There is a lot of speculation when it comes to the pros and cons of working out on an empty stomach. Research is still limited but the benefits of fueling before exercising outweigh the benefits of working on an empty stomach, here’s why:
Burn Fat Instead of Stored Carbohydrates and Proteins
You do not need to be a biochemistry nerd to understand this but our body has different cycles to dispense energy during strenuous exercises. That is why if you have a meal before working out, especially if it has excess proteins and carbohydrates, your body will utilize these first. So instead of burning the unwanted fat on your belly and love handles, you will be burning the additional calories that you have just consumed.
Studies have suggested that working out on an empty stomach helps you burn 20% more fat since your body uses up the stored reserves instead of free carbohydrates.
Mark from MR ALPHA shares the downside … “If your diet does not contain a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fat – you will end up burning proteins stored within your muscles to meet your energy requirement during exercise. This will cause muscle wasting, which is counterproductive if you are looking to build muscles”.
In this scenario, adjusting your macro-nutrients before working out is essential, depending on whether you are aiming at losing weight or increasing muscle mass.
Reach New Personal Bests by Fueling Before Workouts
Again, you need not be an expert to observe how your performance is affected by eating or skipping meals before the gym. Most people tend to be crankier and lethargic when they hit the gym on an empty stomach. This can hinder you from outperforming yourself. Merely going to the gym is not sufficient to see visible progress – thus, if you feel drained and unable to push through high-intensity workouts, your body is telling you to pre-fuel before exercising. But if you can easily manage working out and to do better than yesterday without taking heavy meals, then stick to your current meal timings.
It all comes down to how your body conserves and dispenses energy – thus, changes in your mood signal towards compromised gut health. Low blood sugar levels make you feel dizzy, nauseated and weak; you can certainly not make the most out of your workouts in this state!
Eating before Exercise Can Suppress Your Appetite and Increase BMR and RMR
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body burns during normal physiological processes like breathing, circulation, digestion, and the formation of new cells. While Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) comprises of the calories burnt during periods of zero activity. Thus, in addition to working out, your body is helping you burnt calories consistently.
When you eat before working out, you provide your body with the fuel that is not only needed for exercise but also to carry out normal functions throughout the day. Hitting the gym on an empty stomach can suppress your appetite later onwards. Thus, making your body go into survival mode, where is starts conserving more fuel by lowering the BMR AND RMR. This can be counter-productive if you are trying to lose weight by burning some extra calories throughout the day.
Since, gaining muscle and losing weight both come down to what you consume throughout the day – suppressed appetite helps lose weight, but reduced levels of BMR and RMR are not. Reduction in both the parameters is certainly not helpful in gaining muscle mass.
Meals for before and After Working out
Eat three to four hours before working out – organic foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables, legumes, healthy fats, iron-rich and high-protein foods. Even if you are unable to have a proper meal a couple of hours before working out, opt for a healthy snack. Most importantly, stay hydrated before, after as well as during the workout.
Post-workout meals that improve recovery, immunity and wound healing should be consumed – these include smoothies with high vitamin C, D, and zinc content. Eat fiber and protein thirty minutes, or at least two hours, after your work out.
In conclusion, low-intensity workout for weight loss can be down on an empty stomach to burn those extra fat reserves. But the high intensity, muscle-building exercises require proper meal planning. Stay hydrated and be mindful of your moods during exercise for they are tell-tale signs of your body’s fuel needs.