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Should You Work Out On an Empty Stomach?


There are many differing opinions when it comes to things like when to eat and how much to get the most benefit out of a workout. Some people swear by working out first thing in the morning on a completely empty stomach, while other people feel like that can lessen the quality of a workout and make it less effective overall. Here is the reasoning to consider.

People who are all far for fasted cardio suggest that the body will burn more fat for energy because the glycogen levels are depleted in the mornings. (At least more than they are after you eat.) Glycogen generally stays in the body to some extent for 12 to 16 hours. Past that point if there is really no glycogen in your body, then it won’t burn fat and it will start burning muscle instead. If you start burning muscle you will just start storing more fat.

But when it comes to a regular schedule, most of us eat dinner so when we wake up after eight hours or so there is still some glycogen in the body that might be enough to encourage the burning of fat while we workout. But what kind of cardio you do matters as well.

Some people who workout on empty stomachs suggest doing a lighter cardio session, since when you’re working at a lighter intensity the body will burn fats as opposed to carbohydrates. But at the same time when you work out at a lighter pace you will be burning fewer calories overall. Training too hard without glycogen in the body is just not a good move as it will actually start to burn muscle.

That being said, for a lot of people working out on an empty stomach just isn’t a great idea. Many people can get a higher benefit from working out at higher intensities and burning more calories after having a snack than skipping a meal and working out at light paces.

Of course this varies from person to person. Many bodybuilders are naturally higher in muscle mass so losing a bit of it from fasted cardio might not effect them in the same way that it would for other people with lower muscle mass.

Most people would benefit from training harder after a good meal which will support muscle mass. When you keep your muscle mass high it will support your metabolism through the rest of the day as well, not just during your workout. Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does, so when you’re just sitting around you will be burning more calories than you would without muscle.

Doing cardio as interval training will get the heartrate up and burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time. You can even fit in a pretty good cardio session in 15 to 20 minutes if you adhere to a strong ten seconds of harcore intensity followed by 20 to 30 seconds of a lower intensity.