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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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