Q&A With Brian
Hi Brian, I do my cardio in the mornings, on an empty stomach. Are there are particular benefits to doing cardio in the morning as opposed to the evening? Thanks Victoria, QLD
Thanks Victoria for the question, it is a good one.
The debate on whether exercising on an empty stomach has any benefit is one of the hottest and most discussed in the fitness world. When you cut through all the chatter it comes down to a simple argument based on the objective of your exercise. What benefit are you wanting to achieve from exercise?
For many people, the driving force behind their training is; weight loss. For me, there is sufficient evidence to suggest when exercising on an empty stomach you increase the potential to burn fat as fuel. This is great for weight loss. When you exercise your body burns two major types of fuels: glucose and fat. When you exercise for longer than a few minutes you burn both glucose and fat, however the ratio of each changes depending on the circumstances. When asleep the major fuel used is glucose leaving you with relatively more fat when you awake. If you then exercise prior to eating in the morning it’s thought you burn more fat, as it is in higher concentration.
A good study provided by Dr Mercola reinforces this view. In it, a group of men ate the same quantity and exercised for the same length of time, the variable was when the exercise was performed. The group who exercised prior to breakfast lost more weight. On the flip side, if deciding to exercise at a time close to eating (or drinking) the need to draw on body fat is reduced with the majority of energy being supplied by the fuel (food and drink) consumed prior to. This may impact on the amount of body fat used and subsequently the benefit exercise is to your weight loss goal.
If the role of your exercise is to increase your athletic performance I’d suggest eating a small snack prior to training. From the reasons given above, supplying your muscles with an easily attainable energy source from food or drink will reduce associated fatigue often felt with low blood glucose levels. Especially when training at a high intensity the need for a fast supply of energy is essential. The energy provided from burning body fat can be slower than required to meet this instant demand, and can therefore limit your athletic performance.
My Golden Rule
It is easy to get caught up in the science of exercise and health, with numerous studies giving weight to each side of an argument. This is most certainly the case with this question about exercising before breakfast. My honest opinion is that it makes such little difference when you train I wouldn’t consider it too much a factor. Consistency is the key.
I don’t care when you train as long as you do. Hopefully from my previous posts you’ve picked up my vibe where I want you to make exercise a natural and organic part of your life. If this this means doing press ups against the kitchen bench while waiting for the kettle to boil ....great. Or how about a quick power walk and stretch at lunch time…excellent. Or my personal favourite, the playground workout while watching my 3 year old Harry on the slides.
Don’t get caught up in the chatter. Look for opportunities to move more every day, all day and whether you eat before, after or during exercise will matter not.