Exercising on an empty stomach can be a double-edged sword. One of my biggest gripes about the military was that we would always do physical training before breakfast. It always made my stomach feel like it was eating itself and made me think that there was no way that was a healthy feeling. In this article we are going to look at exercising before breakfast and if it can be advantageous or if it’s a poor choice. I’m going to go over the pro’s and con’s of exercising on an empty stomach and how it effects your body in regards to weight loss and energy levels.
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Advantages to Before Breakfast Exercise
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After a full night’s rest the body is in what would be considered a semi-fasted state. The insulin concentration in the blood is very low. This essentially leaves fat “unprotected”. Fat loss at this time is optimized. Data also suggests that exercising in the morning raises your metabolism and keeps it raised for hours afterward. This allows for maximum weight-loss over the course of the day.
Another advantage to exercising before breakfast is that most people have a hard time eating something after just waking up. This is because your body releases cortisol to help you wake up. This is what kills your appetite, so if you don’t have time to wait around for your appetite to come back, it could be advantageous and more convenient for you to go to the gym before eating.
Disadvantages to Before Breakfast Exercise
Low blood insulin levels also means low glycogen levels in the muscle, which means that you won’t have as much energy in the morning before eating. This can lead you to feeling too tired to even complete your workouts.
Exercising too hard with low insulin levels (VO2 max above 75%) can also lead to an increase in cortisol levels which will cause the body to catabolize or eat up muscle tissue which if your goals are to increase size and strength is the exact opposite of what you want.
Exercising on an empty stomach has many advantages and disadvantages and can actually be more convenient for those individuals who don’t have a lot of time to sit around waiting for their appetite in the morning. I conclude that for the average gym goer, whose main focus is weight loss, that exercising on an empty stomach in the morning before breakfast is a great idea, and for those individuals who seek to maintain as much muscle mass as possible while still trying to lose fat, may benefit from taking protein before working out in the morning in order to minimize muscle loss. (1)