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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 September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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