What’s the Best Time to Exercise? Ask Dr. Mercola

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Dr. Mercola  |  45 Comments »

Did you gain weight during the holidays? Even the most health-conscious probably succumbed to the temptation of indulging in the comfort food that everyone else was enjoying.

You’ve had your cake — and eaten it, too! Now it’s time to burn the excess fat and get back in shape to start the New Year right.
One of the most common questions about exercise is: what is the best time to do it? Dr. Joseph Mercola prefers exercising first thing in the morning because:

• It gets done. Many things that are beyond your control can happen in the afternoon and evening, making you skip exercise due to “lack of time.”

• Exercising before breakfast boosts your fitness efforts.

Why Exercising Before Breakfast Provides Excellent Results

A new study in The Journal of Physiology suggests that exercising before breakfast can help promote weight loss and counteract the effects of a poor diet. The study involved 28 healthy men ages 18-25. During the trial, the participants were fed a diet composed of 30 percent more calories and 50 percent more fat. They were divided into three groups – those who:

1. Exercised before consuming a carbohydrate-rich breakfast and only drank water during exercise
2. Ate a carbohydrate-rich breakfast before exercising and drank sugary drinks such as sports drinks during their workout
3. Ate a high-calorie, high-fat diet but did not exercise

The two exercise groups did strenuous cycling and running four times a week.

The group with no exercise gained an average of more than six pounds and developed insulin resistance, which potentially increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Those who ate breakfast before exercising gained an average of three pounds and developed insulin resistance. Those who exercised before breakfast and drank only water during the workout gained almost no weight and did not show signs of insulin resistance.

How Fasting Promotes Weight Loss and Fights Insulin Resistance

Your body’s fat-burning processes are controlled by your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is activated by exercise and lack of food. This is why exercising on an empty stomach can aid your weight loss efforts and prevents insulin resistance, Dr. Mercola explains.

Eating a full meal composed mainly of carbohydrates will inhibit your SNS and reduce the fat burning effect of your exercise. Consuming carbohydrates activates your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), which promotes energy storage — the opposite of what you’re aiming for when you exercise.

Those who fasted before exercising increased their levels of a certain muscle protein that plays an important role in insulin sensitivity.

Listen to Your Body to Determine How You Should Exercise

If it’s your first time to implement an exercise program, take note of a number of individual factors, including your age, level of fitness, medical history, and medications you’re taking.

If you’re consuming a high-quality diet, you’ll probably have no problems with working out on an empty stomach. This is because you’ll have enough stored fuel to last for about one to two hours of intense activity, or three to four hours at moderate intensity.

However, some people will have a hard time exercising without eating something first. They are more sensitive to changes in their blood sugar levels, which can decline during the first 15-25 minutes of their workout. This blood sugar drop causes dizziness, fainting, nausea or lightheadedness.

Dr. Mercola believes that the best approach is to use common sense and listen to your body.

Eat a small breakfast before exercising if you feel weak or nauseous while working out on an empty stomach. A recent study in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise showed that consuming whey protein (20g of protein per serving ) 30 minutes before doing resistance training boosts your body’s metabolism for as long as 24 hours after your workout.

If you need a pre-workout breakfast or snack, high-quality whey protein is an excellent choice to curb your hunger and maximize fat burning. Whey protein is also known to help your insulin work more effectively.

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  3. Randy S. says on :

    It’s best to exercise BEFORE eating as this heats up the body. If you exercise AFTER you eat, the body is trying to digest the food while you are exercising…this can be very dangerous and put undue and unneeded stress upon the body and the heart.

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