Whether it is beneficial or not to exercise in an empty stomach has always been a hot topic of discussion. However, it’s high time that we get rid of some of the old myths associated with fed versus fasted exercise.
Did you know that exercising before breakfast can help you to shed 20 percent of your body fat? Yes, you heard that right! There are plenty of researches and reasons that strongly support not eating before your workout if you’re interested in maximizing your fat-burning potential.
An Experiment Done by a Team of Researchers
Twelve men were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to workout on a treadmill before breakfast. The second group was asked to do the same at 10 am, after eating breakfast.
Each participant was given a chocolate milkshake recovery drink after their workout. Later in the day, all of them were given pasta for lunch and were asked to eat until they felt ‘comfortably full’. The consumption of energy and fat during the lunch time was assessed and calculated. Also, they took into account the amount of energy and fat burned during their workout.
The team discovered that those who had exercised in the morning prior to eating did not consume any additional calories or experience an increase in appetite during the day to compensate for their early morning activity. In fact, they burned 20 percent more fat when compared to the second group who had eaten breakfast before exercising.
‘You need to use more fat than you consume if you want to lose body fat’. Exercising enhances the total amount of energy we expend. And, a greater proportion of this energy should come from your existing fat, and this could be easily achieved if you perform your workout after an overnight fast.
The Dual Effects of Fasted State
Fasting is one of the most effective ways to promote muscle gain and increase the production of growth hormones (GH). Studies show that 24 hours without food can increase the production of a male body’s GH secretion by 2,000% and 1,300% in women. This shows that fasting frequently can help you produce muscle-friendly hormones at their highest levels.
Fasting also improves insulin sensitivity to a great extent. When we eat, our body releases a hormone, insulin, to help us consume the nutrients from our food. Insulin pulls out the sugar from our bloodstream and directs these sugars to your muscles, liver and fat cells to be used as energy later. If you eat too much and too often, your body can become more resistant to insulin’s effect. Poor insulin sensitivity increases the risk of cancer and heart disease and makes it difficult to lose body fat.
Therefore, eating less can be helpful, as it results in the body releasing less insulin, so that we will become more sensitive to it. This makes it easier to lose fat, minimizes the impact of unhealthy diet and improves blood flow to muscles.
The Science behind Exercising on Empty Stomach
Do you know that carbohydrates are the easiest nutrients for your body to burn? They require less oxygen than others. On the other side, fat is your body’s long-term energy storage mechanism and requires more oxygen. Glycogen is a stored carbohydrate and is the preferred fuel source for your body during exercise.
In absence of carbohydrates (empty stomach), your body can burn more fat for energy. It has also been observed that working out while fasting can develop a storage efficiency of muscle glycogen. This means that working out on an empty stomach improves insulin sensitivity as it allows glucose to get into the cells instead of being stored as fat. This can help the body to significantly make better use of its stored energy. The theory is, since you have fasted overnight, there will be no carbs present in your body to conflict with the metabolism of fat.
The combination of fasting and exercise maximizes the impact of catalysts and cellular factors in the body. This forces the breakdown of fat and glycogen for energy. Many studies have shown that fasting prior to working out can help to measure an individual’s capacity to perform and help to determine their fitness level.
The action plan before and after exercise
Here’s your new approach towards your workout routine.
Boost your energy 2 hours before exercise with 16 ounce of water, black coffee without sugar, or green tea before you hit the gym.
Focus on five things:
- Quality carbs
- Lean protein
- Heart-healthy fat
- Low Fiber
Eat meals and not calories. The six short meals concept is highly recommended. Some experts even say that concentrating food intake into one or two meals every day is a better way to build a lean muscle mass. As exercise is important for your weight loss plan, so is your diet. Check what you eat throughout the day and workout hard.
Please note that if you have certain types of health problem, including diabetes and low blood pressure, it is absolutely necessary to eat before exercising. Or else, it can cause other health problems.