Have you ever wished you could erase the extra calories you ate over the weekend or on vacation before they showed up on your hips? According to recent research, maybe you can. It’s not painless, nor is it as easy as taking a pill, but you might be able to erase the effects of overeating, according to an article in the New York Times (also published in Men’s Fitness). 

The Study

Researchers in Belgium set up a six-week study to determine if the order of men’s morning routines would make a difference in how they metabolized fat. They used 28 healthy, active men and had them eat 50 percent more fat and 30 percent more calories ⁠— some serious overeating for six weeks! They then divided them into three groups: one group did no exercise, one group exercised after breakfast, and the last group exercised before breakfast. Not surprisingly, the group that didn’t exercise gained an average of six pounds over the six-week period. The group that exercised after breakfast gained only half as much. Both of these two groups also developed unhealthy conditions that are often precursors of diabetes.

Woman doing a plank exercise at the gym.

What about the group that exercised before breakfast? They gained almost no weight from all that overeating and showed no signs of insulin resistance. They also burned the extra fat they consumed more efficiently. Now, here’s the rub. They did intense exercise four days a week, including running or bicycling for 60 minutes for two days and 90 minutes for the remaining two days. But remember, they were consuming 30% more calories every day, and researchers hypothesized that you could get similar results with less intense workouts (especially if you weren’t overeating every day!).

Would the same be true for women?

Before you run out to exercise before breakfast, based on the results of this study, you might want to read about how the timing of exercise affects women. Not surprisingly, women metabolize fat differently than men, and the approach that we take to healthy eating should be treated differently.

The U.K.’s Daily Mail reported on a study done by Dr. Adam Collins of the University of Surrey. He recruited 30 volunteers, 13 men, and 17 women, who did not normally do a lot of exercise. They took part in three classes a week for four weeks, including a high-intensity training class, Zumba, and a spin class. They all consumed a drink before and after each class, but some were drinking a placebo with no calories, while others consumed a calorie-controlled carbohydrate drink.

Dr. Collins discovered that women burned more fat than men, but more importantly, that those who were taking carbohydrates before working out burned up to 22 percent more fat. On the other hand, men burned less fat overall, but those who were given carbohydrates after exercising burned 8 percent more fat.

Is that post-work out smoothie doing more harm than good?

The experiment confirmed the Belgium study findings ⁠— that men should eat after exercising to maximize fat-burning. But women need to eat before exercising, and we need to wait for at least 90 minutes before eating again.

“Women’s bodies are programmed to burn fat to conserve carbohydrates,” Dr. Collins said. “Most fat-burning occurs in the three hours after they stop exercising. Eating up to an hour and a half after a workout can actually stop a woman’s body from burning fat,” he said. “By eating, you’re forcing the body to use carbohydrates; you could be blunting the whole shift to fat-burning.”

The takeaway from both studies:

  • Aerobic exercise (running, cycling, Zumba, HIT classes) can negate the extra calories consumed after overeating. 
  • The timing of the exercise and eating will greatly affect how much fat you burn. Eat one hour before your workout.
  • Don’t eat for at least 1 1/2 hours after your workout. Forget that trainer’s advice of having a protein shake right after your workout or even a green smoothie! Have it an hour before your workout, instead.Woman eating a protein shake.

If you find that overeating is a problem for you, you’re not alone! Many women struggle with overeating and portion control. You don’t have to deal with this issue alone, though! PLATE, a weight management program for women over 50, focuses on portion control as one of the program’s tenents. The other focus is getting support from women who understand what you’re going through because they are too. PLATE can help you eat healthy portions and give you a support group to encourage you on your health journey, so what are you waiting for? Learn more or join PLATE today on Apple or Android.

If you want to try out intermittent fasting but you’re worried about being hungry, try our program for 5-day ProLon fasting with food, or you can use FastBar to avoid temptation and help you find success (as a bonus, you can use code PRIME for either product to save money when making a purchase).

This article is for informational purposes only. Do not begin any exercise program before consulting with your doctor.

Read Next:

Determining if You’re a Healthy Weight Using Your BMI

4 Healthy Habits to Maintain Strong Bones

10 Healthy Habits to Start Now


How to stop overeating



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