It is so much easier to get up, put on your tracks and running shoes and head out the door. Imagine having to prep a pre-workout snack and hang around for an hour before you can hit the gym. This is especially true if you’re one for early morning workouts. Who cares to scramble eggs when their eyes are half shut? To us, that’s a fire hazard just waiting to happen.
So what’s the deal? Can you exercise on an empty stomach? Is the pre-workout snack significantly beneficial?
Interestingly, there are scientific studies that support both sides of the argument. Before you pick one, here’s all you need to know about the age-old fitness diktat that has contradicting endorsements from nutritionists and trainers across the world.
Exercising On An Empty Stomach: If you desire to get up in the morning and hit the track, just go ahead and do it. Studies suggest that working out early in the morning—before you’ve eaten breakfast—is the optimal hour for exercise. It helps accelerate weight loss and boosts energy levels by priming the body for an all-day fat burn. Your body sources the fuel for energy from the fat reserves. This process is excellent for burning stubborn fat that is stored in the body and is hard to get rid of.
- Increases the production of the growth hormone (GH), which builds muscles, burns fat and improves bone health. One study noted that 24 hours of fasting increases GH by 2000 percent in men and 1300 percent in women.
- Improves your insulin sensitivity, which enhances the ability of the body to absorb sugar from the bloodstream and transfer it to the liver, muscles and fat cells, which then makes it ready to be used as energy. Eating in excess or too often impairs insulin sensitivity.
- Fasting before exercising increases testosterone, which amps up energy levels and promotes muscle growth.
Exercising After A Pre-Workout Snack
Carbohydrate is a staple pre-workout ingredient. When you eat carbs, they get broken down into sugar, which is your source of energy. But, they are used depending on the duration and intensity of the workout. So say, for someone who is doing HIIT, CrossFit, or bootcamp training, a pre-workout snack is essential to supply the energy required for these intense moves. Without them, they will feel the fatigue set in earlier and may also experience muscle breakdown.
- Eating before a workout increases body heat during the digestion process, which enhances fat-burning capabilities. The body must use energy to digest food. This is known as the “thermic effect of food” (TEF) or “specific dynamic action of food.” High intensity exercises further increase oxidation of fat.
- Protein is the secondary source of energy. If you indulge in cardiovascular exercises on an empty stomach, there is a chance that after the body uses fat for energy, it will turn to protein or muscle mass for fuel. You will burn the muscles that you’ve worked so hard to build.
While both are equally good arguments supported by science, what divides them is the purpose of your goal.
- If you want to lose weight, exercise on an empty stomach; but, if you want to bulk up and increase endurance levels, opt for a good pre-workout snack instead.
- Feel free to do light cardio exercises such as walking, yoga, or mat workouts on an empty stomach. But, for anything that’s of higher intensity, and also of a significantly longer duration (30-minute+ workout), then load up on some good carbs before you exercise.