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Working Out On an Empty Stomach: Good or Bad?
For many people, the morning is the only time they can get in a workout. Even if it means they have to get up before the crack of dawn to hit the gym before their day at the office, it's worth it! Getting up early means they have no time to eat before rushing out the door, so they often end up working out on an empty stomach. But is that a bad thing? Below, we've listed the good and the bad of working out without eating first:
The Good: More Fat Burning
Some studies have indicated that working out in a "fasted" state helps to increase the activation of stored fat. The fact that you have very little glycogen (carb-based energy) in your system after a night of sleep means your body is forced to activate fat in order to keep up with your workout. Glycogen levels tend to be low in the morning, but not so low you will collapse. In many cases, this can lead to better overall fat-burning!
The Bad: More Fatigue
The human body is accustomed to burning carbohydrates for energy, not fat. Fat is sort of a back-up plan for when you run out of carb-based energy. If your glycogen levels are very low in the morning, you may run out of energy before your body has time to activate stored fat and turn it into fat-based energy. Remember that it takes time to produce energy from fat, and you won't get the same amount of energy at the same pace as you'd get from carbohydrates. For many people, a morning workout can be more exhausting, and they may not be able to keep up with the high demands of a HIIT workout, CrossFit WOD, or jog. You may "hit the wall" (run out of steam) half-way through your workout, all because you don't have enough carbs in your system.
The Good: Controlled Appetite
If you are used to working out on an empty stomach, you'll find it's much easier to do other things on an empty stomach. Many people who do fasted workouts have better appetite control, and the fact that they start the day on the right foot (with a workout) means they make healthier choices all day long.
The Bad: HUNGER!!!
Your body needs food in order to function, and working out an empty stomach is guaranteed to kick your appetite into high gear. A number of people who work out in the morning often overdo it on breakfast, simply because their bodies are screaming for energy.
The Good: No Indigestion
If you try to scarf down something small and light before hitting the gym, there's a very real risk that your body will have a hard time digesting it as you go through your workout. Unless you're consuming fiber-free, high-sugar foods (which are unhealthy) as your pre-workout pick-me-up, your body will take time to digest whatever you put into your system in the morning. But working out on an empty stomach means there's nothing to digest, so there's nothing to cause indigestion. All the energy in your body is focused on your workout, rather than your digestive tract.
The Bad: Demotivation
If you're so hungry you can't think straight, how are you supposed to focus on your workout? You may find yourself not just running out of physical energy, but also the willpower to keep going through your fatigue. Hunger may cause you to give up sooner than you should, leading to a less-than effective workout.