Exercise snacks’ before meals: a novel strategy to improve glycemic control in individuals with insulin resistance
Francois et al. 2014[wonderplugin_popup id=7]
This study looked at the effect of small doses of intense exercise before each meal, termed “exercise snacks” on blood sugar control.
- 6 intervals of 1-minute duration of either (a) inline walking at 90% max heart rate or,
- Alternating between intense walking and resistance exercise (b)
Was more effective at controlling blood sugar after meals over the course of that day and even the following day when compared to a 30-minute bout of moderate intensity walking at 60% max heart rate.
Are brief exercise sessions better than one continuous session?
In a society that spends a lot of their time inactive, having breaks in sedentary time has been shown to be beneficial for for waist circumference and metabolic health (Healy et al., 2008).
When comparing the same amount of work or time commitment, previous literature suggests that adding in intense intervals results in greater reductions in body weight, total fat mass and abdominal fat, with improvements in fitness compared to a continuous exercise session (Karstoft et al., 2012).
Other research has shown 3 x 15-minute exercise sessions were more effective in controlling blood sugar than 1, 45-minute exercise session (DiPietro et al., 2013).
Other Benefits of Breaking Up Your Training
By breaking up your training, you may be able to doing more overall work and have greater performance as you can limit the accumulation of fatigue that normally arises towards the end of the session.
Additionally, it is possible that increasing the frequency of training may help to promote muscle strength and hypertrophy gains, although more research is needed this suggests it can at least be a viable strategy for body re-compositon (Hartman et al., 2007; Atherton & Smith, 2012).
For fat loss, the multiple smaller sessions may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. It may also aid in fat loss by increasing your metabolism and how you partition nutrients (fats / carbs), although more research is needed to investigate this.
Taken together, this study and past literature suggests that occasionally splitting up your training into brief, intense sessions may prove to be more beneficial for both overall health and body composition. However, as with any other training or nutritional protocol, you first have to think about whether you can adhere to it. If you work in an office all day your boss may not approve of squat jumps in the middle of a meeting.
For those working part time, working from home or personal trainers working at a gym, breaking up your cardio sessions may be more realistic, doing two or three short interval sessions over the course of the day than just one long session. For strength training it may not be as realistic into more than one session.
How a Bodybuilder Can Benefit:
One limitation of this for bodybuilding work is you will not accumulate large amounts of metabolic stress (or pump), which can help muscle growth. That is why a COMBINATION may be beneficial for fat loss.
For a bodybuilder, one more practical way to benefit from the findings of this study might be to complete your strength training session as normal, and then add in brief Tabata style intervals of push ups, air squats, or other bodyweight exercises periodically throughout the day when focusing on fat loss.
Taken together, this study and past literature suggests that splitting up your training into brief, intense sessions may prove to be more beneficial for overall health, body composition, and potentially muscle strength and hypertrophy. Most of the research is in obese, overweight or general population so more research is needed in bodybuilders. For fat loss it’s time for you to take advantage of working smarter, and not necessary always harder![wonderplugin_popup id=7]
Atherton, P. J., & Smith, K. (2012). Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise. The Journal of physiology, 590(5), 1049-1057.
DiPietro, L., Gribok, A., Stevens, M. S., Hamm, L. F., & Rumpler, W. (2013). Three 15-min bouts of moderate postmeal walking significantly improves 24-h glycemic control in older people at risk for impaired glucose tolerance.Diabetes Care, 36(10), 3262-3268.
Hartman, M. J., Clark, B., Bemben, D. A., Kilgore, J. L., & Bemben, M. G. (2007). Comparisons between twice-daily and once-daily training sessions in male weight lifters. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 2(2), 159.
Healy, G. N., Dunstan, D. W., Salmon, J., Cerin, E., Shaw, J. E., Zimmet, P. Z., & Owen, N. (2008). Breaks in sedentary time beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes care, 31(4), 661-666.
Francois, M. E., Baldi, J. C., Manning, P. J., Lucas, S. J., Hawley, J. A., Williams, M. J., & Cotter, J. D. (2014). ‘Exercise snacks’ before meals: a novel strategy to improve glycaemic control in individuals with insulin resistance. Diabetologia, 57(7), 1437-1445.
Karstoft, K., Winding, K., Knudsen, S. H., Nielsen, J. S., Thomsen, C., Pedersen, B. K., & Solomon, T. P. (2013). The Effects of Free-Living Interval-Walking Training on Glycemic Control, Body Composition, and Physical Fitness in Type 2 Diabetic Patients A randomized, controlled trial. Diabetes care, 36(2), 228-236.