Eating before exercise: Results or nah?

It’s an eternal question, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a kebab wrapper. Can you eat before you exercise and still get results?



At long last, we have the answer to one of life’s greatest questions: can I eat this sausage McMuffin before my morning spin class, or will suffering through hunger pangs mean optimal levels of exercise?

I mean, it’s never a question I’ve asked myself, but it is still ranks highly in the conundrum stakes.

Better still, I have found the answer through no actual physical movement of my own, therein maintaining my commitment to avoid all extraneous acts of fitness.

Researchers from the UK’s University of Bath studied a group of overweight males, who exercised not once, but twice.

The study appears in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The volunteers walked once for 60 minutes at 60% maximum oxygen consumption on an empty stomach and then once more on another day, two hours after consuming a high-calorie, high-flavour, carbohydrate-rich breakfast.

Multiple blood samples were collected after eating or fasting, and again after exercising. Adipose tissue samples were also taken immediately before, and one hour after, walking.

Gene expression in the adipose tissue greatly differed in the two trials.

When the men fasted and exercised, the expression of genes PDK4 and HSL increased, while those same genes decreased when exercise was conducted in the post-meal haze.

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The rise in PDK4 is likely an indication that the body’s stored fat was used to fuel metabolism during exercise, while it was typically the carbohydrates from the recent meal that fuelled the body when the walk was post-eating.

HSL, however, typically increases when adipose tissue uses stored energy – like the aforementioned stored fat – to support increased activity, such as that performed during exercise.

That’s a lot of acronyms, which, when translated into English, mean that it is indeed more effective to exercise before eating, due to exercise after a meal typically burning up little more than that very meal.

Corresponding author Dylan Thompson explains further that after eating, adipose tissue is “busy responding to the meal and a bout of exercise at this time will not stimulate the same changes in adipose tissue.”

“This means that exercise in a fasted state might provoke more favourable changes in adipose tissue, and this could be beneficial for health in the long run.”

With that, so turns a page in the book of human civilisation. Minds now free of physiological mystery, we are now free to advance towards a knowledge-filled utopian existence.

Those advancements being done only after stretching of course, and only ever before eating.


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