For those fans of early morning activities, exercising on an empty stomach feels more comfortable. Indeed, it’s not easy to get up early, have breakfast and then go running or cycling with a full belly. Practicing activities on an empty stomach can be done to improve performances or to increase weight loss. So, should we do it this way… or not?
DO YOU LOSE MORE FAT ON AN EMPTY STOMACH?
During physical exercise, the human body makes its muscles work with the energy provided by food reserves and the sugar stocked in the liver and the muscles themselves. After a night without any energy input, the reserves are low. Practicing a physical activity requires energy. To compensate for this lack of energy, the body draws directly upon its fat reserves.
Fasting or not, the amount of energy consumed for the same exercise will be the same, what will differ is its origin. Thus, an activity performed on an empty stomach will be fed by a larger proportion of fats than an activity performed while the stomach is full. Therefore, in theory, activities performed on an empty stomach burn more fat.
WHAT WE’RE ARE NOT SAYING …
If the fundamentals of the theory are true, the reality is quite different. The breaking up of body fat is a very slow process that isn’t suitable for intense activities (bodybuilding, Tabata, HIIT, RPM …). In extremity, muscles need quick available energy. If there’s not enough available, the body goes straight to the quickest source: breaking down the muscles to feed itself. The longer the fasting, the more the muscles disintegrate. In other words, we train to maintain a muscular form and in the end, we destroy it!!!!!
Exercising on an empty stomach depletes our reserves and weakens muscles leaving the body ‘on empty’. Therefore, the meal that follows is very important and must provide enough energy to replenish our reserves. But if this meal is too calorific or too fattening, the body will tend to replenish the reserves already used and then put plenty more away. A shame after so much effort …
BETTER PERFORMANCES ON AN EMPTY STOMACH?
For those practicing endurance sports, fasting can improve performances; indeed, during this type of exercise, our body strongly solicites fats. Training on an empty stomach pushes the body to use more fats as fuel, therefore, protecting sugar reserves. If muscular and hepatic reserves are spared, we are less tired so we can exercise more easily and start to improve our times.
Exercising gently on an empty stomach is less traumatic for the body and reduces the risk of hypoglycaemia, malaise and other weaknesses. For some sports and some types of athletes, exercising this way can help to improve performances. Nevertheless it is important to always be supervised and to always have a small snack on hand. No matter what the sport and its duration, remember to recharge your batteries with a good balanced breakfast.