Does training on a empty stomach burn more fat?
Another typical question I get asked is ¨Does training early in the morning before I have had anything to eat burn more fat?¨. And the answer to that is ¨ it is complicated¨. You see, when you wake up early in the morning there is a reduction in circulating blood sugar due to the fact that you haven´t had anything to eat during 6 to 8 hours. This causes glycogen (stored carbohydrates) levels to fall. This means technically that your body has to rely more on fat, rather than glucose, for energy. So you do burn more fat calories during that training session but, as I have stated before in different blogs, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is superior for fat loss than steady-state exercise (1-5). But, have you ever tried doing HIIT with an empty stomach? I bet you didn´t get too far. You see, to perform high intensity exercises, your body needs glycogen (quick energy). If you haven´t had anything to eat in 6-8 hours your glycogen levels are depleted, meaning you WON´T be able to train at a high intensity. Also, if you decide to train on a empty stomach you increase the amount of tissue proteins (muscle) burned for energy during exercise (6-7), that is a big NO NO if your aim is to lose fat.
So to clarify things a bit: if your workout consists of a slow to a brisk walk then yes, you will probably burn more fat calories if you are on a empty stomach but, you should look at the big picture. A slow to fast walk won´t burn too many calories and won´t cause you any post-exercise oxygen consumption (click here), meaning after the training you won´t be burning more calories. HIIT does produce post-exercise oxygen consumption(8) (up to 72 hours) and you need energy for that!! So my recommendations are:
- always grab something to eat before your workout.
- never train on a empty stomach.
- and listen to this song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKFBq2LURXo. 😉
Hope you like, until next time
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onathan P Little, Adeel S Safdar, Geoffrey P Wilkin, Mark a Tarnopolsky, and Martin J Gibala. A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms. The Journal of Physiology, 2010; DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.181743