Exercising before breakfast causes greater fat loss: study

How appealing does a pre-breakfast workout sound? If you answered "not very" then you're probably not alone, but you may be missing out on the chance to lose a few extra pounds, according to a new study.

New research conducted at Glasgow University in Scotland and published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that exercising before the first meal of the day is more effective than exercising after it, reports the Daily Mail.

Why does this happen? According to lead research Dr. Jason Gill, working out on an empty stomach forces the body to rely on its reserves of fat for energy.

Also see: Can just 2.5 minutes of exercise a day keep you slim? A new study thinks so

But before you set your alarm for that 6 a.m. workout, it should be noted that the sample size in Gill's study is small and only included men.

He had ten sedentary overweight men visit his laboratory three times each, and fed them the same breakfast each time. On one visit the men performed no exercise, on another they went for an hour-long fast walk before breakfast, and on the other they exercised after breakfast.

When they exercised before breakfast, the men burned up to 33 per cent more fat than those who exercised after breakfast. Those who exercised after breakfast also experienced a larger drop in blood fats, which can raise the risk of heart disease.

Also see: Get fit with an intense interval workout known as Tabata

"It's encouraging," says Dr. Greg Wells, "but it's a small sample size and there's not a huge amount of information."

Wells is a physiologist who specializes in health and performance in extreme conditions. You may remember him from the "Super Bodies" segment of the CTV coverage on the London Olympics Games.

He says loads of research has been done already on the optimal time to exercise for weight loss, but most of it points in all different directions.

"This is very interesting, but it needs to be replicated in women, elite athletes, people with diabetes, and a wide variety of other populations," says Wells.

For people that are very devoted to optimizing their body composition, he suggests this might be something to try, but for the rest of us, he has another tip.

"I recommend that people choose a time of day to exercise when they are the most likely to be able to do it consistently, over a long period of time," says Wells. "People see the most benefit when they're doing something regularly than doing it in fits and spurts — it just doesn't work."

So if getting up at the crack of dawn to sweat before you've had your eggs seems like a bit much, not to worry, that regular evening jog may serve you just as well.