To burn 70% more fat, exercise on an empty stomach

Credit: Bruce Mars / Unsplash

A recent study from Nottingham Trent University and elsewhere found that exercising on an empty stomach helped people to burn about 70% more fat than those who exercised two hours after eating.

They also found that the participants—who undertook both fasted and fed exercise in the evening—did not overcompensate for the calories skipped earlier in the day.

Previous studies have suggested the benefits of exercise could be increased when done in the morning following an overnight fast.

But the new research found that evening exercise, between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., is the most popular time for people due to other commitments.

In this study, the researchers asked participants to cycle on an exercise bike at 6:30 p.m. at moderate intensity for 30 minutes, before completing a time trial to cycle as far as they could in 15 minutes.

Participants did this twice on separate days—once after a seven-hour fast and once after eating a meal two hours earlier. The researchers also measured how much food participants ate at dinner, after exercising.

They found that similar to exercise after an overnight fast, fasted exercise in the evening increased the amount of fat burned during exercise.

The amount of fat burned during the 30-minute cycle increased by about 70% from 4.5g to 7.7g.

And, while calorie intake at dinner was about 100 kcal greater for those doing fasted exercise, calorie intake over the whole day was on average 440 kcal less, when exercise was performed fasted.

The researchers also found, however, that despite these benefits participants who covered slightly less distance during the 15-minute time trial performance, had a lower motivation to exercise and enjoyed the exercise less when done.

They say that fasting before evening exercise might benefit some elements of health due to increasing the amount of fat burned during exercise, or by reducing the number of calories that are eaten during the day.

If done regularly it may improve the way the body deals with spikes in blood sugar after eating.

However, despite these benefits, fasting during the day does appear to reduce people’s exercise performance, motivation and enjoyment, which may make it harder for some people to stick with it in the longer term.

The study was conducted by Tommy Slater et al and published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

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