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eating before exercise

Why Exercising on an Empty Stomach Is a Bad Idea

Hopping out of bed for a morning workout without eating first could hinder your fitness and weight-loss progress, according to a new study.



Why Exercising on an Empty Stomach Is a Bad Idea

Working out with an empty stomach is not the way to get a flat belly.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—To eat or not to eat…before a workout: It's a question that has perplexed gym rats for years, ever since Bill Phillips suggested in his 1999 bestseller Body for Life that exercising on an empty stomach would speed up fat burn. The idea is that not eating before exercise forces your body to shift from quick burning carbohydrates (which you usually get from food) as a source of fuel to the fat stores you want to burn off. But that argument doesn't hold water, says Brad Schoenfeld, MS, CSCS, president of Global Fitness Services, a consulting firm, and professor in the department of exercise science at Lehman College in New York. "It's a shortsighted way of looking at how your body works," he says.

THE DETAILS: In an article published in this month's issue of Strength and Conditioning Journal, Schoenfeld analyzed the research that's been conducted on how our bodies function during exercise and concluded that, whether you eat or don't eat before exercise, research shows your body burns the same amount of fat. And working out on an empty stomach can actually cause muscle loss, he adds, if you do it on a regular basis. When you're hungry, your body goes into survival mode and draws protein away from muscle, where it's less crucial to survival, than from your kidneys and liver, where the body normally looks for protein. "Your body cares more about survival than looking good at the beach," he says. As a result, you lose muscle mass, which can, over time, suppress your metabolism and make it harder to lose weight.

On a more basic level, he says, exercising on an empty stomach means you don't have the energy to put in a really good workout. "One of the benefits of aerobic exercise is doing it at a higher intensity," he says. "If you're just getting out of bed, slogging through your exercises like a zombie, you won't be able to get that intensity."

WHAT IT MEANS: Tempting as it may seem to cut down on calories before you head into a big calorie-burn session, you're not doing yourself any favors. You aren't giving yourself the fuel you need to last through a 30-minute or hour-long workout, and you could be losing muscle mass while you're at it. "You're just spitting in the wind," jokes Schoenfeld.

Filed Under: EXERCISE AND WORKOUT TIPS, FITNESS TRENDS

Published on: February 18, 2011



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Early morning workout

How in the world can you eat 60-90 minutes before working out if you work out in the morning before work?? Imposible. I believe I've read other guidance to eat 20 minutes before a workout - suggesting a small banana and 4oz juice or small apple and handfulnof walnuts - and I've been trying tobjust squeeze this in ahead of a morning workout.

workout time

I was similarly floored. Eating 2 hours before exercise is impossible if, like me, you like to exercise first thing in the morning. And if you use exercise as a de-stressor, well, you've just added another level of stress...when did I last eat? Is it safe to exercise now? C'mon, stop limiting people's enthusiasm. As long as they're exercising, shout "hurrah" and stop putting another hurdle in the way.

Workout at 6AM

I workout at 6AM. It's the only time in the day I can workout. Am i supposed to get up at 3:30AM and eat something???? The article doesn't address people who workout early.

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