Weight loss research says morning ravers who wake up to party at dawn might be onto something


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Will Purcell / Daybreaker for Business Insider

  • Daybreaker is a sober morning dance party that starts with an optional yoga class.
  • Research suggests that working out first thing in the morning may help speed weight loss.
  • The benefits appear to be connected to two factors: working out on an empty stomach and aligning our body clocks with daylight.

In 16 cities across the globe, people are waking up at the crack of dawn to get their dance and fitness on. And they're doing it stone-cold sober.

Daybreaker, a 3-hour morning party thrown in cities including San Francisco, New York, London, and Tokyo, is part of what its creators call a "movement." The sunrise soirée involves no alcohol or drugs and starts with an optional hour-long yoga class.

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Unlike normal raves, one of Daybreaker's central tenets is health. And research suggests all these early bird party-goers might actually be onto something.

"That feeling of accomplishment waking up in the morning is really good for you," Daybreaker's co-founder, 38-year-old Radha Agrawal, told Business Insider. "And then there's the runner's high you get from sweating and working out."


There's quite a bit of research that suggests that early morning workouts - as opposed to afternoon or late-night ones - may help speed weight loss and boost energy levels by priming the body for all-day fat burn. The benefits appear to be connected to two main things: working out on an empty stomach and aligning our body clocks with daylight.

The no-snooze payoff

As I danced around with my fellow Daybreakers, I noticed that many of us (myself included) were decked out in colorful workout clothing. A few people wore dresses or nice pants, and some others arrived in costumes, but at least half of the attendees sported yoga or running gear.

Clearly, people were ready to get their fitness on.

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Will Purcell / Daybreaker for Business Insider

Working out first thing in the morning appears to push the body to tap into its fat reserves for fuel, as opposed to simply "burning off" our most recent snack or meal. For that reason, it might help us lose weight - or at least keep us from gaining it.


Of course, you don't need to go to a sober rave to reap these benefits - all you have to do is get moving first thing in the morning.

In one study, 28 young, healthy men spent six weeks eating a hefty diet involving 30% more calories and 50% more fat than they'd been eating before. All of them were assigned to one of two groups - the first barely exercised, while the second was put on a daily morning workout regimen. Of those who worked out, half did so on an empty stomach, then ate a high-carb breakfast after hitting the gym. The other half did the same workout, but ate the high-carb breakfast before exercising.

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Will Purcell / Daybreaker for Business Insider

Not surprisingly, at the end of the six-week experiment, the men who hadn't worked out had gained an average of about 6 pounds. But the two groups of men who did exercise didn't see the same results. Those who ate breakfast first then hit the gym gained about 3 pounds each. But the men who waited to eat until after their workouts didn't gain any weight at all - despite having been eating all that extra food.

That suggests that working out first thing on an empty stomach might be more powerful than doing so after eating, wrote Peter Hespel, the lead author of the study and a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

It's possible that these benefits could also be accomplished by working out after fasting at another time of day. But doing it first thing in the morning is likely the easiest way to hit the gym on an empty stomach.


Another study helps point out why timing could be so important. In it, two groups of men ran on treadmills until they burned 400 calories (about the equivalent of a small meal, or three to four pieces of bread). While one group ran on an empty stomach, the other ate a 400-calorie oatmeal breakfast about an hour before their workout.

All of the runners burned fat during their workouts and remained in a heightened fat-burning state after they had gotten off the treadmills. But the results were more intense for the runners who had skipped the pre-workout oatmeal. In other words, exercising after a long period of not eating could set us up for a longer, more intense fat burn, noted Eric Doucet, the lead author on the study and a professor of kinesiology at the University of Ottowa.

Set your clocks

Another component of the early-morning workout regimen that might help with weight loss is daylight.

Research suggests that aligning our internal clocks, or circadian rhythms, with the natural world doesn't just make us feel better - it may help give our metabolisms a boost. One recent study showed that people who basked in bright sunlight within two hours after waking tended to be thinner and better able to manage their weight than people who didn't get any natural light, regardless of what they ate throughout the day.

By encouraging people to get up before dawn and catch the early-morning light, Daybreaker makes sunshine a key component of its model (intentionally or not).


"Our goal was to create a safe space where people could sweat and express themselves," says Agrawal. "We said let's replace all the negative, dark stuff about nightclubs with light, positive stuff."

So next time you think about hitting snooze, remember this: An early-morning workout might just give you a bigger health boost than those extra minutes of shut-eye.

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