To eat or not to eat…
There is much debate and confusion about whether it is better to exercise first thing in the morning on an empty stomach as a strategy for maximal fat burning. There is no straight forward answer as it all depends on the duration and intensity of the exercise you want to do. Providing you’re not about to run a marathon it’s okay to do a morning workout without eating. Your muscles burn very little stored carbohydrate during the night. So when you wake up, you typically have enough carbs to exercise for an hour at a reasonable intensity (say running at talking pace). To ensure you wake up with enough energy to burn during your workout, eat a high carbohydrate dinner the night before. Some good examples include:
Bowl of pasta with a tomato or light bolognaise sauce, a slice of low fat garlic bread and a side salad
Rice with meat and/or kidney bean chilli and salad
Vegetable and chicken or tuna topped pizza
Thick vegetable and lentil soup with plenty of wholegrain bread
Baked potato with baked beans and a sprinkling of low fat cheese and salad
Couscous with mixed vegetables and chicken or fish
The theory behind exercising on an empty stomach is that your blood sugar levels are low when you wake which targets more fat burning. However, some studies have shown that fat burning doesn’t really start until you’re 20 minutes into your cardio workout. That means you’ve wasted 20 minutes without a good source of fuel to sustain you. That could lead to fatigue before your body even starts metabolizing fat, which might mean shorter and less effective workouts in which you burn less calories than if you’d eaten a small snack to keep you going you. However, better trained people use fat as a fuel sooner than those non-trained.
Also be aware that while exercising on an empty stomach allows for maximal fat burning, but it also causes muscle loss. Preserving muscle mass is important, not just for strength, but also because muscles burn more energy than fat in the body so a higher muscle mass can help keep weight in check.
The benefits to eating before your workout are that it can boost recovery, can help you sustain longer, more intense workouts and it can help you avoid low blood sugar, which can make you feel dizzy or nauseous.
Try some of these light pre-workout snacks 30-60 minutes before you start to get your body ready for exercise:
energy bar or gel
Since running or lifting weights straight after eating can make you feel sick, you may have to wake up a little earlier than you usually would to have the chance to eat or you may find something liquid easier to digest; orange juice, smoothies and drinking yogurt are all good choices as they contain fast-release carbohydrates that can get into your bloodstream to supply energy quickly.
If you chose not to eat anything, at least make sure you are well hydrated. This is important because when you first wake, you are dehydrated as a result of your night’s sleep - you lose water through breathing and sweating, and also from urination as soon as you get up; and, for however long you’ve slept, you haven’t had anything to drink. A couple of glasses of water followed by a mug of tea or coffee will rehydrate you and set you up for your exercise session. The caffeine will have a mild stimulatory effect helping you to wake up and feel more alert, and there is some evidence to suggest it may even boost your stamina!
Article supplied by DW Sports Fitness in conjunction with experts sports nutritionist - Sarah Schenker.« Back to news