Is it better to run on an empty stomach? This is a fiercely debated topic that has plagued the fitness world for many years now. Some believe that eating a meal before running is a foolproof way to remove calories and lose more weight whilst some claim that the body requires nutritional power to get the best out of a rigorous exercise.
And just as there’s a flip side to everything, running on an empty stomach also has its pros and cons. Factors such as your age , gender, lifestyle and metabolism will determine if you may or may not run on an empty stomach.
So, to aid you in deciding whether you should run on an empty stomach or not, we’ve listed down its major benefits and drawbacks that you can consider before making a decision.
Benefits of running on an empty stomach
Increased fat burn and weight loss
Running on an empty stomach is well known for its alleged influence on fat burning. The theory is that the body utilizes more fat than energy so the carbohydrate reserves are small. The effect is higher fat burning, or “oxidation.”
Exercise on an empty stomach is also referred to as fasted exercise. This works on the fact that when you exercise on an empty stomach, you burn energy using the body’s stored fat instead of the energy from the food you’ve just eaten. This contributes to a greater degree of weight loss.
After a good night’s sleep, the body is essentially in fasting mode. If you’ve saved breakfast for after your morning workout or running, you’ll be best prepared to destroy your fat reserves and start shredding those extra pounds.
Reduced energy intake
When you’re attempting to lose weight, fast workout will help you regulate your calorie consumption. According to a recent study, people who ran on an empty stomach spent 24 hours consuming less energy.
Quick activity has been shown to decrease energy consumption over 24 hours. It is due to the intestine, which still contains glycogen. The body taps into the reserves of the liver glycogen as the blood and muscle glycogen levels are high.
It influences the energy consumption across the liver-brain neural network leading to reduced energy intake in your body.
Prevention of digestive issues
During prolonged workouts, there are chances that some stomach issues may pop up. The most common ones include:
- Heartburn/acid reflux
- Stomach or intestinal cramps
These symptoms also impact athletes who run long distances or practice for a lengthy period of time. If you are susceptible to exercise-induced digestion issues, then it might be best to run on an empty stomach.
Tips for running before breakfast
- If you have tried running on an empty stomach and experienced no adverse consequences, like nausea, dizziness, or poor stamina; you can continue doing it.
- In case you are unexpectedly woozy or stressed out while running, it’s wise to take a sports drink or energy bar along with you. If you haven’t run empty but are tempted to try it, just bring a sports drink and/or snack if necessary.
- Also, hydration is the key. Don’t forget to hydrate yourself sufficiently, before you head out for running as your body loses water through sweating. You should also drink water in between if you are running for more than 30 minutes. Not drinking enough fluids can render you dehydrated and lead to headaches and fatigue.
Disadvantages of running on an empty stomach
Risk of injury
You are more likely to feel fatigued as your energy levels decline. Fatigue during physical exercise will raise the risk of injury. Plus, your brain needs glucose to function properly.
This is particularly important when your body also uses glucose to fuel your muscles, during exercise. When you are running fast, the brain might not be able to get enough energy and there are chances of injury.
Besides burning fat during sleep, the body often burns fat after running. This is defined as excess oxygen intake post-exercise. If after your workout, you feel really hungry and washed out, you may increase your body’s chance of overeating later that day.
Running on an empty stomach puts extra strain on your body. Stress releases cortisol which controls your body’s basic functions such as blood glucose and stress response. Cortisol promotes the breakdown of the protein in muscle cells at high levels. Which causes fatigue and muscle weakness.
Risk of diabetes
A fasted workout doesn’t suit everybody. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) may result from running on an empty stomach.
If you take diabetes drugs like insulin, you ‘re more likely to experience exercise-induced hypoglycemia. Always check your blood sugar to stay safe, and eat a snack before running.
In such a case, it is best to discuss this with your doctor, prior to running with an empty stomach.
Leads to overeating
If you plan on running on an empty stomach, after the workout your body continues to crave calories. You may feel extra hungry and eat more throughout the rest of the day to make up for the energy supplies that have been depleted while you’re running — so much that you’ll eat as many calories as you’d consumed in a meal before running.
This will put all your efforts into running on an empty stomach in vain.
Tips to follow if you are fueling up before running
- Running needs a lot of strength and can exhaust the body. Fueling your run properly can boost your performance, delay fatigue, and diminish soreness. A well-balanced meal should be rich in protein and fast-digesting carbohydrates to increase energy.
- Before running, eat a meal rich in proteins and fat-digesting carbs. Bananas, protein pancakes, granola bars, scrambled eggs, Greek yogurt, and oatmeal are all excellent options for your pre-workout meals.
- It is highly recommended to avoid high-fiber and high-fat foods while running. It can cause digestive problems and trust me, that is the last thing you want while running.
- Protein shakes, fresh fruit juices and smoothies are ideal for those days when you are short on time or do not feel hungry.