Fact or fiction: Exercising first thing in the morning will burn more fat.
This is another tricky one, so let’s look at the facts. Exercising first thing in the morning, in a fasted state will mean that your body uses a greater percent of fat for energy (as opposed to carbohydrate). Sounds like a winner, right? Well yes and no. Let me explain…
Our bodies are complex machines and the type of energy we use for exercise (fat, carbs, and even a bit of protein) depends on a huge number of factors, such as intensity, duration, level of fitness, and general diet. In general we tend to use fat for fuel during lower intensity exercise and shift towards burning carbs as intensity increases. But what we burn during exercise is of little importance really! If fat loss is the goal, it is more important to think about the total amount of energy we burn, not just during the one hour of exercise, but after as well!
So what is the best way to do this then? Well I’m not going to suggest that there is one right answer, but I’ll give you a few different strategies:
- If you are strapped for time, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a great way to zap fat. Compared to steady-state exercise, studies have shown that HIIT results in a greater reduction in fat mass and total body mass. You can learn more about the benefits in this article by Charles Poliquin.
- Eat a light meal before exercise (check out some of my recipes for ideas). Having some fuel in your system will let you exercise longer and harder, meaning you burn more calories. It also prevents protein breakdown (occurs at a much greater rate during fasted exercise) which is particularly important for those wanting to maximise muscle mass.
- Incorporate resistance training into your exercise routine. Muscle is an active tissue and needs more energy to function compared to fat. Having more muscle means you burn greater amounts of energy, even at rest!
Bottom line here is that nothing beats a healthy lifestyle. The media can give a very one sided story about the latest diet, or fitness fad, so it’s important to be a detective and learn the facts. You’ll soon realise that no quick-fix translates into long-term health. Keep it simple: be active, eat healthy, and enjoy a long and prosperous life!