Effects of aerobic exercise performed in fasted v. fed state on fat and carbohydrate metabolism in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Br J Nutr. 2016 Oct;116(7):1153-1164. doi: 10.1017/S0007114516003160. Epub 2016 Sep 9.


This study aimed to verify the effect of aerobic exercise performed in the fasted v. fed states on fat and carbohydrate metabolism in adults. Searches were conducted in March 2015, and updated in July 2016, using PubMed®, Scopus and Cochrane databases (terms: 'fasting', 'exercise', 'aerobic exercise', 'substrate', 'energy metabolism', 'fat', 'glucose', 'insulin' and 'adult') and references from selected studies. Trials that compared the metabolic effects of aerobic exercise (duration ≤120 min) performed in the fasted v. fed states in adults were accepted. The outcomes evaluated were fat oxidation during exercise and the plasma concentrations of insulin, glucose and NEFA before and immediately after exercise; two independent reviewers extracted the data (A. F. V. and L. C.). The results were presented as weighted mean differences between treatments, with 95 % CI. Of 10 405 articles identified, twenty-seven studies - with a total of 273 participants - were included. There was a significant increase in fat oxidation during exercise performed in the fasted, compared with fed, state (-3·08 g; 95 % CI -5·38, -0·79; I 2 39·1 %). The weighted mean difference of NEFA concentrations was not significantly different between states (0·00 mmol/l; 95 % CI -0·07, 0·08; I 2 72·7 %). However, the weighted mean differences of glucose (0·78 mmol/l; 95 % CI 0·43, 1·14; I 2 90·8 %) and insulin concentrations (104·5 pmol/l; 95 % CI 70·8, 138·2; I 2 94·5 %) were significantly higher for exercise performed in the fed state. We conclude that aerobic exercise performed in the fasted state induces higher fat oxidation than exercise performed in the fed state.

Keywords: IMTG; intramuscular TAG; Energy metabolism; Exercise; Fasting; Reviews.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Fasting / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology*
  • Male
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin