Thursday, December 16, 2010

Apparently morning people have it made

I absolutely love mornings, and if it weren't for my obsession with sleep, I'd most definitely be a morning person. Lately, well, prior to going home for Thanksgiving and losing all motivation to exercise, The Roommie and I had been getting up in the mornings to go for runs. Although I'm not a fan of running and definitely don't like getting out of my toasty bed to go out into the freezing sunrise (you'd think those two would be complete deal-breakers), I really enjoyed getting my exercise out of the way and the resulting feeling of being energized for the rest of the day. And having already been up for a while, I was much more likely to eat breakfast, which has been a problem for me for years.

And now, there's an article in the New York Times, called "The Benefits of Exercising Before Breakfast" which mentions a study published in The Journal of Physiology that suggests that exercising intensely in the morning before breakfast has greater health benefits than exercising after eating or not exercising at all. As the article states, "working out before breakfast directly combated the two most detrimental effects of eating a high-fat, high-calorie diet [which are increased insulin-resistance and storage of fat in the muscles]. It also helped the men avoid gaining weight."

Granted, it was done on 28 healthy men and they did high intensity workouts ranging from 60 to 90 minutes, neither of which apply to me...or most anybody else. But the take-home message is that "exercising in a fasted state (usually possible only before breakfast), coaxes the body to burn a greater percentage of fat for fuel during vigorous exercise, instead of relying primarily on carbohydrates."

BUT..."Exercising on an empty stomach is unlikely to improve your performance during that workout."

So for me, that's good since at the moment I'm just running to burn calories and get my butt off the couch. I'm not trying to improve my time, per se. Rather, I'm going to the ability to complete some sort of mileage and my workouts aren't nearly long enough to cause bonking due to exercising on an empty stomach.

Yet another incentive to start getting up early again, I suppose.

I'm just going to ignore the part that says, "The researchers also don’t know whether the same benefits will accrue if you exercise at a more leisurely pace and for less time than in this study." And stick with the commentary of Leonie Heilbronn, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia, who has extensively studied the effects of high-fat diets, regarding the study: “I would predict low intensity is better than nothing.”

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