Working out on an empty stomach seems like a great idea in theory. I mean, why not immediately burn off extra fat instead of running off the last meal you ate? If you think this seems like a no-brainer though, think again.
In reality, exercising on an empty stomach isn’t as great as it seems. Yes, you do burn more fat, but your body also compensates for that in other ways. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found those who exercised without eating burned nearly 20 percent more fat than those who ate beforehand. There’s definitely a catch, though.
According to sports dietetics specialist Kelly Pritchett, exercising on an empty stomach causes your body to go into a sort of survival mode, making sure too much fat doesn’t get burned away. So, you’ll actually start to burn fewer calories when you work out on an empty stomach. This is your body’s way of making sure there’s plenty of fat to keep it fed. And when you do inevitably burn fat during exercise, your body will think it needs to make up for that loss the next time you eat.
If you don’t want to counteract the work you put in, eating a little something before working out may just be the best way to go.
So what should you eat before you hit the gym? It’s best to have a combination of carbs and protein. Carbs will help you release energy at a steady pace throughout your workout and keep you full enough so that your body isn’t burning too much fat and entering into that dreaded survival mode. Protein fuels your muscles and can increase calorie burning for up to a 24-hour period.
Greek yogurt, trail mix, fruit smoothies or whole-wheat toast with a sliced banana are all good options that will keep you full and motivated for your next workout.
Eating before a workout doesn’t have to be all bad! Make sure you’re getting the right foods and then you’ll really be able to make the most of the exercise you put in.