A debate raging since the first weight was lifted: Is it better or worse to train on an empty stomach?
Well, the truth is… different people train better in different situations. Telling someone that they should or shouldn’t eat before working out or doing cardio is like telling them what time of day to train, or what diet is “best”. ” to be continued. It largely depends on the individual…but it’s time to bust some old myths and learn a few reasons why it can actually benefit you.
First, contrary to popular belief, research has shown that eating many small meals throughout the day does not speed up your metabolism. That skipping a meal doesn’t make you fat. And that exercising on an empty stomach doesn’t cancel a workout. In fact, skipping a meal or two (also known as intermittent fasting) can be downright beneficial. An empty stomach triggers a cascade of hormonal changes throughout the body that promote muscle building and fat burning.
Exercise, especially strenuous exercise that uses a large number of muscles, causes a surge in testosterone. This is why it may be a good idea to combine exercise and fasting.
Numerous studies have shown that training on an empty stomach is a great way to build lean body mass and increase insulin sensitivity. Not only because of the interesting hormonal reactions, but also because the body absorbs the post-workout meal more efficiently.
The two main significant effects of fasted training are:
Improved insulin sensitivity:
Simply put, the body releases insulin (a hormone) when we eat to help us absorb nutrients from our food. The hormone then removes the sugars from our bloodstream and directs them to the liver, muscles and fat cells for later use as energy. The problem is that eating too much too often can make us more resistant to the effects of insulin. But while poor insulin sensitivity increases the risk of heart disease and cancer, it also makes it harder to lose body fat. Eating less often (i.e. fasting more regularly) is one way to remedy this problem, as the body releases insulin less often, making us more insulin sensitive – making it easier fat loss, improves blood flow to muscles and even reduces the impact of an unhealthy diet.
It increases human growth hormone:
Good old fashioned fasting can promote muscle gain and fat loss comes down to growth hormone (GH), a magical elixir of a hormone that helps the body build new muscle tissue, burn fat and improve bone quality, physical function and longevity. In addition to regular strength training and adequate sleep, fasting is one of the best ways to increase body GH: a study has shown that 24 hours without food increases the male body’s GH production 2000% and 1300% for women. This effect ends at the time of fasting, which is a compelling reason to fast regularly in order to keep muscle-friendly hormones at their highest levels.
Essentially, by depriving the body of nutrients and entering a workout on an empty stomach, training places greater stress on your body, resulting in greater adaptations.
In short, training on an empty stomach helps to ensure that carbohydrates, proteins and fats go to the right places in the body and very little is stored as body fat. Exercise on an empty stomach has been shown to be particularly effective for fat loss, and people who train on an empty stomach have even been shown to become progressively more adept at burning fat at higher intensity levels. (possibly due to an increase in fat oxidizing enzymes).