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Running On Empty Good For Fitness

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Running On Empty Good For Fitness

Wellington, May 25 NZPA - Skipping breakfast before training gives male athletes an advantage and more quickly improves their fitness, according to Massey University researchers.

While the findings go against the conventional advice athletes are given - to eat before exercise - they also make sense, lead researcher associate professor Steve Stannard said.

The research also showed that men and women burnt fat differently, said Dr Stannard, head of the university's new school of sport and exercise.

"Training is all about putting the body under stress, not going faster," he said.

"So by starting out with less fuel, you will reach the point where you really begin to stress the body quicker."

That meant the athlete would spend longer under stress and ultimately the training would be more beneficial, he said.

However, eating before an actual race remained important, Dr Stannard said.

"There is a large amount of evidence supporting carbohydrate ingestion before and during prolonged exercise to increase endurance performance. In essence, this means eating some carbohydrate before competing will help you go faster for longer during a race."

Researchers followed two groups of novice cyclists as they trained over four weeks.

One group ate a high carbohydrate breakfast before training, while the other group trained early in the morning before breakfast. Each group cycled for up to 75 minutes at a moderate intensity. Blood samples and muscle biopsies were taken from the legs of each rider before and after the experiment.

The results showed those riders who did their training before breakfast were able to store higher levels of muscle glycogen than those who ate breakfast just before training each day.

"The riders who trained before breakfast also showed a bigger improvement in peak power, and ability to use oxygen."

While the muscles of male participants who trained without breakfast showed an improved ability to burn fat, female cyclists improved their muscle's fat-burning capacity when they trained after breakfast rather than before, Dr Stannard said.

He said that for men at least, training before breakfast encouraged the muscles to adapt more quickly than if training was done after eating a high carbohydrate meal.

The reason why training before eating was not as effective for female participants was not known and required more research, Dr Stannard said.

"It could be related to subtle differences in fuel utilisation by muscle which seems to be associated with the sex hormones."

The research has been published in the Journal of Science and Medicine and Sport.

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