Why You Shouldn’t Exercise On An Empty Stomach

Eating two or three hours before an exercise longer than 45 minutes is healthier for your body and will help you to perform better during your workout.

By Charlene Badasie | Published


Ask any medical professional about the importance of exercise and the universal answer is people should be doing it regularly. But exercising on an empty stomach, also known as fasted cardio, could do more harm than good. Although your body will feed on stored fat for energy leading to higher levels of weight loss, there are a few good reasons not to.

Before embarking on a regular exercise program, it’s important to know it affects your body. During each workout, your body taps into stored carbohydrates in your liver and muscles for energy. Your liver will break down its glycogen to maintain your blood glucose levels, which your muscles use for energy in addition to their own glycogen stores, the Cleveland Clinic says.

But your body can only store enough glycogen to support a moderate-intensity workout. When this is used up, your system will tap into fatty acids for fuel. Some folks believe that this will encourage fat burning. And while some studies have found that low-to-moderate exercise in a fasted state does promote higher fat oxidation, long-term evidence is lacking.

According to a 2020 review by Nutrients, fat oxidation diminishes as exercise intensity increases. Additionally, some types of fasted cardio may encourage your body to break down muscle for energy, Shape reports. “I definitely do not recommend it,” registered dietitian and nutritionist Abby Chan told the publication. “Your body will always do better in a fed state, no matter what.”

Moreover, fasted exercise can lead to short and long-term health repercussions. Some people may experience nausea, fatigue, and dizziness due to lower blood sugar. And in some cases, your body will adjust to using fat reserves for energy and start to store more fat than usual. So it’s always better to eat something instead of causing yourself harm.

Eating before an exercise routine of longer than 45 minutes will actually allow your body to have more energy, power, and stamina. Therefore, it’s important to follow a balanced diet to enhance your athletic performance. When eating before a workout, choose an easily digestible meal containing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Eat about two or three hours before you exercise. Snacking on an energy bar, or fresh fruit is also a good idea along with a whey protein shake. It’s also important to stay hydrated by drinking water, sports drinks, or juice. To aid your body with recovery, eat foods containing carbohydrates, protein, and fiber within 30 minutes to two hours of finishing your workout.

Healthy proteins can boost your immune system and speed up healing. Foods that contain vitamins C and D, zinc, and calcium are also beneficial, Healthline reports. A few good post-exercise options include low-fat chocolate milk, fruit smoothies, energy bars, whole grain bread, soy milk, yogurt with berries, as well as nuts and seeds.

When paired with a balanced diet, exercise is a great way to achieve good physical and mental health. But always be aware of advice from social media influencers, self-proclaimed fitness coaches, and anyone else who doesn’t hold a medical qualification or license.