Eat This to Burn 50% More Fat When Working Out


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

A new study in The Journal of Nutrition shows that what you eat beforehand could affect the calorie burn during your workout. Women who ate a breakfast high in low-glycemic index carbs (whole grain breads, low-fat yogurt or non-instant oatmeal, for example) burned 50 percent more fat in a post-breakfast workout than those who ate a breakfast of high-glycemic index carbs (cornflakes, white bread or waffles, for example.)

Participants ate either a high- or the low-glycemic index breakfast, and then walked on a treadmill for 60 minutes three hours later. Blood samples determined a 50 percent difference in the amount of fat burned between the two groups. High glycemic-index carbs tend to cause a spike in blood sugar. Researchers theorize that eating a meal rich in lower glycemic-index carbs may boost the body's use of its resources for fat burning instead of blood sugar.

So what does this mean for you? First, it's important to note that this study was done on women of normal weight, not women trying to lose weight. But the researchers theorize that the results could also apply to those who have a weight loss goal. I feel that when it comes to weight loss, what really matters is the total number of calories you're burning, not necessarily where they are coming from (fat, glycogen, etc.) So I wonder whether or not it's going to affect your weight loss progress if you burn more fat.

I think the strategy used in this study could work well if you're not going to exercise for a while after your meal. But if you're like me, you'll need to eat something within an hour or so before working out or you'll start to feel lightheaded. In that case, I tend to eat higher glycemic-index foods that give me the immediate boost of energy I'll need.

In the end, I think it's important to experiment and figure out what's going to work best for you. What foods give you the energy you need to complete your workout? How long do you wait to exercise after eating a meal or snack? What do you think about this study?

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  • 92
    I workout from about 6 am to 7 am, but don't eat beforehand. I eat breakfast within about an hour of working out. I wonder if it affects my workouts....but it would be very tough for me to get up, eat, then wait awhile to exercise. The one time I did eat 1/2 a granola bar before eating I felt yucky.

    I have noticed that if I work out after dinner then again in the morning I hit a wall-hard. Too many workouts on an empty stomach! Now if I work out at night I'll eat a snack before bed.

    Thanks for the article. Nice to know regular oatmeal is low gi, I've been eating that a lot lately and it really does fill me up. - 5/19/2009   5:57:32 PM
  • 91
    See I didn't get that they were meaning breakfast, per se' - just using examples?? Correct me if I am wrong... I understood it as, for example - one could eat 'non-instant' oats and work out 3hrs later; etc. etc/??

    I'm confused :( - 5/19/2009   5:29:31 PM
    I used to skip breakfast, but now I do have either oatmeal or Cheerios and milk and fruit. Seems to work pretty good. - 5/19/2009   5:02:34 PM
  • 89
    I try to eat something fairly nutritious for breakfast that will get me going - an egg is a great option, whether hardboiled or scrambled into an omelet if I have the time. - 5/19/2009   1:13:30 PM
  • 88
    I think what you said at the very end was the most important. Taking the information that comes at us from so many places is the first step, but then thinking about how it applies to you and making it work for you is key. Everything works different for everybody. You have to honestly analyze how it's going to work for you. Great information, now take it for what it's worth to you and run with it! - 5/19/2009   9:37:54 AM
    I normally go for a fast walk in the morning and don't eat anything until I come bac, but now that I strap weights to my wrists and ankles I'm feeling more hungry when I get back so today I think I might try a little plain yogurt with two or three strawberrries to see how it goes. Hope this helps!! :) - 5/19/2009   8:58:39 AM
  • 86
    Like some others, I'm up early (3:30 am) -- as I'm usually at work around 5:00ish. My breakfast usually consists of a mug of hot coffee and a handful of nuts. For lunch, I usually grab a salad. Most days, I work out soon after arriving home...but there are some mornings, when I want to hit the track and watch the sun come I either schedule a day in the field (visiting contacts) or work from home.
    As a rule, I don't work out within 90 minutes of eating...I exercising more comfortable and fulfilling on a empty stomach. - 5/19/2009   8:55:24 AM
    I have scambled eggs (2) with cheese and some baby tomatoes an hour before my Sunday body attack class with green or chamomile tea. then I have a Shape yohgurt or protein smoothie after. works for me. - 5/19/2009   6:43:25 AM
  • 84
    I would like to read your commits on how long to wait after eating before exercising - 5/19/2009   12:16:21 AM
  • 83
    I am glad that I have started eating breakfast!!! - 5/18/2009   6:24:40 PM
  • 82
    My breakfasts vary, some days I have a veggie omelet, or Oatmeal, Malt o meal, and some days I just go with a nice smoothie and some toast. I do eat whole grain, orowheat double fiber bread now and I think it helps my energy levels to have a good breakfast. I don't roll out of bed and exercise and I never exercise on an empty tummy. I think I may just pay more attention to see if I am burning more fat when I eat the higher protein breakfasts. - 5/18/2009   5:51:24 PM
  • 81
    I get up around 5am and have breakfast by 6:15. I switch between Bob's Red Mill Extra Thick Rolled Oats made with Blue Diamond unsweetened vanilla almond milk and natural peanut butter or the same oats made with the almond milk and mixed with 2 egg whites. I then do my cardio between 7:30 and 8am. Works out good and I am not hungry until 10:30 or so for my morning snack. - 5/18/2009   2:08:44 PM
  • 80
    Now there's interesting. I had wondered how what food you ate effected your fat burn. I still wonder if your body chooses to burn fat in preference to digesting those complex carbs.

    Like several others here, I start my day early - 5:30 am and can't face food in the morning. - 5/18/2009   1:36:32 PM
    It works- but helps U to feel fuller longer with the additon of protein/fat. - 5/18/2009   2:28:52 AM
  • 78
    I either have to work out first thing before breakfast or wait until I feel hungry again after a meal before I attempt exercise. I have a slowish digestion and get sick easily if I have any amount of food in my stomach while exercising. It makes scheduling workouts tough. I have found that bananas and plain bagels are best I need a small something--it is less of a wait than the bulkier carbs (3hrs compared to 6). - 5/17/2009   10:51:33 PM
  • 77
    I don't normally workout in the am because I am up at 4:50 and need to be to work by 6:40 am. (I might do 10 mins of pilates or stretching.) I workout when I get home from work and I do need to have a good snack otherwise I drag my butt. I usually have a low fat cheese string w/ an apple or sugar snap peas or a Kashi granola bar. Then I have supper when I get back - 5/17/2009   9:27:03 PM
  • 76
    When I use the elliptical (first thing the a.m.), I have to drink lots of water to keep up my energy (usually 28-32 oz. in 30 minutes). Then, I eat breakfast after I shower (about 30 minutes after cool-down). But when I go to the gym at night, I go about an hour after I eat dinner. That seems to work well, keep up my energy, and allow me to have a good workout. - 5/17/2009   4:58:20 PM
    I must say that I don't know what foods help me to burn more fat during workouts, but I do know that if I don't eat SOMETHING prior to a workout I am definitely going to feel nauseous and light headed. - 5/17/2009   4:40:48 PM
  • 74
    I usually eat a small but filling breakfast and work out anywhere from 1-3 hours later. I usually have a bowl of oatmeal (sometimes with a teaspoon or tablespoon of cashew or peanut butter) or a toaster waffle with peanut butter and some milk. I usually have some fruit too, like berries. I find that a small breakfast with some protein in it as well as carbs keeps me going through my morning workout and until lunchtime, which is usually after 1 or 1:30 for me. - 5/17/2009   3:37:51 PM
  • 73
    I've kept the weight off BY eatting breakfast!! Great story!! - 5/17/2009   12:12:34 PM
  • 72
    To be honest, I hate breakfast. - 5/17/2009   10:59:12 AM
    I used to eat yogurt before I jogged. - 5/17/2009   10:58:47 AM
  • 70
    I'm up at 5 am every day and often at the gym before 6. I usually grab a rice cake with some almond butter, and water of course! before I leave the house. I take my oatmeal with me to work and have breakfast at my desk. - 5/17/2009   9:22:52 AM
  • 69
    What foods give you the energy you need to complete your workout?
    I normally do not eat before my 6am workout. But if I do it is fruit with glass of milk. This is just enough until after my workout.

    How long do you wait to exercise after eating a meal or snack?
    About 30-40 minutes after my workout
    I have coffee, slice of whole wheat bread and an hardboiled egg.

    What do you think about this study?
    I think for me it is something to start to experiment with. To see if it will get me to losing weight again. - 5/17/2009   8:17:08 AM
  • 68
    I could never remember what is recommended. I struggle with breakfast I dont' sit and eat a breakfast I ususally have something while getting ready for the kids to come and then eat some fruit or something when serving their breakfast. If I wait to eat with them then that means I will be awake 3 hours. I dont' usually exercise in the morning, except for our Kindermusik time. Maybe this is something I should try. I need to read more about GI... - 5/17/2009   7:42:54 AM
  • 67
    For years I have exercised first thing in the morning, BEFORE breakfast (though I eat a really good low-glycemic breakfast afterward). I'm uncomfortable exercising with much food in my stomach. But lately I've been getting lightheaded in the second half of my running route, which for me results from low blood pressure as I drink water & perspire. What I need in my system while running is a bit of salt. We don't keep chips or crackers in the house, so I'm experimenting with eating a little slice of cheese before I take off on my run. Today it seemed to help. - 5/17/2009   12:13:45 AM
  • 66
    I'm not sure that this will help me. I'm up at 4:30am also, but have to be at work at 6am. I workout after I finish work, usually at the gym by 3pm. I eat a snack around 2pm, nuts and fruit mostly, and it works for me. By the way, I eat breakfast every morning and have done it as long as I can remember! - 5/16/2009   6:49:56 PM
  • 65
    What works for me in the mornings before a cardio workout is to eat something small and healthy and reasonably easy to digest, such as an apple or banana. And, to hydrate well. After that, I eat steel cut oats mixed with low fat yogurt, fruit added. The whole picture has to be considered. If I eat a heavy breakfast first, then I cannot work out as hard. Having experimented on my own body, I can tell you that for me a heavy meal right before workout means burning 200 fewer calories during the workout. That's if I manage to work out at all after breakfast - I always check my professional email while eating breakfast to prepare for the day, so eating first would mean more missed workouts. All this means: if I eat heavier first, I will burn fewer total fat calories (and far fewer total calories) during the workout and I will have fewer workouts altogether. Those who aren't as affected by a hearty breakfast before workouts or who do not have a blackberry addiction would clearly have different results :) It pays to experiment with our schedules and habits, to see whether research results like these can help us come up with new strategies - in this case, for me, it isn't a help but I can see where it might be useful for others. - 5/16/2009   4:23:38 PM
    Medicinal restrictions force me to wait an hour before I can eat breakfast, so I usually work out during that hour. I'm one of those who feels fine on a empty stomach. After my workout, I usually have my favorite apple-cinnamon oatmeal and a glass of milk. ;) - 5/16/2009   3:27:56 PM
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    - 5/16/2009   3:13:00 PM
  • 62
    I already have to get up at 5 am to be to work at 7am, so eating a good breakfast & then working out isn't something I'm able to do.
    I try to follow all the 'rules' and eat a healthy breakfast, and lunch. Then about 45 mins prior to working out I eat a mini power bar. This gives me the good carbs I need to power my workout. Its just enough to give me energy but it doesn't make me over full, and it still leaves me plently of calories for a healthy, filling dinner. - 5/16/2009   2:39:53 PM
    Interesting. Something I will have to give a try. - 5/16/2009   2:11:24 PM
  • RENEE1948
    I keep reading how important it is to eat breakfast but I just can't seem to do it. I go workout three times a week at the gym and I will drink about a three ounce protien drink when I finishe with my exercise and at 11:30, I will eat lunch. I seem to do ok with this schedule. - 5/16/2009   1:09:40 PM
  • 59
    I eat about every three-four hours. So I eat small enough meals so I can work out after an hour and a half or two hours. I have something in my system so I'm not tired and after I'm done, it's about time to eat again! - 5/16/2009   1:02:13 PM
  • 58
    Great blog .. I have changed to whole wheat and my kids cant tell the difference
    i have found a white bread made from whole wheat .. that my picky daughter will eat.. - 5/16/2009   12:54:26 PM
  • 57
    I make a whey protein shake with fruit and water. I drink half before my workout and half after. It seems to be ok. - 5/16/2009   12:41:30 PM
  • 56
    I also wake up around 430 to get to the gym at 530. I have tried to eat something small before going, and it just isn't fun, and my body doesn't want anything. I drink a lot of water during my workout, and then I have been eating a parfait of sorts for breakfast (yogurt, granola, fresh fruit), and it has been working out ok. So far, I have never really gotten dizzy or anything, but if I noticed that I might add in something liquid before the workout. (I don't know what though) - 5/16/2009   12:15:10 PM
  • 55
    I have to have my breakfast! I am a breakfast person but I only eat a half cup of all bran with soy milk about 15-30mins before i work out. I couldnt workout if i didnt eat first. IF i get hungry before lunch, i eat a fruit with some sort of protien. - 5/16/2009   11:57:55 AM
  • 54
    Interesting info --- however I typically eat w/g muffin w/egg + fruit or w/g waffle w/peanut butter + fruit or oatmeal and l/f yogurt.....can't remember the last time I ate white bread!!!!! As always, my thought is to eat healthy and move something everyday!!! And yes, disco dancing IS exercise!!!!! Have a great weekend! - 5/16/2009   11:43:37 AM
  • 53
    Great info! - 5/16/2009   11:26:11 AM
  • 52
    The way my schedule is I get up around 5AM do a 50 min. walking video, while doing that cook my oatmeal - take my shower - eat my oatmeal w/ greek yogurt. then off to school - work. - 5/16/2009   11:15:35 AM
  • 51
    There sure are a lot of things to think about when working out! I don't have a lot of time to work out and usually have to work it in before or after supper. And supper is what it is. I do try to eat a healthy supper so maybe that will be good enough for me. - 5/16/2009   11:00:41 AM
  • 50
    I'm a raw food vegan. My breakfast is a mixture of fruit blended in a Vitamix.
    1-2 oranges
    Handful of strawberries
    Handful of blueberries
    Handful of blackberries
    Handful of spinach
    TBS flaxseed oil
    - 5/16/2009   10:40:32 AM
  • 49
    Being a diabetic I have been told to exercise for at least 30 minutes within 2 hours after definetley helps - 5/16/2009   10:24:28 AM
  • 48
    I am going to watch a little closer to what I eat before a workout and see if this will help boost the weight loss. It can't hurt. - 5/16/2009   10:00:31 AM
  • 47
    I can't workout on a "full" stomach. My preference is to eat a light snack, such as a banana or an orange (which are both high on the glycemic index!) about 30 minutes to one hour before I workout. When I return, I like to have a serving (4 oz) of cottage cheese with 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds.
    From other sources that I've read, you should have a carb (hm, higher on the glycemic index) prior to working out for the energy, and a protein after to help rebuild muscle.
    I don't think I'll be changing my habits as what I've done works for me.
    (Then again, I can't eat as much as what's in that picture at one sitting anymore! WOW that's a LOT of fat, not to mention sodium!!!!) - 5/16/2009   9:37:00 AM
  • 46
    I workout first thing in the morning, 5 am. I wouldn't have time otherwise. So this info won't help me much. I must be doing something right, I'm still maintaing my goal weight! - 5/16/2009   9:25:50 AM
  • 45
    I'm an early morning exerciser - I always get up at 4:30 to work out, so I eat my b'fast after my workout. I know this is not recommended, but it works for me and has for years. - 5/16/2009   9:14:47 AM
  • 44
    I don't have time to wait 3 hours after breakfast to work out. I would have to sacrifice sleep to arrange my schedule to do this. So I'll stick with eating after a work out! - 5/16/2009   8:14:57 AM
  • 43
    I prefer not to eat before I work out because I feel like vomiting when exerting. I do have a healthy breakfast afterwards which consists of fruits, freshly pressed fruit juice and maybe a coffee or tea. I am an hypothyroid person and this diet is consistent for my condition as I follow the Fit for Life program. - 5/16/2009   8:02:26 AM

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