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Should You (or Should You Not) Be Working Out on an Empty Stomach?

Should You (or Should You Not) Be Working Out on an Empty Stomach?

As the amount of fitness information available is getting bigger, the chances of being exposed to bad advice are also growing, creating more fitness myths than ever. Yet, one of the most debatable myths that has been out there forever is the myth of working out on an empty stomach.

It has been a prevailing thought for decades that you shouldn’t eat or drink prior to working out, and it seems that only recently the public has started questioning its accuracy.

“Fasted” versus “Fed”

The common belief of the effectiveness of the “hungry workout” isn’t unsupported; actual research backs it up. The British Journal of Nutrition[1] and the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism both published studies that show data in favor of “fasted” as opposed to “fed” training when it comes to the percentage of fat lost per workout.[2]

Additionally, a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology shows that fasted training provides a better anabolic post workout response to weight training, meaning it provides a better environment for building lean mass.

Namely, the conclusions indicate that “prior fasting may stimulate the intramyocellular [stored fats] anabolic response to ingestion of a carbohydrate/protein/leucine mixture following a heavy resistance training session.”[3]

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Moreover, by providing better absorption of the post workout meal nutrients, fasted training has the great potential to improve insulin sensitivity, and is, therefore, an important agent in the fat loss process.

As insulin sensitivity shows how easily fat and muscle cells in our body take in glucose, regulating insulin sensitivity helps lower the blood sugar levels, which is one of the most important factors in weigh loss. The Journal of Physiology published a study[4] that shows significantly greater insulin sensitivity improvement for the fasted training group as opposed to fed training group.

Finally, fasted training proved beneficial to endurance performance. In a study[5] published in the Journal of Strength and Conditional Research, ten professional cyclists maintained lean mass, lowered fat mass, and maintained performance.

Why fed training is better?

However, there is another side to the story that trumps the beliefs of efficacy of fasted workouts. As sports dietetics specialist Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., R.D. explains, while the body’s response to a high-intensity fasted workout is to burn glycogen, the stored up carbohydrates, eventually, the body starts to adjust to the new system and starts storing fat from the next meal and burning less calories in order to compensate.[6]

Additionally, a study[7] published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows no benefits of fasting, since longer periods of avoiding food showed a decrease in resting metabolic rates (calories burned per unit of time, a day usually.)

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What’s more, fed training actually helps reduce appetite later in the day, as a study[8] in the journal Appetite shows. Whereas both fed and fasted training participants were expanding the same amount of energy throughout the day, the fed training participants experienced lessened appetite later on, which means less snacking or overeating later in the day, which is great news for anyone who wants to lose weight.

Although it may seem (according to scientific data) that fasted exercise provides better results, later and more extensive research shows the opposite is true.

As far as the fat burning capacity of fasted training is concerned, while it is accurate to some point, on the other hand it is proven to be counterproductive.

Namely, throughout the course of a high-intensity fasted workout, having no more fat to burn, the body starts to burn muscle instead. As another study[9] published in the European Journal of Physiology shows, during high-intensity training, without prior eating, the body relies on burning muscle proteins for energy, which is certainly an unwanted scenario for both professional athletes, and people who are just trying to shed some weight and feel better.

Another important benefit of fed training is that it gives you the ability to improve at a steady rate, which is impossible to achieve through a fasted workout regimen, as a study[10] from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport shows. Being able to push yourself a little bit further each time, and outperform your previous training, isn’t feasible with fasted training since your body lacks the energy to rely on for additional strength. By eating a light meal before your workout, your body will be provided with enough energy to help you perform a little better each time.

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As the study concludes, “meal ingestion prior to daily exercise can modify some of the exercise training-induced adaptations normally seen with endurance training compared to when daily exercise is undertaken in the overnight-fasted state.”

How Fed training affects fat loss

When it comes to burning fat, the results are more favorable for the fed training method. As another study[11] in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism shows, physical activity after a light meal is far more effective for fat loss.

The study analyzed the effect on oxygen consumption (VO2) and substrate utilization (how our bodies burn fats and carbs), estimated by the respiratory-exchange ratio (RER) in eight young healthy men who were exposed to the same moderate-intensity workout. The results showed that breakfast increased both VO2 and RER significantly, and more importantly, the difference was still significant 24 hours after exercise. This means that fed training increases lipid utilization (the breaking down of fat cells), which is essential for weight loss.

Another study[12] in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has managed to completely refute the belief that fat loss is much faster throughout fasting training, as the results showed no significant difference in weight loss between women who ate a meal-replacement shake before working out and those who performed training without any meal.

Conclusions

All research considered, a fed workout actually has more scientifically proven benefits to overall health, fitness, weight loss, and workout performance, as opposed to fasted training. It may seem like fasted training aids in body fat loss, but in the long run, it actually has counterproductive effects, as the body starts to store fat and burn less calories as a precaution.

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Additionally, the studies show far greater and longer effects on burning body fat with fed training than those of a fasted. Moreover, the decreased appetite shown in groups who performed fed training is another reason for people who want to shed some weight to enjoy a light meal before a workout in order to prevent later cravings.

Finally, for reaching new higher goals in fitness and training, a fed workout is again a much more productive option, since the calories provide enough energy for extra effort.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

[1]The British Journal of Nutrition: Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males
[2]The International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: Effects of fed- versus fasted-state aerobic training during Ramadan on body composition and some metabolic parameters in physically active men
[3]European Journal of Applied Physiology: Increased p70s6k phosphorylation during intake of a protein–carbohydrate drink following resistance exercise in the fasted state
[4]Journal of Physiology: Training in the fasted state improves glucose tolerance during fat-rich diet
[5]Journal of Strength and Conditional Research: Effects of caloric restriction and overnight fasting on cycling endurance performance
[6]DailyBurn: Intermittent Fasting: Should You Exercise on Empty?
[7]American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism
[8]Appetite: Appetite, energy intake and resting metabolic responses to 60 min treadmill running performed in a fasted versus a postprandial state
[9]European Journal of Physiology: Training in the fasted state facilitates re-activation of eEF2 activity during recovery from endurance exercise
[10]Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport: Adaptations to skeletal muscle with endurance exercise training in the acutely fed versus overnight-fasted state
[11]International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: Exercising fasting or fed to enhance fat loss? Influence of food intake on respiratory ratio and excess postexercise oxygen consumption after a bout of endurance training
[12]Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise

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Last Updated on October 9, 2018

Why Am I Exhausted? The Real Causes and How to Fix It Forever

Why Am I Exhausted? The Real Causes and How to Fix It Forever

Do you say “I’m exhausted” all the time? Do you constantly feel exhausted for no reason?

Fatigue shows up in many ways including pure exhaustion, the inability to concentrate, anger, frustration and behavioral issues, memory problems, decreased work performance, and slower reaction times. Chronic fatigue has also been linked to medical problems including obesity, hypertension, depression, diabetes, as well as increased automobile accidents.

We attempt to combat fatigue with coffee, sugar, energy drinks, vitamins and a variety of other products that claim to increase our energy and stamina. But what if your exhaustion is trying to tell you something?

If you’re getting enough sleep and you’re still feeling exhausted, it’s time to stop, take a step back and look at what else is contributing to your exhaustion.

As a life-coach and consultant with a diverse background, I like to look at things from a holistic view – from multiple levels – including your body, mind and spirit.

So before you reach for that next cup of coffee, the 3pm sugary snack or the toxic energy drink, let’s look at some other reasons why you might be tired all the time, and more importantly, what you can do about it.

Here are 11 potential reasons why you’re exhausted even when get enough rest, and what you can do about it.

1. You are out of alignment mentally, emotionally or spiritually.

Essentially, you’re off track with who you are and what works for you. Maybe you’re unhappy, unfulfilled, stressed out or just plain bored with some areas of your life. You might be in a relationship that isn’t working, a job you can’t stand or a situation that drains your energy.

Think about a time in your life when you were in the flow, in the zone, and totally engaged and excited about what you were doing. How much sleep did you need then? Even after only a few hours, my guess is you probably found yourself jumping out of bed in the morning without an alarm clock, excited about embarking on the day.

On the flipside, think about a time in your life when you were in a relationship or job that zapped your energy. No matter how much sleep you got, you probably found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and were tempted to hit that snooze button just a few more times.

We all have things that make us feel great and energized and things that completely zap our energy. Maybe you’re someone who likes to move quickly but you’re drowning in detail; maybe you’re someone who thrives when you are on top of things and you’re feeling like everything is completely out of control. Or maybe you thrive on spontaneity and variety and you’re bored with your life.

When I asked my 11-year-old daughter why she thought people are tired even when we get enough rest, here’s what she said.

“Maybe people are bored and so they’re tired.”

Ever wonder why you can’t drag your kid out of bed for school on the weekdays but they pop out of bed on the weekend? Perhaps this is the culprit.

I had a client share this sentiment recently as she described a period of time in her life: “My boss sucked, the work was boring and it made me tired all the time.”

Exactly.

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When you’re doing things that align with who you are, in environments that align with what you need, you will feel more energized and alive. On the contrary, when you’re in environments that go against your grain, you will feel drained and de-energized.

What can you do?

Take a step back and identify what’s not working. Figure out what you want and work towards it. Do things that give you energy.

What makes you feel healthy and alive, energized and excited? What gets you in the flow and makes you feel most like you? Aim to get more of that in your life.

Find more ways to be in alignment with who you are with these tips:

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

2. You are out of alignment physically.

When we are structurally out of alignment, it can cause all sorts of issues. When things aren’t moving properly, it makes it hard for your body to do its job. Not to mention, pain is exhausting and zaps energy. And we are pretty hard on our bodies, aren’t we? We drag them around and tell them what to do. They need to be taken care of too.

Here’s what Chiropractor, Dr. Ruth Ziemba, who specializes in NSA (Network Spinal Analysis) has to say:

All of life is energy. We are energy. Any disturbance or blockages to the energy flow creates imbalances… Physical, mental and emotional stressors can cause subluxations (misalignment of the vertebrae) which interfere with signals getting clearly through your body. This can result in many health problems, including fatigue and insomnia.

Recently, I was feeling tired all the time – and felt like I was doing “everything else” right. So, I went to see my chiropractor and a cranial sacral therapist. Two days later, I felt much more energized and clear in my head.

I love the analogy I was once given by a chiropractor: “It doesn’t matter how well you can play an instrument if the instrument is out of tune.”

Such is true with our bodies.

What can you do?

Get some body work. This might include getting a massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, reiki, cranial sacral therapy – anything that works for you.

Don’t know where to start? Ask a friend or colleague for a recommendation. Even better if you have a friend in the field who can refer you to another practitioner. And make sure to schedule regular body work, not just when you need it.

3. You are not eating right (or enough).

What – and how much – you eat has a significant effect on your energy levels.

While there are many different diet protocols, there is one thing all the experts can agree on: sugar and processed foods make you feel sluggish and exhausted. They make your blood sugar go haywire, causing you to feel a brief period of energy followed by a crash.

Paradoxically, those are the very things we reach for when we need a hit of energy.

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What can you do?

I’ve found two things to be consistently true:

One, you need to eat real, clean food. The food you’re putting into your body is either real or it’s not. Avoid processed foods and especially refined sugars. You’re going to feel so much better for it.

Two, find what works for YOU. Gluten-free, Paleo, Mediterranean, high-fat, plant-based, you name it. Experts and well-meaning friends and family may tell you what’s best, but no one knows your body as well as you do. Pay attention, do you feel energized or fatigued after you eat certain foods? What works – and what doesn’t for YOU? Our bodies have intrinsic wisdom if we are willing to listen – and hear them.

4. You are not really sleeping.

We’ve established that you’re (hopefully) getting enough sleep. But are you getting enough high-quality sleep?

Some of the top causes of poor sleep quality include: being on electronics right before bed, interruptions, an uncomfortable mattress or the wrong pillow, grinding your teeth, an inconsistent sleep routine or the fact that you’re not getting through all of the sleep cycles.

What can you do?

Start with the basics:

Get off your electronics at least an hour before bed, make sure you have a comfortable pillow and mattress, set a consistent sleep routine, reduce outside noise and sleep in a well-darkened room or wear an eye mask.

If you have difficulty falling asleep or have poor sleep quality, this guide will help you get a good night’s sleep back:

Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning

5. You are stressed or worrying too much.

When you’re stressed, you produce more cortisol (the stress hormone), which can significantly affect your sleep.[1] This is why one of the common side effects of stress is sleep problems.

On top of stress hormones, excessive worry can drain your energy. When you worry, you’re using energy. It’s like when you have an app on your phone that takes up a lot of battery and you have it constantly running the background, your battery will drain more quickly. Such is true with worry and stress.

I think of this very simply. We all start the day with 100 units of energy to use throughout the day. If you’re using half of your energy units worrying, you’re inevitably going to be tired.

What can you do?

Find things that reduce your stress levels. I’ve seen clients have great success with yoga, meditation and exercise. Worrying too much? Get a clear plan in place to take action on what’s worrying you.

    6. You are not breathing deeply enough.

    Deep breathing increases circulation by bringing oxygen to your muscles and brain. This increased oxygen content in the bloodstream leads to greater energy and healthier muscles, organs and tissues.

    To highlight the benefits of deep breathing, I reached out to longtime Yoga Instructor & Ayurveda Wellness Counselor, Vivica Schwartz. Here’s what she shared:[2]

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    “Most people breathe in to the chest only (shallow breathing) and don’t allow the breath to reach deeper into the abdominal region, due to stress and anxiety. Shifting the breath down, so that it expands the belly (and all the muscles that comprise the diaphragm) is one of the best ways to shift our awareness, quiet the mind, release tension and increase our energy levels”.

    What happened when you started to read this one? Did you start breathing more deeply? Great, you’re already on your way.

    What can you do?

    Make a conscious effort to breathe deeply, more often. Try this from Vivica:

    1. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower belly.
    2. Breath smoothly in and out through the nose, noticing how your breath expands three-dimensionally in the ribcage.
    3. Now begin to shift the inhalation into the lower abdomen first, so that the lower hand rises first, then fill the chest area.
    4. Reverse the process on the exhalation, emptying the chest area first, then the lower belly.
    5. Continue like this for a few rounds, visualizing the diaphragm contracting and pushing down and expanding the belly area.

    7. You are hanging out with the wrong crowd.

    Have you ever known someone who “sucks the life out of you”? After spending time together, you feel tired, drained and exhausted? “Energy vampires” do just that, they suck your energy. It doesn’t matter how much sleep you’re getting; if you’re spending time with people who drain your energy, you’re going to feel tired.

    What can you do?

    Grab some garlic and your stake and ditch the energy vampires. Make a conscious effort to hang out with people who feed your soul and make you feel energized and alive.

    If you need a little help to spot these people out, here it is: 15 Signs Of Negative People

    8. You are not moving.

    There’s been a lot of research conducted over many years that shows physical activity and exercise improves energy and decreases fatigue.

    In a widely acknowledged 2006 study published in Psychological Bulletin, researchers analyzed 70 studies on exercise and fatigue which involved more than 6,800 people. Over 90% of the studies showed the same thing: Sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to those that did not exercise.

    What can you do?

    Get moving! Find ways to increase your exercise and movement. General guidelines are 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity (or a combination of the two). This can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking 20 minutes a day or participating in a sport you enjoy.

    Here’re some tips for you: How to Instantly Fall in Love With Moving and Start Shaking off the Extra Pounds

    9. You are dehydrated.

    The human body is composed of 50-65% water. Some parts of our bodies, like our brain, heart and lungs are more than 70% water. This means even mild dehydration can cause your energy levels to fall.

    Fatigue is a telltale sign you are dehydrated. In fact, in a survey of 300 doctors in the UK, 1 in 5 patients who saw their doctor for symptoms such as fatigue and tiredness simply weren’t drinking enough water.

    What can you do?

    First and foremost, drink enough water. A simple rule of thumb is eight 8-ounce glasses per day. And before you reach for your coffee in the morning, reach for a glass of water first.

    However, Doctor and hydration expert Dr. Zach Bush noted,

    “Proper hydration is not simply infusing your body with water. More specifically, it’s about getting the water inside your cells. To do that, you need to improve the electrical charges across your cellular membranes. Strategies that improve the electrical charge across your membranes include: reducing EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure, increasing electrolytes, and boosting your fiber intake.”

    So, try this intensive hydration protocol: Drink 4 ounces of water every 30 minutes from 7am-7pm for 3 days. During this intense hydration, add electrolytes to every other 4-ounce dose. Then give your body a break from food and water between 7pm and 7am.

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    Learn more about intracellular hydration with Dr. Bush here .

    10. You are too busy.

    You know the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I say, leave the busy person alone. They clearly have enough on their plate.

    I work with many clients, especially moms, who wonder why they are so tired all the time. When I ask them to tell me about “a day in their life”, I get something like this: 6am wake-up , exercise, get the kids off to school, work, drive to after-school activities, get dinner on the table, do hosework, coordinate schedules, bath and bed time (for the kids of course), and then back to work after the kids go to bed. And they wonder why they are tired?

    I get it. I’ve been there and I have to be careful of this myself. As a working mom of three young girls, who also wants to be social and active in my community, I know all too well the life of being busy. I’ve had to reign it in, create strategies and make very conscious decisions.

    What can you do?

    Look at your life as an outside observer or “fly on the wall”. What do you notice? Maybe you need to learn to say no? Perhaps you need to take a step back and identify what’s most important? Or set better boundaries?

    Perhaps you need to delegate more, outsource or just get some stuff off YOUR plate! Take just ONE thing and start from there.

    If you want extra advice on this, check out this guide:

    The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

    11. There is something else going on.

    If you’ve tried everything above, you are getting enough sleep and you are still tired, you may want to see your doctor or healthcare professional to uncover any underlying issues.

    Amongst other things, what leads to exhaustion could be medication side effects and other health concerns including thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, anemia and sleep apnea.

    What can you do?

    Talk to your doctor. Seriously. Make an appointment.

    If you’re sleeping enough and doing all the “right” things above and you still feel tired, it’s important to identify what could be the cause.

    The bottom line

    If you’re sleeping enough and still find yourself tired and exhausted all the time, it’s time to step back and see which of these reasons resonate with you.

    In order to get a different result, you have to DO something differently. In order to be more energized and less exhausted, you’re going to need to make some changes.

    What changes will you make? Are you going to eat better, exercise more, stay hydrated, take something off your plate, reassess the job you hate or relationship that’s draining you?

    Take a few minutes right now and think of 1-3 things you’re going to try. Write them down in your journal, on your phone or send an email to yourself.

    Change takes action and it’s time for change. You’ve got this. Take action now and your energy levels will be glad you did!

      Reference

      [1]Dr. Doni: How Cortisol Affects Your Sleep
      [2]Vivica Schwartz,Yoga Instructor & Ayurveda Wellness Counselor

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