British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Behaviour, Appetite and Obesity

Effects of exercise before or after meal ingestion on fat balance and postprandial metabolism in overweight men

Nor M. F. Faraha1a2 and Jason M. R. Gilla1 c1

a1 BHF Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Centre, Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8TA, UK

a2 School of Rehabilitation Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 53200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


It is unclear how timing of exercise relative to meal ingestion influences substrate balance and metabolic responses. The present study aimed to compare the effects of exercise performed before or after breakfast on fat balance and postprandial metabolism. A total of ten sedentary overweight men (aged 28·1 (sem 10·7) years, BMI 29·0 (sem 2·8) kg/m2) underwent three trials in random order involving: (1) performing no exercise (CON), or walking for 60 min at 50 % maximal O2 uptake either (2) before (Ex-Meal) or (3) after (Meal-Ex) consuming a standardised breakfast meal. In each trial an ad libitum lunch was provided 3·5 h after breakfast. Substrate utilisation was assessed by indirect calorimetry and blood was taken at regular intervals over an 8·5 h observation period. At the end of the observation period, fat balances in the Ex-Meal ( − 1043 (sem 270) kJ) and Meal-Ex ( − 697 (sem 201) kJ) trials were both significantly lower than CON (204 (sem 165) kJ) and fat balance in the Ex-Meal trial was significantly lower than in the Meal-Ex trial (all P <0·0001). Compared with the CON trial, the 8·5 h postprandial TAG response was only significantly lowered in the Ex-Meal trial ( − 17 %, P =0·025) and not in the Meal-Ex trial ( − 11 %, P =0·20). Both the Ex-Meal and Meal-Ex trials showed significantly lowered insulin responses relative to the CON trial (by 19 and 24 %, respectively, P <0·01 for both). There were no differences in lunch energy intake between trials. The present findings suggest that there may be an advantage for body fat regulation and lipid metabolism in exercising before compared with after breakfast. However, further study is needed to determine whether the present findings extend over the long term under free-living conditions.

(Received May 03 2012)

(Revised July 24 2012)

(Accepted August 28 2012)

(Online publication October 26 2012)

Key Words:

  • Exercise;
  • Postprandial metabolism;
  • Fat balance;
  • Appetite;
  • Energy balance;
  • Ad libitum energy intake


c1 Corresponding author: Dr J. M. R. Gill, fax +44 141 3302522, email


  Abbreviations: CON, control; Ex-Meal, exercise before breakfast meal; LPL, lipoprotein lipase; Meal-Ex, exercise after breakfast meal