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There is a misconception that if exercising without “fuel” you’ll burn more fat and calories. Turns out that this is actually probably not the best decision. According to the fitness experts at sparkpeople.com, if you do this, then “your body does not have enough adequate fuel to workout at it’s optimum level.” Here’s some more information about exercising on an empty stomach from Spark People‘s Exercise Tip of the Day.
Question: I heard that when you exercise on an empty stomach (such as first thing in the morning) you’ll burn more fat. Is this true?
In the morning, your body has gone 8+ hours since eating or drinking anything. Your blood sugar levels are lower at this point, and your body doesn’t have adequate fuel to workout optimally. Usually, experts recommend eating something–even if it’s just a small snack–within 2 hours before working out. When your body doesn’t have proper fuel in it, many problems can result, the lesser being that your workout performance suffers, and the greater being something like passing out during exercise.
However, every body is different. Some people can workout on an empty stomach with no problems, while others would end up very sick and feel the negative effects of it. When I workout in the morning, I always eat (and drink) something first thing after I wake up. Usually by the time I start my workout it doesn’t hurt my stomach to exercise with a bit of food on it.
Also, I think there might have been a bit of confusion here about metabolic rates in the morning. Eating breakfast in the morning has a positive effect on your metabolism, but exercising on an empty stomach does not. Some people say that it will burn fat stores, but overall, the number of calories your burn during a workout (regardless of where they come from) is much more important. Plus, fat burns in the carbohydrate flame. This means that exercising without eating (such as after “fasting” during sleep) your body does not burn fat efficiently, or sometimes at all.
Of course you should always check with your physician before starting any kind of exercise/workout routine, and try to eat something, like a banana, before hitting the gym or going for a cold, morning jog.
Disadvantages of exercising on empty stomach exercise…
If you exercise on an empty stomach you’re more likely to get a shorter and less effective workout, due to:
As a result, you burn less calories because you can’t keep going as long as you should have been able to.
It’s also thought that exercising on an empty stomach leads to eating more following the workout, which is counter productive in the end.
Advantages of eating before you workout:
*Helps energise your workout
*Prevents low blood sugars, which can make you feel dizzy, nauseous, and lethargic
*You can exercise more intensely
*Your workout will be more enjoyable overall
*Can boost your recovery time
So, what should you eat before exercise?
In his report, Eating for Peak Performance, Dr Derek Schramm states,
“Low-glycaemic index foods, such as rice, pasta, and bananas, should be consumed before exercise because they are absorbed into the blood stream at a lower rate, which will help sustain energy.
In studying the relationship between carbohydrate and fat metabolism during exercise, exercise physiologists have found that during the first 15 minutes of exercise, carbohydrates help to prime skeletal muscle for efficient fat burning. Thus, eating small amounts of low-glycaemic foods before exercise can help a dieting exerciser to lose fat.”
The bottom line is, we each have to find a system that works for us. You may be fine doing cardio without a meal in the morning, but strength training may require more fuel to really challenge your muscles. The best answer to this is to do what works for you. Don’t go hungry just because you think you’re burning more fat…after all, if you cut it short or lower the intensity because of low energy, how much fat are you burning anyway?
If you do eat before a workout, make sure you give your body time to digest. The larger the meal, the more time you’ll need. But, if you choose a light snack (100-200 calories) and stick with higher carb fare, you can probably exercise after about 30-60 minutes. Pre-workout snack ideas:
•Banana (or other type of fruit)
•Energy bar or gel
It is best to have a banana before working out. Some people like to have a cup of tea or coffee before exercising. The caffeine probably helps them to kick-start the regimen. You could carry water and a banana with you while exercising. If you prefer exercising during the day, make sure to schedule it at least two hours after a meal.
Ultimately, it is entirely up to you whether you do your morning workout on an empty stomach, or not.
But, if you have to cut your exercise routine short because your energy levels are so low, it is suggested a small snack beforehand, so you can get the most out of your exercise time.