Waking up early in the morning is definitely a struggle if you do not have an 8:30 a.m. class, but there seem to be countless benefits of doing so. People who wake up early tend to get better grades, are more proactive, get better quality sleep, and are less likely to be depressed and are generally more optimistic.
Now, however, there seems to be another reason to add to the list. New research suggests that exercising early in the morning before breakfast is the best time to exercise for the most results. In a groundbreaking study conducted by van Proeyen et al. in Belgium in 2010, researchers assigned 28 healthy young men of ages 18 to 25 years of age into three groups. The participants from all three groups ate 30 percent more calories and 50 percent more fat than their normal diet for six weeks. The first group consumed their diet for six weeks and did not exercise at all. The second group, on the other hand, exercised rigorously four times a week after a full, high-carb breakfast. The last group did the same workout on an empty stomach and ate the same breakfast immediately after working out. After six weeks of this routine, the group that remained sedentary gained six pounds on average, as expected; in addition, they had insulin resistance and scientists found new fat cells in their muscle tissue. The group that exercised after breakfast gained half as much weight, around three pounds per individual, and also had insulin troubles , although not nearly to the extent of the first group. Most interesting, however, is that the group, which exercised before breakfast, gained no weight and had healthy hormone levels.
The study concludes that exercising on an empty stomach prevents weight gain because our bodies are in a “fasted state” first thing in the morning. After seven to eight hours of sleep and essentially “fasting,” our body is low on energy. By exercising before consuming breakfast, our bodies have to burn excess body fat for energy. After breakfast, however, our bodies are just breaking down the food from our most recent meal.
While these results are truly profound, understanding the limitations of the study is important. The study’s focus group was limited to young men, who were studied for a short time period, so extrapolating this information to other demographics is difficult. The participants of this study also did not lose weight but also did not gain weight. What this study did successfully conclude, however, is that the early morning is the most effective time to exercise.
So, if you have twenty minutes before your 9:50 class, try to squeeze in some exercise. Even if you are not trying to lose weight and just like to indulge in dining hall desserts, exercising early in the morning can help keep off the extra pounds and keep you energetic all day. If weight loss is the goal, then exercising in the morning may be the time to workout for the best results.
Tanvee Varma ’18 is a contributing writer for the Online Edition of The Wellesley News. While she is not studying towards her degree in Economics, she enjoys reading and spending time at the Science Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Soojin Jeong ’17 Photo Editor