As a child growing up my parents struggled with weight & I’ve read and seen every ‘fad diet’ there is known to man. Not just from them but curiosity killing the cat I presume. I have always heard that exercising before you eat is beneficial because your body is still burning calories even after you are done and it will immediately burn the calories you are eating. After starting this blog and reading some of the research I have in the last year I’m trying to decide if that is really true. It seems my best time to work out is early in the morning, I would rise before my kids are sleeping and go for a run or walk and then return home to eat breakfast. I know that we should wait 3-4 hours before exercising based on GM’s post: I just ate breakfast, I guess I have to wait 3-4 hours before working out now… but what about fasting all night and then exercising, is this wrong? Is there any benefit or is it bad for you?? Great questions considering I did it all last year and didn’t even think about it.
I did some reading on the subject and found that most people believe eating small bit before exercising and then eating more after is the best – some even say eating during your exercise is best. I did find a study from scientists in Australia that was later followed up with a published post in the Journal of Physiology that was then printed in the New York Times stating in so many words that exercising while on an empty stomach early in the morning may decrease your productivity or performance, however it does have other benefits that help burn the fat that you take in more efficiently & it helps combat the effects of eating a high calorie, high fat diet by burning off the calories that would normally make you gain weight. The study was not completely conclusive saying that perhaps just exercising at a lower performance rate may just be the key, that the fast of the night before may have nothing to do with it at all. They also stated that any exercise is better than none, less productive or not. One of the other problems with not eating before hand can throw you into over eating binge after you return from this exercise just because now after a full 1000 calories night of dreaming sleep & a 400+ calorie burn you are starving & will over eat or over compensate. I personally tend to have to force myself to eat after a 2 mile walk or run or a grueling 12 minute body rock work-out. To me it’s the last thing I want to do is eat, not sure why, maybe it’s just that I’m usually hot and I hate eating lots of food when I’m hot.
My conclusion, although I’m no doctor or nutritionist is this, is there really is no sound evidence either way. I know I can get up and run or workout in the morning before I eat breakfast and feel fine & not overindulged but that’s not necessarily the healthiest thing. Also, I’m sure there are people who struggle with hypoglycemia or related things that need to eat after certain periods of time or before a large calorie burn or who know their body well enough to know that they will overindulge. Sometimes it’s simply WHAT you eat before or after you exercise that can make all the difference. I recently found a “…ask Alice” post containing information on such ideas. This outlines you should eat something small before you take off on your exercise for the day.
In this case I would suggest eating something small before hand and then eating after but not overindulging & getting to know your own body.