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"Science is finally catching up with what smart runners have always known," said Ron Maughan, a professor of sport, exercise and health sciences at Loughborough University in Britain. "If you have a long, hard run without breakfast once a week, that hard run will train you to burn fat," he said. "And for the rest of the week, have plenty of carbohydrates so you can train hard."
Maughan cautioned against doing too much exercise on an empty stomach. "That might help you get very good at burning fat, but you won't be very good at whatever exercise it is you're doing," he said. "Without enough fuel, you won't get the intensity of training you need to get improvements."
Others were more skeptical and said people shouldn't exercise without having at least a small snack first.
"I think it's actually a pretty bad idea," said Dr. Alexis Chiang Colvin, a sports medicine expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York who has worked with professional football and hockey teams.
"If your blood sugar is low, you could wind up getting dizzy and you might not be able to exercise as well as if you were well-nourished," she said. Colvin recommended having something small like a banana before training. She also warned the strategy might make people more prone to injury and that eating was important so the body would have enough nutrients to recover from a bout of exercise.
Hespel acknowledged the method wasn't for everybody and that aside from the pain of struggling through an exercise session while hungry, there are other potential pitfalls.
"When you postpone breakfast to exercise, it is possible you might eat more afterwards," he said. "People exercising (without eating) need to respect all the normal strategies of weight control like not overeating."
Daniel Kobbina, a personal trainer who also runs a martial arts school in London, said the method requires discipline -- but it works.
"If you train on an empty stomach, you'll see that six-pack a lot sooner," he said.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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