A new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, sought to examine the relationship between meal timing, fat storage, and insulin response.
Researchers wanted to know if when a person consumed their meals had any effect on their workouts.
For the experiment, researchers from the University of Bath and University of Birmingham split a group of 30 men into three groups. The first of these groups ate breakfast before exercising, the second after exercising, and the third was a control group that made no changes to their lifestyle.
The findings of the study shocked researchers who noted that those who exercised before eating breakfast burned twice as much fat as participants who exercised after eating the same meal.
The group who ate after their workout also saw a greater increase in some muscular proteins, specifically those responsible for delivering glucose to the muscles.
Researchers cite a simple reason for this. The reason being that when people fast overnight, their insulin levels during morning exercise are decreased. This window without food allows the body to use more fat as fuel to power the workout.
This enhanced fat burning is an important consideration as obesity reaches pandemic levels in the developed world. Currently, more than one-third of adults in the US are obese, and these numbers are climbing. Weight gain is not a uniquely American problem. Countries around the world, as they urbanize, are seeing increased rates of obesity.
Scientists believe that the increased accessibility to fast and highly processed foods is to blame.
Because obesity contributes to numerous chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, studies on how the body burns fat and responds to elevated sugar levels are of high importance. Someday, these findings may help to tailor comprehensive programs to reduce obesity prevalence. Currently, reducing a person's likelihood of developing one of these chronic diseases focuses on dietary and exercise guidelines, but these recommendations make no mention of meal timing.
Though more extensive and longer duration studies that include women in their test population are needed, these findings contribute by suggesting that meal timing may play a role in disease prevention. This information is crucial as scientists search for ways to alleviate the world's chronic disease burden.