Is it OK to go to the gym in the morning without breakfast?

August 30
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Is it bad to exercise in an empty stomach?

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BigThink19 avatar

It’s often recommended that you work out first thing in the morning before eating breakfast, in what’s known as a fasted state. This is believed to help with weight loss. However, working out after eating may give you more energy and improve your performance. Also, exercising on an empty stomach is what’s known as fasted cardio. The theory is that your body feeds on stored fat and carbohydrates for energy instead of the food you’ve recently eaten, leading to higher levels of fat loss.

When you exercise, usually your body burns glycogen (stored sugar) as fuel first. And when the body senses that glycogen has been used up, it revs up its appetite to make up for lost glycogen, according to an April 2019 study from the Journal of Nutrition. When you exercise on an empty stomach, however, the body burns fatty acids, meaning the increased appetite after your workout may not be as significant.

If you just can't work out on an empty stomach, that doesn't mean your fat-loss efforts are doomed. Of course, what you eat before and after a workout is just as important as when. Performance-oriented athletes with a goal of fat loss should aim for a minor daily calorie deficit and emphasize protein in their diet from foods like Greek yogurt, eggs, chicken, seitan, tempeh, and fish to preserve muscle while burning body fat. I prefer to work out on an empty stomach - I hope this makes sense!

thingsscott12 avatar

Some research does support working out on an empty stomach. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the ideal way. When you exercise on an empty stomach, you may burn valuable energy sources (proteins) and have less stamina. You will not only feel intense hunger, but your stomach can also cramp. Sometimes, your blood sugar levels may drop and leave you lightheaded, nauseous, dizzy, or shaky. 

The truth is that exercising in a fasted state will indeed help you burn fat calories faster. You may see the number on the scale decrease. However, exercising on an empty stomach will also cause you to lose lean muscle mass simultaneously, which can hinder long-term weight loss.

Lastly, exercising without eating first can cause dramatic shifts in your blood sugar. So, the best middle ground is to consume a light snack within 30 minutes after exercising. To get the most out of your workout, it's important to eat something that has protein. Some examples of post-workout snack options would be a protein shake, yogurt, nuts, chicken with guacamole, or a handful of berries. Protein helps with muscle recovery and will satisfy hunger satiety before your next meal. My best advice is to exercise on an empty stomach.

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