Walking first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is one of the best tips on how to naturally jump start and boost your metabolism.
In addition to jump starting your day first thing in the morning, it also naturally boosts your metabolism which helps you burn more calories throughout the day. And one nice fact is that after you finish your moderate cardio of walking, your body is STILL burning calories after you’ve shut the door and taken off your walking shoes.
To achieve these effects, you want to do 30 minutes of moderate cardio first thing after you wake up on a completely empty stomach. There are 3 keys to this:
The cardio must be moderate
It must be on an empty stomach
You must not eat anything for 30 minutes afterward.
What is Moderate Cardio? Moderate cardio is an activity that puts you in the “fat burning zone” according to your heart rate. The fat burning zone is 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.
To determine your maximum heart rate, calculate 220 – age (or 226 – age if you’re a woman). For example, if you’re a woman who is 31 years old. Then your maximum heart rate is 195 (226 – 31 = 195). Your fat burning zone is between 117-136 heartbeats per minute (60-70% of your maximum heart rate of 195). To achieve this heart rate, you can use a heart rate monitor, we like the Fitbit Charge 4 Tracker with GPS. It keeps all the data I need when I’m out there walking or occasionally jogging for short distances. It tracks my steps, distance and of course the calories I’m burning but for our purposes now, it also keeps track of my heart rate. Or if you don’t like to wear any kind of device, you can still just count your heart beats per minute (take your pulse for 15 seconds and then multiply by 4). For me, I’d rather take advantage of what technology has to offer and the Fitbit products do the job nicely! You can do any activity that gets your heart beating in the fat burning zone -- a brisk walk, elliptical, biking, etc. For me, I prefer a brisk walk. It’s what I started my “Healthier Me” lifestyle with and it suits me just fine, especially since I start my day with a walk when it's quiet and, when the mood strikes me, I end my day the same way as well.
Why on an empty stomach? When you first wake up in the morning, you have very low blood sugar levels and glycogen stores because you haven’t eaten anything yet. Glycogen is carbohydrates that are stored in the liver and muscles which are used as a fuel during exercise.
Normally, after having eaten during the day, the body has enough energy in blood sugar and glycogen to sustain 65-85 minutes of exercise. Therefore, when you do cardio exercise later in the day, you have to burn through all that energy stored in glycogen before you can access your stored fat. However, when you expend energy in moderate cardio on an empty stomach, your body will burn through what little glycogen you have stored and access your stored fat much sooner. Which is what anyone who is looking to shed a few pounds wants to do!
Why not exercise at a higher level? As a general rule when you’re trying to lose weight, you want to exercise as intensely as possible because you’ll burn the most calories this way. However, in this very specific scenario, you do not want to do that because it will inhibit your weight loss goals.
Working out at an intense level on an empty stomach will cause your body to break down more muscle than fat. It is also much more likely that you’ll become lightheaded because your body cannot breakdown muscle quick enough to supply energy to your body during intense cardio exercise on an empty stomach.
Since it is easier for the body to breakdown muscle than it is fat when it needs immediate energy, your body will run through your glycogen stores very quickly and begin to break down mostly muscle to provide the energy for the intense cardio exercise. This will ultimately work against your weight loss goals because you’ll be losing highly desirable lean muscle. However, when you exercise less intensely on an empty stomach, your body is able to break down a greater proportion of fat versus muscle because your energy needs are not as intense. This is why it is so important to only exercise in the “fat burning zone” (60-70% of maximum heart rate) for 30 minutes.
Why do I need to wait 30 minutes before I eat anything? In order to allow your body to maximize the “after burn” of your moderate cardio. Jump starting your metabolism with this moderate cardio means that your body is not only burning calories while you are doing this activity, but it has also been proven to keep burning those calories at an accelerated pace after you stop the activity. To maximize this “after burn”, you shouldn’t eat anything for 30 minutes after the moderate cardio. Take this time to get ready for the day – jump in the shower, do your hair, cook your breakfast, etc --- just wait a total of 30 minutes until you eat!
Water is your friend: When you first get up, your body is already slightly dehydrated. So drinking a glass of water or two when you first get up is a good thing for your body. It helps to get it ready for the demands of the day. And if you’re going to engage in some moderate cardio like early morning walking it’s important that you consume at least 20 0z’s of water before you head out that door. Water fires up your metabolism, hydrates you, helps your body flush out toxins, gives your brain fuel, and may even help you to you eat less when it’s finally time to break your fast. And after you get done with your early morning walk (in the park, if applicable) then go and down another 16 oz of water again. But remember, wait at least 30 minutes before you eat that healthy breakfast.
So, there you go, if you’re not a morning person, consider getting to bed a little earlier and after a few short weeks, I’m betting you’re going to notice that after your early morning walk, you’re going to have a much better attitude to meet your day headlong!