The scientists also handed the men food baskets to take home, asking them to eat only from the basket and return uneaten portions, so the researchers could track their daily calories.
A 7-Day, 1,200-Calorie Meal Plan
They also used respiratory masks and mathematical formulas to estimate their hour energy expenditure. Then the scientists compared numbers, with some results they had not predicted. Least surprising, the men wound up with an energy surplus when they had breakfasted and then sat, taking in about more calories that day than they burnt.
When they downed porridge and then worked out, though, they maintained their energy balance with fine precision, burning and consuming almost exactly the same number of calories that day. It was when they had skipped breakfast before exercise that their eating became most interesting. But afterward their eating tailed off and, at the end of the day, they maintained an energy deficit of nearly calories, meaning they had replenished few of the calories they had burnt while riding.
These findings have implications for people hoping to use exercise for weight control, says Javier Gonzalez, a senior lecturer at the University of Bath, who oversaw the new study. They suggest that working out on an empty stomach in the morning might not prompt us to overeat later and might, instead, lead to calorie deficits. Should that situation continue beyond a single workout and single day, we would probably lose weight, he says.
Still, this study was small, short-term and involved only fit, young men eating oatmeal for breakfast. Whether the results would be comparable for those of us who are older, overweight, out of shape, female or swallow eggs and bacon in the morning remains unknown. It also does not explain why the men who had skipped breakfast before exercise did not continue to shovel in food all day, but it is likely that the messages from the brain about replacing the lost carbohydrates might have been urgent but also transient.
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