Every person who has a healthy lifestyle includes two main habits in their daily routine, which are having good nutrition and exercising regularly.
If you are one of those who does physical activity in the early hours of the morning, perhaps this question commonly arises ... Should I have an empty stomach or eat before exercising? In this article I will explain it to you, since the answer will depend on several factors.
The effects of good nutrition when exercising are still a subject of research among scientists and athletes, the results of some studies indicate that exercising on an empty stomach may be more beneficial to health.
However, eating before physical activity can improve performance in some people, but there is also evidence to highlight that exercising on an empty stomach induces possible beneficial metabolic adaptations (1) in muscle cells.
Based on these differences found in research on the effect of eating or not eating before exercise, we will review some studies with the proven benefits of training on an empty stomach.
Exercising on an empty stomach increases the body's ability to oxidize fat
Having an empty stomach when exercising promotes fat oxidation (2), optimizing your metabolism and may also have a favorable impact on performance from regular exercise.
If you eat foods that contain carbohydrates before exercise, your body will use them for energy, on the contrary, when you have an empty stomach, body fat is used to meet the energy needs of the body during physical activity.
In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, 273 participants investigated the effects of short-term aerobic exercise on an empty stomach and after eating on fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
These scientists demonstrated that during exercise, fat burning was higher in those individuals who were fasting, while sugar and insulin levels, as expected, were higher in those who had previously eaten
Some researchers claim that this increased use of fat in our body for energy does not necessarily have to be translated into greater weight loss.
Regarding performance benefits, studies have more mixed results, but generally conclude that an empty stomach is better for short-term exercises.
But if you are an athlete or do resistance exercises such as marathon, triathlon and cycling, there is published research that indicates that eating foods high in dense carbohydrates three to four hours before exercise may be more beneficial for you.
Training on an empty stomach is linked to better metabolic health
The American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism published a study conducted by British scientists on 10 sedentary young men with weight gain.
Each man was evaluated in two phases: in the first section, on an empty stomach, they exercised for an hour on a treadmill and in the next section they performed the same physical activity but after having breakfast. In addition, blood and adipose tissue (body fat) samples were taken before and one hour after each phase.
The findings of this study demonstrated significant changes within fat cells, the most relevant being that many genes related to better metabolic health had a different behavior in fasting individuals, that is, they were more active in men on empty stomachs.
These genes favor the control of blood glucose levels, insulin in the body and lipid metabolism, therefore, the conclusion of this research suggests (3) that better health benefits can be achieved, if done exercise without eating before.
If your choice is to exercise on an empty stomach, it is important that you do not forget to eat later, as these nutrients will help you recover from physical activity. It is recommended to wait 60 to 90 minutes before eating, for some experts this maximizes the oxidation of fats.
If you eat foods that have proteins, the amino acids in them will be used to produce new proteins and repair your muscles and tissues, while if you eat foods that contain carbohydrates, these can replenish the glycogen stores in your body.
The results of the studies on the benefits have been mixed and are not definitive, however, the bottom line is that it is you who determines whether or not you leave your stomach empty. Before exercising, you should design a plan that suits your needs.
Not all individuals respond the same, if you have a metabolic disease such as diabetes or another, it is best to consult a nutritionist or doctor, some people without eating feel weak, others if they eat have a feeling of fullness and discomfort during exercise.
Remember to also take into account the type of exercise and duration of the activity. For example, for high-level professional athletes, eating before exercise may be more important to improve your endurance, so depending on the training and what works well for you, you can make the best decision.
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