According to theAssociation for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of all dogs in the US are overweight. Keeping a dog fit and trim requires proper feeding and ample exercise. I often wonder if some of the techniques that humans use to optimize their calorie balance could also work on dogs. One such technique that seems to have research support is the idea of intermittent fasting- exercising after fasting and before having a breakfast.
A study published in the Journal of Physiology in November 2010 suggests that exercising in a fasted state can improve glucose tolerance and result in greater fat burning and help to keep extra weight from accumulating.
Exercise While Fasting Study Details
Belgium researchers enlisted 28 healthy, active young men and placed them on a high fat, high calorie diet- 50 percent of the daily calories were from fat and the total amount of calories was 30 percent higher than the men had been consuming. The experiment lasted for six weeks.
The participant were broken into three groups:
-Those who agreed not to exercise during the experiment
-Those working out (running and cycling) strenuously for 60-90 mi-nutes who ate a high carb breakfast before exercising and
-Those working out (running and cycling) strenuously for 60-90 minutes who ate a high carb breakfast after exercising
In the latter two groups, all of the workouts were supervised, so the energy expenditure of the two groups was identical.
Among other things, the researchers found that each group showed different levels of weight gain. The sedentary group gained the most weight, as expected. After all they were overeating relative to their norm. However, the differences between the groups that exercised were remarkable. Even though both of the exercise groups were eating and exercising similarly, the group that exercised before being fed showed no weight gain, while the group that ate breakfast before exercising gained weight, albeit only ½ as much as the sedentary group. By simply eating after exercise, study participants gained no weight even though they ate at the same rates and exercised the same amount as those exercisers that gained weight.
Exercising a Dog before their First Daily Feeding for Weight Loss
This study certainly supports the idea that intermittent fasting can help a human body burn fat and reduce the likelihood of weight gain. The question is, will this work for dogs as well? One aspect of the study that might not apply to dogs is the fact that the breakfast was a high carb meal, which is not appropriate for most normally healthy dogs. Perhaps this one detail had a major influence on the results?
In our home, our dogs are fed their breakfast early and exercised a few hours after that. Our dogs are also in good shape and not overweight. However, if we did have overweight dogs, we would certainly try this fasting strategy to see if it could expedite weight loss.
We would love to hear from anyone who has experimented with this approach with their own dogs, or from veterinarians who can provide some insights into the practicality and efficacy of using pre-breakfast exercise as a weight loss strategy for dogs.