Can Exercising a Dog Before Breakfast Help them Burn Fat?

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According to the Association 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 before breakfast

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:

  1. those who agreed not to exercise during the experiment,
  2. those working out (running and cycling) strenuously for 60-90 minutes who ate a high carb breakfast before exercising and
  3. 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.

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  1. Interesting idea. I’ll be curious to hear if anyone has experimented with that approach. I always eat breakfast, myself, and then exercise afterwards… but not immediately!
    Diane recently posted…Hiking Georgia With Dogs: Pine Log Creek TrailMy Profile

  2. That’s really interesting! A lot of the time with my dogs, I will take their breakfast with us and they get little bits of it as rewards for coming back, checking in and offering good behavior. I think it’s a great way to train in addition to getting much needed exercise versus pouring a bunch of food in a bowl. 😀
    Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) recently posted…8 Photos of HappinessMy Profile

  3. Easy is a non-breakfaster , so we always walk or run before he gets his lunch. I sadly have no standard value, because to walk before he gets food is common ab initio. Maybe he would gain more weight, if we would feed him first before we walk or run together?
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog WORDY WEDNESDAYMy Profile

  4. I’ve never heard of this idea before! It’s so very interesting!
    Earl Lover recently posted…Keeping Fit On HolidayMy Profile

  5. The difference of eating before or after the workout is amazing! Mom has always exercised before breakfast, so it is what we have always done too. Good to know it is a great “plan by accident”.
    Emma recently posted…5 Tips To Keep Your Dog Cool At A Summer CompetitionMy Profile

  6. Wow, that is compelling evidence. I have heard that drinking a large cup of hot water and lemon then exercising before breakfast works too. I know I lost weight fast when I went to a tennis camp in Florida and played for an hour before breakfast because of the heat. However, much advice I have read says start the day with breakfast and that fasting slows down the metabolism. Kilo always has his first constitutional short walk before his breakfast, then he gets the zoomies and chewies for 30 mins after breakfast.

  7. Barley doesn’t like to do much of anything before breakfast. Her kitty brother demands breakfast first thing in the morning, so Barley can’t stand the thought of him getting food and not getting anything for herself, so she dances by her dish in the morning until something lands in it. Some days if it’s already getting really hot, I’ll take her out for a short walk before breakfast but that’s very rare. This is a really interesting idea, though!
    Beth recently posted…Can You Train My Dogs To Do That?My Profile

  8. To reduce risk of bloat in larger pups it’s generally recommended you not feed your dog for at least an hour pre/post workout. So for that reason our morning speed is a walk and we save the real workouts for later.

    But to your point, if I needed to get an overweight pup back in shape swiftly I’d be up for adjusting their whole feeding schedule in order to accommodate morning workouts.

  9. I feed my dogs after a walk, Cesar Millan’s style: the dog has to earn the food. The dogs love to go out before breakfast too.
    My personal dog turned one and I eliminated his breakfast. He gets one big (raw) meal in the evening after all the exercise and training. He doesn’t mind and his weight is great. 🙂

  10. We feed the boys in the morning and they get their playtime in the yard mid-morning. It is so hot and humid here that we wait until 8:30 p.m. for our walk. Bassets are prone to bloat, so we never do anything very active until about an hour after meals.
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  11. Oh wow, interesting!!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Exciting New Releases – Pet Quote Signs, Key Chains And More!My Profile

  12. I haven’t ‘experimented’ with this theory, but because I have deep chested dogs, I worry about bloat. I’ve heard exercise one hour before or two hours after eating to help prevent bloat.

    Because I work out of the house the dogs are exercised Monday thru Friday at 6:00 am. Our walks are usually about a 1/2 an hour and I hold them off as close to an hour as I can manage. On the weekends if I get the opportunity to sleep in, then they get their walks 2 hours after their breakfast. So far they seem to have maintained the weight they have lost but I can’t tell you if it’s just exercising in general or the timing of the exercise.
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  13. This is so interesting. I have started exercising before my own breakfast, but it never occurred to me that it could be better for the dogs as well. Our crew is up at 5 am with their Dad and they eat first, and I doubt they’d be happy if we changed that routine. I’m usually up and going around 7, and I don’t want to get up at 4 either…LOL. Since ours are at healthy weights now we won’t change anything, but as you said, if things changed it would definitely be something to consider.
    Jan K recently posted…Keeping Busy with a Variety of Summer Fitness FunMy Profile

  14. Interesting, in our house the dogs get exercised first then an hour or so later right before I leave for work I feed them.
    DZ Dogs recently posted…All About That Ball.My Profile

  15. That is a very interesting study. When we go out, we usually go very early, before any feedings. The other way around wouldn’t work with my schedule. I would think that it would make the most sense for weight loss, though, eating after.
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…Baked Carrot Cake OatmealMy Profile

  16. This would mean I would have to exercise before breakfast so… no, we haven’t tried it. Mr. N always runs lean though and I constantly worry about him being underweight.

  17. Hm, interesting thought. Our pups go for a walk before they are fed breakfast, because they are still pretty young (4 years) and consequently have a ton of energy in the mornings. Taking them for a walk serves the purpose of burning that energy, and also has the nice side effect of them “working” for their food 😉
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Cropping, Docking, and Dewclaw removal ~ Animal Cruelty or Medical Necessity?My Profile

  18. Interesting. As with humans, there seem to be quite a few ideas out there. If a person or a dog needs to lose weight it might be worth a look.
    De Hufford recently posted…Fit Dog Friday, Aussie StyleMy Profile

  19. I would be interested in doing something like this with our dogs and I could definitely try it this summer with the longer days.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…7 Secrets of Attending SuperZoo I Nearly MissedMy Profile

  20. I know for me if I exercised before breakfast I might not eat as much as I would be hot and worn out to eat.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Puppy Breath~Black And White SundayMy Profile

  21. The Boys go outside in the morning BEFORE breakfast so Jax can potty. They run around a bit as I prepare their breakfast – who knew it was a good thing to do?
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…TAIL WAGGIN TUTORSMy Profile

  22. Interesting idea. However at the hospital I work at, trying to get dog owners to even consider nutrient timing and compostition is something that would be scoffed at by the average veterinary client. You have to remember the people on these dog blogs we all read and participate in, are in a different league than 90 percent of the people that come thru the doors of a veterinary hospital. No offense, as I am sure most love their pets as much as us, but they have different priorities.
    Anne recently posted…Do Dogs Get Cavities?My Profile

  23. That’s very interesting; I’ve noticed the majority of the time Laika doesn’t eat her morning meal until after we’ve gone for the morning walk. So even though she gets up at 6 with me and I feed her then she usually eats around 8 or 9 am. Maybe she knows something I’m not aware of 🙂
    Jen Gabbard recently posted…Does Your Dog Have Good Night Vision?My Profile

  24. This is very interesting. I’m going to delve into some serious research!

  25. I know this is a late reply, but my Labrador stays lean and this could be part of the reason. I not only run him (at least a mile) prior to eating, but I also feed him 4 times daily (over a cup to a cup and a half each meal). Did not know there was a correlation, but apparently there is.

  26. Wow. This is so interesting. I’ve always made a habit of exercising before I eat. Not for weight loss, but for the simple reason that it’s uncomfortable to exercise while I’m full. Mila and I usually go for our brisk mid day walk and come home and have some lunch. Great topic and excellent information Slimdoggy!
    Barkocity recently posted…Homemade Bugspray For DogsMy Profile

  27. I’m a fitness freak myself and workout in our home gym 3 days a week. I always do my training before breakfast and have done so for years.

    My senior GSD Charley has CHD so keeping her lean is crucial. Taking into account that she’s altered and has lower energy this can become a problem if I don’t constantly monitor her.

    Charley also does her exercise in the mornings before her breakfast. We play a light game of fetch for 10 minutes in the back yard. Unfortunately I’m not able to walk her anymore because of her CHD.

    Because weight plays role in keeping the pain and discomfort of CHD under control and to slow down to degeneration I try to keep her on the lean side around 32kg. She also eats a raw diet which helps to keep her lean. I think the combo of all these factors do help her keep her weight healthy and exercise before breakfast
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