The alarm goes off. Before you open your eyes you know it is still dark outside. Something, whether it be force of habit, a drive to get fit, or for the pure joy of it (they exist, I am told) gets you up out of your warm bed to exercise. Your ability to wrestle off the Sand Man is almost as admirable as your dedication. But there is a legitimate reason you can be psyched about your morning workouts. The latest research indicates that the best time to workout is before breakfast.
A study conducted in Belgium and published in The Journal of Physiology confirms the benefits of exercising before breakfast. Participants in this study were placed on a high-fat diet. Some exercised before breakfast, some exercised after breakfast, and others did not exercise at all. The workouts for the two exercising groups were supervised, identical, and 60-90 minutes long. At the end of six weeks, the nonexercising group had developed an insulin resistance and (to no one’s surprise) had packed on an average of six pounds. The group that ate breakfast before exercising gained an average of three pounds, and also showed some insulin resistance. The group that exercised before breakfast gained no weight and burned the fat they took in more efficiently than the other two groups.
Sure, there are pros and cons to a workout at each time of day. In the afternoon, typically between 2 and 4 p.m. your body temperature peaks. During this time your muscles are more pliable, and you are more likely to perform well with a lower risk of injury. However, leaving exercise for later in the day makes it more likely to be bumped from you “to do” list, or may leave you too revved up to sleep. Exercising first thing in the morning makes sure fitness doesn’t fall by the wayside, but your body may need fuel and muscles will be a little more rigid. Eat a small snack or a piece of fruit before your workout, and make sure you take the time to warm up.
Our verdict? It is far more likely you will make it to the gym in the morning, and if weight loss is your goal, a good sweat before breakfast is the way to go.