Should you workout on an empty stomach?

Should you workout on an empty stomach?

Does exercising on an empty stomach increase your fat-burning potential, or do you need fuel to power through your workout? It’s a contentious issue, so we’ve weighed up the pros and cons for you. 

The Pros

When you exercise your body is drawing on carbohydrates to fuel its movement. When there are no carbs available, your energy will need to come from some other source, which is where your body fat comes in. You are literally burning fat as fuel for your workout.

The Cons

Working out while hungry can have a negative effect on the quality of your performance, as you will struggle to reach the same level of physical exertion as when you have eaten. This means that you may not be able to perform as many reps, sets or miles as normal. Low blood sugar levels are also associated with an empty stomach, which can lead to dizziness and fainting spells while exercising.

The Verdict

It’s a no to the empty stomach workout.
While the theory is that your body will use energy from fat stores, it is equally possible that instead of drawing on fat reserves, it will draw on muscle instead. The last thing you want from a workout is to lose muscle. Plus, if you are spending your whole workout thinking about food, you’re more likely to cut it short, or rush through and injure yourself.

A better plan is to eat the right foods before you work out. A small snack made up of carbohydrates and protein about 30-45 minutes before you exercise will help you to perform at your best, and burn fat.


Not sure what to eat? Fuel your workout with these quick and easy pre-gym snacks.

Comments

Ben T.
20 January 2015

Ben T.

Actually, training on an empty stomach with an infusion of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) will give you enough energy to work out AND give you increased alertness and focus. I get up at 5am and do combat sports before work. I never eat, just have BCAA and sometimes a little caffeine. I can confidently say that my workouts are never affected by the lack of food and my body fat has dropped significantly.

Callum M.
21 August 2014

Callum M.

I feel a bit sick if I haven't eaten something a few hours before a workout

Sasha B.
17 August 2014

Sasha B.

I have breakfast then go to the gym after dropping kids at school. It's always worked well for me but it's more because I have to do it at that time.

Emma C.
15 August 2014

Emma C.

That's quite a scary thought that it could draw on muscle rather than fat. I am pretty slim and sometimes run first thing in the morning before breakfast. I am worried now that I may do some damage doing this..

Roger B.
6 July 2014

Roger B.

nice analysis - glad to see common sense wins in the end! While working out after a big meal is a REALLY bad idea, we all need some fuel.

Frank H.
5 July 2014

Frank H.

I workout first thing before eating and then enjoy my breakfast even more - I know it's probably not about how much I enjoy my first meal but it's what works for me and I don't feel worse for it. My routine is simply that I have to work out before anything else.

craig t.
3 July 2014

craig t.

I've tried working out on an empty stomach and can do it, but sometimes feel weak, so prefer to do it a couple of hours after a meal.

Lee P.
1 July 2014

Lee P.

http://www.leangains.com/ I've been doing this for ages. OK, I'm not big - but never tired, nor weak. Check out the experiments with Muslim rugby players training through Ramadan

Milena C.
1 July 2014

Milena C.

gurjit s.
1 July 2014

gurjit s.

wen i train crack a dawn i get up wash my face and straight in the gym - been training on a empty stomach for a year or so - if training in the evening a light meal an hour before training - i've been living on rice for two years whilst training - lean

gurjit s.
1 July 2014

gurjit s.

Pete R.
30 June 2014

Pete R.

I always see the tennis players nibbling on a banana during matches - it's clear that working out on an empty stomach is a no no.

Steve J.
30 June 2014

Steve J.

As a personal trainer and champion bodybuilder I agree with the verdict 100%! Great article :)

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