Some people swear that the biggest mistake you could ever make is working out on an empty stomach.
Others say the contrary. The biggest no-no is working out on a full stomach.
If you’re feeling confused and don’t know what side to believe, we feel you!
The more people you’ll ask, the more opinions you’re going to get. And truth be told, what might work for others, might not work the same for you.
In a sea of contradictory information and advice, it can be hard to discern what’s real and what isn’t.
That’s why we’re here!
We’re gonna answer all your questions, but most importantly, this one: Is it bad to work out on an empty stomach?
Busting a myth: Is it good to work out on an empty stomach?
You’ve probably heard by now people telling you it’s better to work out on an empty stomach. Their explanation is that you force your body to burn fat for energy this way, and it sounds pretty legit, right?
Let’s be honest, how many times have you gone on a run without having anything for breakfast?
Quite some times, no?
I’m afraid I’ll have to burst that bubble. Running on an empty stomach, or any kind of workout for that matter, is not the best idea.
Why? Simply because if you eat something before your workout, you’ll have more energy, leading to more intense workouts.
The risks of fasted cardio
A pre-work meal is highly advised whether your goal is to lose that muffin top or bulk up. What you eat before your session can influence how the workout will be, how long it will take, and your overall feeling.
Doing any type of exercise on an empty stomach can lead to:
1. Losing muscle
That sounds counterproductive, right?
If you end up losing muscle mass, it will become harder to tone and tighten up your body nicely. It could even lead to unwanted sagginess.
Muscle loss can also lead to random muscle cramps, and we all know how nasty and unpleasant those can be.
2. Nausea & fatigue
Suppose you’re working out on an empty stomach. In that case, your body pulls out energy from whatever reserves it can, so you’ll feel tired way more easily.
If you tend to have gastric problems, you’ll even get pangs of nausea and get dizzy while working out.
3. Less stamina
Not having a proper pre-workout meal can lead to a significant drop in your stamina level. You won’t be able to focus properly on the exercise at hand, which can make you prone to injuries.
Is it ok to exercise on a full stomach?
Now that we’ve established that you shouldn’t work out on an empty stomach let’s also talk about the complete opposite: workouts on a full stomach.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that those aren’t recommended either.
If you’ve just had a large, heavy meal, you should wait a while before hitting the gym. How long? That depends on how much you’ve eaten and what type of exercise you’re planning to do.
Working out on a full stomach can lead to indigestion, bloating, cramps and heartburn. Avoid getting nasty heartburn after working out by simply giving your body time to digest the food.
After a big meal, it would be safe to wait for at least two hours before putting your sneakers on and hitting the trails.
What to eat before a workout
Are you into short, vigorous exercises like lifting weights or intense interval training? If so, you should have a low-fiber snack about 30-45 minutes before your workout. You can consume easily digestible carbohydrates like granola with yogurt, bananas, toast, or energy bars.
On the other hand, if you prefer high-endurance workouts like running or swimming, you're gonna need more energy. You should eat a mix of proteins and carbohydrates a few hours before the training. Snacks like yogurt with fruit or wheat bagels with peanut butter will do the trick.
There are certain types of foods that can enhance your athletic performance.
Try to eat only whole, natural foods. Make sure you eat plenty of healthy carbs like veggies, whole grains, and fresh fruits. Healthy fats are also a great option: salmon, avocado, coconut oil. Don’t forget about your proteins! You can get them from lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and eggs.
Another crucial aspect is your hydration level. You should hydrate before, during, and after any kind of exercise.
Drink plenty of water, but also sports drinks or juice. If you like smoothies or prefer to consume meal replacement drinks, you should know they also count towards your fluid intake.
What to eat after a workout
After any training, your body needs to recover. Food can help with that. Eat proteins, carbs, and fiber between 30 minutes and 2 hours after any workout. They will help you to feel amazing!
Proteins will boost up your immunity and help you with any wound healing you might need. Include in your post-workout diet also foods that contain Vitamins C, D, Zinc, and Calcium.
If you don’t know what to pick as a healthy snack after a workout, here’s our list of personal favorites:
Low-fat chocolate milk
Nuts and seeds
Whole-grain bread sandwiches
Yogurt with berries
Sometimes you might not have time to fuel up before a workout, and we get that. Don’t stress!
Nothing terrible will happen if you skip a pre-workout meal or two, but don’t make a habit out of it.
And if your favorite activity is walking or yoga, you don’t need to eat before it if you don’t want to.
However, keep in mind to always eat something before a workout that requires strength, endurance, and lots of energy.
We always say that you should listen to your body, and this is no exception.
One last piece of advice we have for you is to also consult your doctor before starting any new workout program.