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Should I be working out on an empty stomach? Let's breakdown the answer
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Should I be working out on an empty stomach? Let's breakdown the answer

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Many have found themselves asking the question, “Is it okay to work out on an empty stomach?” Here are more details on some possible beneficial and harmful effects of exercising on an empty stomach.

Many people live busy lives with very little time to work out. For example, they may squeeze in a jog early in the morning before breakfast. Others choose not to eat before working out in hopes it will improve weight loss. But many have found themselves asking the question, “Is it okay to work out on an empty stomach?” Here are more details on some possible beneficial and harmful effects of exercising on an empty stomach.

When exercising first thing in the morning, this is known as working out in a fasted state. This method is believed to improve weight and fat loss through the body gaining energy through breaking down stored fat and carbohydrates rather than recently eaten food. An alternative to this though is the possibility that the body will adjust to utilizing fat reserves for exercise and therefore learn to store more fat than usual. This would unfortunately counteract any exercising efforts. However, More research is still needed before a definite answer can be provided, since the evidence is mixed.

Another fuel option for the body to use on an empty stomach is protein. This in turn leaves the body with less protein available to repair muscles after the exercise has been completed. It has also been found that breaking down stored fats and protein may lead to burning valuable energy sources which decreases stamina, lowers blood sugar levels, and produces feelings of lightheadedness, lethargy, and nausea. This process is inefficient and taxing on the body, which is why it causes negative effects. The outcome is called “bonking” and immediately inhibits people from performing activity to the best of their ability, but long term can lead to vitamin deficiencies, mood changes, and decreased immunity.

Eating at least a small snack prior to exercising can improve athletic performance. It also helps maintain blood glucose levels and avoid taking stored energy from muscles. When preparing a pre-workout meal or snack, it is important to choose easily digestible foods that contain carbohydrates, proteins, and fats so they can be readily available for the body to use. Foods containing vitamins C and D, zinc, and calcium are beneficial as well. Eating certain foods can improve post-exercise recovery through boosting the immune system and aiding wound healing. Food should be consumed about 2 to 3 hours before and 30 minutes to 2 hours after working out. Remember, you don't want to fill up, but eat enough to provide your body with energy to power your workout.

Overall, there is lots of competing evidence to be considered when answering this question, but the bottom line is that it depends. It depends on the individual and the level of exercise to be performed. With light and low-impact exercises, including walking, golfing, and yoga, eating beforehand is not always necessary. With exercise involving high amounts of strength, energy, and endurance, including tennis, running and swimming, eating beforehand is important. Another guideline to follow is that if your workout is going to exceed 1 hour, then you should eat before and not perform the activity on an empty stomach. Since these are simply general guidelines, consult a doctor if you have a health condition that is impacted by how you eat and exercise. 

At the end of the day, we should be striving to make exercising as enjoyable as possible. Although weight loss is desirable for many, if exercising on an empty stomach makes you feel terrible, it will not prove to be worth it. Providing the body with a bit of fuel before a workout can facilitate increased performance and an overall better experience being active. 



Want to up your Health & Fitness? Check out these articles:

healthline.com

wellandgood.com

time.com

About the Author:

Abigail is a 2nd year student at the University of Texas at Austin studying sports medicine. She's originally from Long Beach, California and loves being active. Her true passion for fitness shows and she couldn't be more thankful to get to share this excitement with readers seeking insight on a variety of health related topics.

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Should I be working out on an empty stomach? Let's breakdown the answer