Should you exercise before eating? Is it ideal? Won’t that affect my health? What if I am hungry?
In this post, we have answers to your questions. We’ll discuss what happens when we exercise on an empty stomach and some precautions to take.
Let’s dive in right away.
What happens when you exercise before eating?
When you exercise before eating, you are exercising in a fasted state. “Fasted state” means that your body already stopped processing food.
This occurs about 4-6 hours after taking any meal. Fasted exercise can, therefore, be at any time of the day. However, it is best done in the morning.
There might be some confusion about what happens if you don’t take a meal before exercise.
How your body provides the energy to power your muscle. It’s simple. When you do exercise in the fasted state, you are working your muscles on an empty stomach.
At that time, the amount of insulin present in the body is low. Because the level of insulin in the body is low, there is not much glucose available in the body.
Since glucose level is synonymous with energy level, your body has to turn to other forms of stored energy.
Therefore, when you exercise before eating, the body relies on fat as a source of energy.
Fat is present as special tissues in the body we call Adipose tissues. In other, for the body to burn the fat, the adipose tissue must release it.
The process of releasing it is lipolysis. Lipolysis does not determine the efficiency of your body, burning fat and releasing energy.
Rather, this falls to the amount of oxygen available for the oxidation process.
Is it safe to exercise on an empty stomach?
There are many studies on whether it is safe to exercise before eating. Some support that when you perform this exercise, you can burn more fat.
However, some people also feel lightheaded and shaky due to low sugar levels. There are many possibilities with people experiencing weird ones.
For example, the body can adjust to you exercising before eating by storing more fat than normal.
Therefore, the safety note is doing something you are comfortable with. Your body is unique, so listen to what it wants.
If you exercise before eating at times, don’t sweat it, it might not be ideal for heavy activities, like cardio.
How does exercising before eating affect weight loss?
According to a study, when you exercise before eating, you have control of your body’s blood sugar level.
The researchers proved that when you exercise before eating, you burn twice the fat than you do when you eat.
Then does exercising affect weight loss? No. Although there is low insulin in the body at that time, it only contributes to burning up the fat in the body.
In another study to understand the effect of having an exercise before eating on weight loss, Dr. Javier Gonzalez from the University of Bath experimented using three categories of men for the experiment.
- Those who exercise before eating in the morning
- Those who exercise after eating in the morning
- Those who didn’t make any alteration (Control)
They discovered that there is no effect on weight loss. However, there was an improvement in overall health.
For example, the body becomes more sensitive to insulin, which gives you better control of the blood sugar levels. Aside from that, there was no difference in weight loss by both exercise groups.
Should you exercise before eating to lose weight?
Although layman knowledge links not eating with weight loss, it sadly also links having an exercise before eating with weight loss.
According to a study, there are no differences between those who exercise before eating and those that do not.
Therefore, if you are looking to exercise before eating because of weight loss, you shouldn’t. However, other benefits make it more attractive.
There is an efficient burning of fats, which increases insulin sensitivity. This will regulate your blood sugar level and remove the risk of diabetes and heart diseases.
So, if you want to burn fat efficiently as opposed to losing weight, exercise before eating.
Is it okay to exercise when hungry?
Yes, you shouldn’t have any issues if you exercise when hungry. However, there are two factors you must consider before doing it.
Your body physiology
Some people have a reputable level of stored energy, such as glycogen and fat in the body. Therefore, when they are hungry, they can exercise without experiencing any side effects.
If your body is okay with readily accessible stored energy, it is okay to exercise when hungry. However, make sure you eat well after.
Your health conditions
If you have health conditions such as Ulcer, you should not exercise when hungry. For people suffering from such conditions exercising while hungry is a bad call. It can lead to the following:
- Severe stomach pain due to the eating away of the lining of the stomach and the intestine
- Gas and burping
If you have such conditions, check-up with your health care provider for the right steps.
How does an empty stomach impact exercise?
The impact of an empty stomach depends majorly on the stored energy level of the individual.
Individuals with a high level of stored energy will have more time to burn down the energy stored.
Albeit, after some time, regardless of your stored energy level, you will experience the following symptoms:
- Less stamina
Aside from these symptoms, individuals that exercise on an empty stomach experience two things:
Individuals that exercise before eating tend to lose stamina and hit the bonk. Bonking occurs due to the rapid depletion of the stored energy present in the body.
When you exercise on an empty stomach, the glycogen stored in the liver, which supplies glucose to the brain during hunger, depletes rapidly.
If there is a shortage in the glucose level in the brain, it causes bonking.
Exercising with an empty stomach comes with incapability of performing intense exercise.
This is because it takes more time to breakdown fat into energy due to the higher oxygen requirement. The energy released at a time will be infinitesimal to the required energy for that workout.
According to a study on exercising with an empty stomach published in the British Journal of Nutrition, there is more efficiency in calories burned when people exercise after eating.
Using two groups of people for the experiment
- Those that exercise on an empty stomach
- Those that do not.
They found out that the group that exercises on an empty stomach indeed has an increase in fat oxidation, but the second group burned more calories during the same timeframe.
How to maximize workouts on an empty stomach?
In other, for you to maximize exercising on an empty stomach, you must replenish the energy you expend during the process.
Therefore, it is important to eat something after finishing the exercise.
According to a study on the effect of eating pretentious meals after an exercise on an empty stomach, the body produces more proteins when compared to those that do not.
5 safety tips when exercising before breakfast
You can safely exercise on an empty stomach by taking note of the following:
1. Be careful of the age-grade
Having an exercise before eating is not good for adults. The reason is that protein recommendation is higher for old people. Therefore, people over 50 years of age should be careful about this exercise.
2. Do something you enjoy
There are so many exercises that will help you burn the fats in the body. But it is better to do the one that you enjoy because it will be more seamless.
According to Albert Matheny, you have so many ways you can exercise. If running does not work for you, you will surely have another way.
3. Avoid intense workout
This depends on what you are aiming for, but generally, if you are working out on an empty stomach, it is better to avoid an intense workout.
It can lead to conditions such as bonking. In severe cases, some health conditions, such as Ulcers, can show adverse symptoms.
4. Do not waste time in between exercise
Use a timer to keep a record of your activity, then rest. As simple as that.
5. Take a little water during a workout
Taking a little water during a workout is necessary to burn fat and generate energy.
According to a mini-review done in 2016, taking little water helps in lipolysis. Water also helps in reducing the risk of muscle cramps and fatigue.
Choosing whether to exercise before eating depends on you. Check your body requirement and other health condition before deciding on.
However, do not forget that based on available studies, exercising before eating does not lead to weight loss.
Related: Should You Exercise After Eating?