(This is an article of Sheila Beckley borrowed from Front Range College in Colorado, US with permission from the author.)

This summer, I heard Dr. Oz say on TV that it’s better to exercise before eating breakfast because our bodies will be forced to use stored fats for energy. A few weeks later, a fitness expert advised on a morning TV show that we should eat breakfast first before exercising, because our metabolism increases every time we eat, and therefore, we’ll burn more calories. Who was right?

Looking around the Internet, both claims seem to be represented well. The New York Times, Men’s Fitness, and USA Today covered the same research in Belgium (article published in Journal of Physiology) where, from the group of healthy young men fed a high-fat and high-caloric diet, only those who exercised before breakfast did not gain weight. In addition, despite eating 30 percent more than they should, with a diet of 50 percent fat, these men did not develop insulin resistance. Meanwhile, those who ate breakfast before exercising gained weight, stored extra fat, and developed resistance to insulin. Both groups consumed the same amount of food with the same nutrient content and had the same exercise regimen.

So which is the right strategy? There is no easy answer, according to an article in San Diego Union Tribune, although you can burn slightly more calories on an empty stomach, you may not be able to do a higher intensity workout. You can probably do a comprehensive literature review and meta-analysis of available research and not come to any satisfactory conclusion. Perhaps, when the holidays come around and we will all inevitably overeat, we can try exercising before breakfast and neither gain weight nor develop insulin resistance. And then, we can all have a New Year’s resolution of losing weight by using high-intensity interval training.

(Note: A friend of mine who does his brisk walking almost daily has this formula: He takes coffee and a piece of small bread before exercise and full breakfast after. Whether we eat breakfast before or after exercise. there is a consensus that we should eat healthy food. – Oscar P. Chan)


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