Is it okay to exercise or play sports on an empty stomach? – Times of India

As per the famous saying, an army cannot march on an empty stomach. Does the same apply to people who exercise or practice sports regularly?
As per professionals, one must avoid eating much before any workout. Usually, morning workouts do not last more than an hour, for which your body will typically have energy. This energy comes from glycogen, which is basically a stash of sugar or glucose that is stored in your muscles and liver. When you exercise, your body draws on this energy to keep the engine running.
The study

A study by Northumbria University published online in the British Journal of nutrition on 24 January 2013 academics sought to find out whether the known benefits of exercising after an overnight fast were undermined by an increased appetite and eating more food later in the day. Three concerns existed.
– If participants could exercise well on an empty stomach?

– Would that lead to binge eating later in the day?

– What will be the total fat loss?

For the study, 12 active male participants were roped in. The men were asked to perform a bout of treadmill exercise at 10 am. Half the men were given breakfast before the workout and half of them fasted. Post-exercise, all participants were given a chocolate milkshake recovery drink. The pasta was served for lunch and they could eat until they felt full. Their lunchtime consumption of energy and fat was assessed. The amount of fat and energy burned during the morning period was also considered.


The results showed that all the participants could complete their exercise routines well as the energy came from reserves and not from what they had just eaten.

It was also found that people who exercised in the morning did not consume any additional calories or felt more hungry. It was also found that those who had exercised in a fasted state burned almost 20 per cent more fat compared to those who had consumed breakfast before their workout.

This means that while performing exercise on empty stomach provides the most desirable outcomes for fat loss.

The downside of exercising on an empty stomach

Exercising before eating comes with the risk of bonking, the actual sports term for feeling lethargic or light-headed due to low blood sugar. One might feel tired and edgy and won’t be able to work out as intensely as you would have if you had eaten blood sugar.

It’s important for older adults over 55 to eat something before exercising, especially when working out first thing in the morning.

The upside of working out empty stomach

When the body is in a fasting state, the backup mechanisms ensure your muscles and brain get the necessary sugar for fuel. After your body’s sugar stores are exhausted, the body then taps into stored fat and turns that into sugar. This leads to the hypothesis that exercising when the body is already ‘sugar starved’ will lead to more rapid fat-burning.

There is some research to support the idea that working out in a fasted state can burn more fat.
Eating tips to be followed:

– If you want to eat before a workout, you can eat half a banana with a spoonful of butter or a hard-boiled egg.

– After exercising, drink some water but wait for 60 – 90 minutes before eating.

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