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Should You Workout on an Empty Stomach?

Should You Workout on an Empty Stomach?

Thinking of Running on Empty? Think Again

Many gym-goers and athletes push themselves on empty stomachs because they mistakenly believe they will burn more fat. It is a common myth – but that’s all it is: a myth. Instead of swapping breakfast for your fitness grips, read on to discover the truth about working out on an empty stomach.

The Myth

Over the last ten years, popular fitness books and countless trainers have perpetuated the myth that working out an empty stomach forces the body to use fat stores for fuel instead of carbohydrates made available thanks to a pre-workout snack or meal.

The Truth

Although the myth seems to jive with conventional wisdom, research shows that using your gym gloves on an empty stomach does not lead to any benefits and may actually work against you. Regardless of whether or not you eat before exercise, the body burns roughly the same amount of fat. However, you are likely to lose more muscle if you break a sweat in a depleted state. Without adding fuel to aid the workout, your overall calorie burn and exercise intensity will be reduced. If you do snack or eat a meal before exercising, you will burn fat instead of muscle, leaving you with a higher calorie burn and more energy while you are using your fitness grips. A study published in the September 2002 issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism revealed another benefit from eating before working out: Women who ate 45 grams of carbs prior to hitting the gym ate less throughout the rest of the day[1].

The Bottom Line

Working out on an empty stomach is a bad idea. To boost your energy and perform your best, eat something about 30 minutes before you exercise, like a protein shake or yogurt topped with fresh berries.
[1]    Melby, CL, K.L. Osterberg, A. Resch, B. Davy, S. Johnson and K. Davy, “Effect of carbohydrate ingestion during exercise on post-exercise substrate oxidation and energy intake.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 12. 3. (2002): 294-309. Web. 14 March 2013.
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