If you're looking to lose your love handles, your best bet may be to hit the gym – not the kitchen – first thing in the morning, new research suggests.
For overweight men, exercise before breakfast could double your ability to burn fat, according to a new study published October 1
Researchers from the University of Bath and the University of Birmingham looked at 30 men who were overweight or overweight. They divided the men into three groups: a group that exercises before breakfast, a group that exercises after breakfast, and a control group that does not change their daily routines.
The participants ate the same breakfast and did the same exercise – 60 minutes of cycling.
In a six-week study, researchers found that men who exercise before breakfast burn twice as much fat as those who exercise after breakfast. These burning fats had less stored carbohydrates to burn for energy, so their bodies would switch more quickly to fat burning to nourish exercise, according to the study.
However, the study did not find a link between when men exercise and how many pounds they lose.
Exercise before breakfast has other promising health benefits
Researchers note that exercise before breakfast also has better insulin response, helping to regulate their blood sugar. It can also improve health and reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, according to Dr. Javier Gonzalez, a co-author of the study and a senior lecturer in the Department of Health at the University of Bath.
In contrast, the insulin levels of those who had breakfast first were not better than the control group.
"Our results suggest that changing your eating time in this regard when you exercise can lead to profound and positive changes in your overall health," Gonzalez said in a press release.
However, due to the small sample size and the limited scope of the study, it is not clear whether these findings will be more widely applied to people other than overweight men. In addition, past research on the topic has been mixed. While an earlier and even smaller study by Gonzalez also found that exercising before breakfast is excellent, sensible for burning fat, eating first, sensible for burning calories, is quite the opposite.
And many exercise professionals encourage pre-workout eating to help nourish a workout that might otherwise fall off.
Bottom line: More research is needed. However, exercising whenever it suits you – whether before or after breakfast or at any other time of the day for that matter – is better than not exercising. As Chris Jordan, an exercise physiologist and creator of the 7-Minute Workout Virus, previously told Insider, "The best workout time is the most likely time to train."
Related video: Here's exactly what to eat before and after each workout (Provided by Real Simple)