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Should You Train On An Empty Stomach Or Is It Best To Fuel Up Before Training?

Should You Train On An Empty Stomach Or Is It Best To Fuel Up Before Training?

It seems the latest research tips in favour of exercising on an empty stomach, so long as your workout is low to medium intensity and your goal is fat loss or maintenance and not training to get into the Olympics.

If you exercise after an overnight fast, you will use a high proportion of fat as a fuel source since your carbohydrate stores are low.

Although you may burn some body fat working out on an empty stomach, fat is a less-efficient energy source than carbohydrates, so if you exercise on an empty stomach, your workout intensity and duration may be compromised.

In theory, you may burn more fat in the long run if you fuel your high-intensity workouts beforehand so you can train at a higher intensity and get a greater ‘after burn’ effect for up to 36 hours after your workout.

However, this may not contribute to body fat loss if you over compensate for your calorie burn later in the day. Sooooo, don’t go ordering a piece of cake with your midmorning coffee just because you worked out this morning!

What about if you are training for a race or competition?

Another use of the concept of exercising on an empty stomach is by using the "training low, competing high" method at times to help your endurance. Some studies have shown this method increases the amount of carbohydrates that are stored in the muscles so you can draw on them readily when racing or competing so you can go further and faster. Still, the approach is a little controversial and the jury is still out on whether it actually benefits athletic performance.

What we know for sure is how important your ‘post workout’ meal is. Some refer to this time as the ‘window of opportunity’ where your muscles are primed to accept nutrients that can stimulate muscle repair, muscle growth and muscle strength.

This window opens immediately after your workout and it is recommended to feed your body properly within 2 hours after your workout to get the benefits. The purpose of proper nutrition after working out is to replenish energy stores, repair any damage caused by the workout and increase muscle size and/or muscle quality.

After a workout, replace lost fluids with water and replenish with a ratio of 3:1 carbs and protein to ensure adequate muscle recovery and repair.

It comes down to this, everyone is different, some people can't get through a full workout without feeling light headed and nauseous and need to fuel up first and some people perform better on an empty stomach and then feel good when they eat after their workout. Ultimately, it's up to you to experiment with different pre and post workout foods. Listen to your body to find what works best for you.

Some Easy Pre/Post Workout Meals

Toast and peanut butter + banana slices + a sprinkle of cinnamon

Yoghurt + fruit and granola

Oats + peanut butter + banana

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