Should You Exercise On an Empty Stomach?
Warning: Adult language
Please do not read any further if you are offended by adult language.
Hmmmm, let's think about this.....uh.....NO.
Here's the dealio. A lot of people think you should exercise on an empty stomach because there is the theory that you burn more fat. The theory goes on to explain that when you have an empty stomach, your blood levels are low because you are in a "fasted" state. So when you start exercising, it's burning up your reserves.
There is also a counter theory that disputes this by stating that if you exercise on an empty stomach, your body will indeed burn up your reserves... your muscle reserves. (Which is not a good thing!). Your body will take it's energy NOT from your fat cells, but from your muscles! Since the body needs to take energy from somewhere and you are without sufficient carbohydrate stores, your body will use protein as the source of energy. And where the hell does it get the protein from? Your muscle mass. It breaks down the muscle to get the energy it requires. And let's not forget, when muscle is broken down, less fat gets burned. You end up in a far worse situation by causing even more damage. This theory mimics the Starvation Mode process where muscle is eaten up and you are left with a higher fat percentage.
So who is right?
Well to be perfectly honest, who the hell knows? I don't, you don't, and they don't either! This is when it comes down to using that damn brain that sits inside your skull. Common sense has to play a part in your decisions.
Let's look at some points to ponder.
CONS OF WORKING OUT ON AN EMPTY STOMACH
- Quick fatigue & lethargy
- Less intense workouts
- Shorter workouts
- Less able to focus
- Less enjoyable workout
- Grumbling stomach that keeps pissing you off
Is all of this worth burning 20 more calories? And if you stop your workout short because you're not feeling well or you simply have a less intense workout because you have no energy, well you're sure as shit not going to be burning more fat or calories.
Don't set yourself up for failure by making your workouts a horrible experience.
I don't know about you, but exercising everyday takes enough willpower and dedication as it is, I don't want to make it a torture session for myself on top of all that. You can exercise anytime you want to, but why the hell would you want to make it harder than it already is?
PROS OF WORKING OUT WITH FOOD
- Your body is fueled up and has energy
- You can push harder throughout your workout
- You can push yourself longer throughout your workout
- You can focus and keep your game face on
- You won't have a growling stomach and won't be thinking about food during your workout
- You can kick more ass
Okay, that last one alone is enough for me ;)
A quote from Craig Ballantyne from PersonalTrainers.com says it well, "You don't have to hop on the treadmill at 4:30am every morning. Let's allow common sense to dictate when and how you exercise. If you want to work out first thing in the morning [on an empty stomach], by all means, go ahead and do it. There's nothing magical about this time. We need to think 'outside of the hour' of exercise and realize that calorie burning and fat burning goes on for twenty-four hours. Forget about the theories and look at the bigger picture."
I'm not saying you have to eat a five course meal before you exercise, but give yourself something to fuel up on. And don't be wolfing down a ham sandwich right before you hop on the elliptical or start lifting weights either.
Use your head.
If you are due for a full meal, eat and then wait 2+ hours before working out. If you don't have time to wait and need to workout within 20-30 minutes, then stick to a small pre-workout snack that has about 100-200 calories. Eat low-glycemic foods such as bananas, oatmeal, fresh fruit smoothies, plain yogurt, whole wheat toast w/ PB, or hard boiled eggs.
Simply workout and eat when it's best for you. I personally always make sure I have eaten before AND after my workouts. I make sure I get some protein afterwards. I use the 100% Whey Protein Isolate and mix it with 8 oz skim milk, 2 TBS of unsweetened cocoa and 3 packets of stevia. However, if you are not doing intense workouts, particularly ones that include muscle building, whey protein is not necessary, just eat something small that is predominantly protein after your workouts.
Protein helps your muscles recover from any damage sustained in your workouts, which in turn helps you have less soreness and better results. Protein encourages muscle mass growth. It is important to start refueling as soon as possible after you exercise. I'm not saying start eating like a beast, just give your body what it needs.
Just remember this:
- Eat good carbs (complex carbs) before a workout
- Eat protein after a workout
For best results, eat within 30 minutes after your workout, but you have a decent window for about 90 minutes (but sooner is better). Don't forget to stay hydrated, before, during, AND after exercising.
Do your own research. Don't pop up on one site and take it as gospel (that includes mine too). Read up on a lot of sites and make sure they're reputable and that it's not some Joe Blow's opinion you've stumbled onto. There is a lot of misinformation out there.
The Mayo clinic as well as WebMD has a lot of resources to pull from as well as a ton of links to check out, but there are some great sites out there that have a wealth of information to learn from. Make an informative decision on how you want to run your exercise regimen.
First and foremost, use sound judgement and listen to your body. You are your own best expert.
Related links below:
*The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content in this article is for general information purposes only. I am not a doctor, nor am I a dietitian. Talk to your physician before making any changes in your diet or exercise regimen. The information found in this article is from various sources which include, but are not limited to, the sites listed above. I encourage you to do your own research and talk with your physician before making any changes in diet or exercise. What has worked for me may not work for you. This information in this article or on this website should never replace or serve as medical advice.
NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ ON OR HAVE ACCESSED THROUGH THIS WEB SITE.