Morning workout increases metabolism throughout the day?

Originally Published: December 15, 2000 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: November 14, 2008
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I have heard that if you exercise/work out in the morning before you eat breakfast that it will cause your metabolism to increase throughout the day, helping you to burn calories. Is this true?

Dear Reader,

The early bird gets the… metabolism boost? Although it would be great if exercising before breakfast gave you an extra incentive, this is just a rumor. Working out in the morning (or before eating) offers no additional or superior rewards to exercising at other times of the day.

However, this doesn't mean you should stay in bed and skip the workout. In general, any time you exercise, you'll raise your metabolism during the session and for some time afterwards. Studies have shown that the more intensely you exercise, the longer your metabolic rate stays raised. The magnitude and duration of this increase varies from person to person, and from workout to workout.

A common misconception is the belief that training on an empty stomach leads to increased fat burning. During exercise, muscles burn a combination of carbohydrate and fat. As one becomes more fit, her or his muscles utilize a greater percentage of fat for energy.

Another consideration to think about before running out the door without breakfast is that many people are in low-energy mode when they first wake up because of low blood sugar levels. If you go right into exercising on an empty stomach, this won't help you burn more fat, but may instead lead you to feel lightheaded and tired more quickly, thereby helping decrease the length of your workout. Eating something before getting physically active may help you have more oomph, get in a more strenuous session, and work off more calories and fat than if you hadn't eaten.

While an elevation in metabolism may be desirable, it's usually not enough to result in any significant weight loss. In addition, some folks compensate for being physically active by eating more, which could make any boost in metabolism an entirely moot point. To learn more about burning calories, metabolism, and weight loss, check out GAA's Fitness & Nutrition section.