HIIT on an empty stomach, recommended?

By on September 13, 2015

Exercising the right ‘weight’!

Every once in a while, high on motivation and high on weight, we decide to recharge the dead and rusty muscles by crossing unheard boundaries, also known as a GYM. With exciting times ahead, we all set (at times unrealistic) targets for ourselves. Some take a snails approach and build up gradually, some hit the iron on day one itself and are left feeling the aftereffects at night. Suddenly, our feel good cells are activated but 30 minutes into the workout we are drained. We question ourselves, did I eat too much or too less before this session?

One question which has existed since the egg & chicken theory is what and how much to eat before a workout or is it better to exercise on an empty stomach. Let’s try to break all the myths around this topic and present you with the perfect response.

Empty Stomach Exercising

One popular belief is to start the day with a round of cardio completely empty stomach. Once we have had our fair share of carbohydrates and fats at supper, we tend to burn some of the carbohydrate, called as glycogen, in our sleep. Now in the morning, with reduced glycogen in the body, if we start exercising, the demands of energy would be fulfilled from the stored fats in the body leading to burning of the non-desirable fats. This sounds great right? The results are not so great when glycogen is fully exhausted as we tend to lose our muscles since the energy is oaked out from them.

Another probable advantage of exercising on empty stomach is improving our Insulin Sensitivity. After we eat a meal, the essential nutrients need to be redirected to cells to be later used as form of energy. Insulin is a hormone which helps in reducing the sugar from our bloodstream while at the same time passing it to storage areas in liver, muscles and fat cells. Higher insulin sensitivity means that glucose from the meal goes into energy cells rather than being stored as fat which is attained better though fasted state exercising.

Research has shown that empty stomach exercising can help achieve a leaner and fitter body. Running in a fasting state trains the body to aptly utilize the energy stores. It is equally beneficial for people looking to build muscles as exercising boosts generation of Testosterone hormone. This helps reduce body fat and ups the energy levels, even fighting against cardiac issues. These also help absorb the post workout meal more effectively hence reducing the storing fats.

Fed State Exercising

Some people feel more comfortable exercising with some gas in the tank. This can lead to advanced intensity exercising and sustained workout sessions rather than fizzle out midway due to empty tank, eventually leading to higher calories burnt.

Another research published in the “Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport” concluded how eating a high protein meal just 30 minutes before the workout had higher positive effects as compared to empty stomach exercising.

We should definitely try to reduce the amount of calorie intake before a workout session so the question is what to eat? Some of the food items that are beneficial for a moderate to high intensity workout are listed here.

What to Eat before Workout

  1. Bananas – high in digestible carbohydrates, keeps nutrients level high. Best Natural source of energy.
  2. Fruits and Yogurt – fruits give us carbohydrates and greek yogurt is packed with protiens, although make sure to have in limited quantity.
  3. Wholegrain Bread – high in carbohydrates and can be topped up with boiled egg for protien intake.
  4. Oats – full of fibre and vitamins, releases carbohydrates during the exercise regime

What to Avoid before Workout?

  1. Refined Sugar – large amounts of sugar makes you feel lazy lethargic during the workout
  2. Spicy foods – lead toindigestion and heart burn causing uneasiness
  3. Salty foods – cause dehydration leading to cramps & headaches, refuel with lots of H2O to avoid aftereffects.
  4. Heavy foods – creamy, fried food items take longer to digest and would be a hindrance while running and floor exercises

To Eat or Not to Eat?

There is no one answer to this question, it depends on lot of factors like the time of workout, body type, intensity, desired output etc. At the end of the day, you need to do what suits YOUR body and not just blindly go with the myths. If you feel comfortable eating, have a light meal at least 2 hours before the workout. If you feel comfortable on empty stomach, keep refuelling with water and energy drinks during the exercise regime to avoid getting dehydrated.

All in all, exercising should be a pleasant and comforting experience. You should not come out of the gym feeling sick due to under or over eating. If eating light snacks gives you the right mind set and apt energy, then surely have it before pumping iron.

Just listen to the body and it will tell you what suits you best!

About Patrick Starks

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