Why You Shouldn’t Work Out on an Empty Stomach

The debate on whether or not it’s a good idea to work out on an empty stomach has been going on for ages. We always thought that when you hit the gym before adding food to your system, you’ll burn the stubborn fat that’s been troubling you. It turns out this habit can be detrimental to your health. There are studies that support and dismiss these claims and this might be confusing. This post takes a closer look at the effects of both exercising before a meal and exercising on a full stomach.

Effects of Training on an Empty Stomach

Your body is good at adjusting to the current environment that you expose it to. When you exercise on an empty stomach, your body starts to burn fat rapidly. The body tries to adjust to this change by looking for other energy sources like protein in your muscles mass. This does the opposite and gives you a leaner body instead of building on muscles.

On top of that, when you train on an empty stomach, your metabolism slows down to cope with the rapid fat burning. The body enters survival mode to prevent too much fat from being burned away. As a result, your body ends up burning fewer calories.

A study published in the journal Appetite reported that people who ate before exercising didn’t feel the urge to eat large food portions during the day. Without proper energy to fuel your work out, you may not perform well and you’ll end up spending less time in the gym. One can easily feel light-headed or lethargic due to a low blood sugar level in the body. Throughout the night, our bodies adjust physiologically to control the levels of blood glucose. This is important to maintain the normal functioning of the whole system. Exercising on an empty stomach immediately after waking up tends to lead to muscle loss because the body is still in this break-down state.

If your major goal for working out is to build muscle, then it might be a good idea to snack on something light before lifting those weights. However, if you want to lose weight, then this might actually be beneficial although more research is needed to support these claims.

Effects of Training on Fueled Up Body

When you eat a large meal portion just before exercising, a part of your blood will be diverted to work on the digestive system. As you may know, the blood carries oxygen to every part of your body. Since blood flow to the muscles has been reduced to support digestion, fat burning is not at its full potential. When your body is fueled up, your appetite is suppressed throughout the day which means you’ll eat less and save calories. That’s why fitness experts recommend that you eat a small amount of energy-boosting snacks like a boiled egg, peanut butter, and half a banana before exercising.

Eating to fill up will give you cramps and make work out almost impossible. It’s also a good idea to drink enough water to prevent hydration. Keep in mind that it’s wise to wait at least one hour before you eat after an exercise. This helps to maximize fat burning after your training.

Fasted Exercise Doesn’t Always Work

A lot goes into training for weight loss or muscle gain. There are several factors that you need to consider such as your weight, the types of food you eat, your level of fitness, the type of workout, and your overall health. The metabolic rate of overweight people responds differently to fasted exercise compared to that of fit guys. Studies show that the amount of fat burned on an empty stomach and a fueled stomach was not significantly different. If you work out after eating, you might want to consider the following guidelines:

  • Wait at least three to four hours after eating a large meal portion.
  • Wait at least two hours after eating a small meal portion.
  • Finally, wait one hour after indulging in a healthy snack.


There are no strict rules when it comes to weight loss and fitness training. So many factors come to play, plus everybody’s metabolism is different. This explains why there are people who can eat junk five times a week and still maintain a great shape while it takes others only two junk meals to increase the waistline. Before engaging in physical training, you need to know your objective and talk to a specialist to guide you. It all boils down to the effectiveness of your exercise, what you eat and your metabolic rate. Until further research is done to determine whether or not eating on an empty stomach is not healthy, it’s advisable to stick to what works for you.

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