slide=440649">whole host of health benefits</a>, from a decreased risk of depression to a lower risk of some cancers and Type 2 diabetes.

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    Learn how to start the day with a healthy breakfast, the breakfast shake.