Should I workout on an empty stomach? Q & A with Fitness Expert Doug Holt


Q: Is it better to workout on an empty stomach or eat beforehand?

A: In short, I always recommend eating something before a workout. What you eat is dependent upon the goal you’re trying to achieve, but we can get into that later.

Often you will see a recommendation to workout, especially a cardio workout, on an empty stomach in order to force the body to burn more of its energy (calories) from fat stores.

Although this is true, you want to preserve the muscle tissue that you do have and provide your body with enough energy to get you through your workout.

Since I’m assuming your question is about losing body fat, I’ll address that issue first. When trying to drop some excess body fat it comes down to calories in vs. calories out. What I mean is that at the end of the day, or week, you have to be in a state of caloric deficit in order for your body to draw calories from its fat stores. In order to do this, you have to be on a lower calorie diet – eating less than you’re burning. By breaking down your body tissue in this manner, you’ll be in a catabolic state and you’ll want to be careful about wasting muscle tissue. One way to reduce your risks is to consume a lean protein every two to three hours. This is where a pre-workout meal such as a banana and a two scoops of protein powder comes in handy.

If you’re working out first thing in the morning and a heavy meal upsets your stomach, try supplementing with BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids) and a small protein shake. The BCAA’s will serve as an insurance policy to help ward off muscle wasting and the protein shake will provide calories in addition to amino acids.

If you are trying to gain weight, then you’ll follow the same recommendations, but you’ll want to be in a state of caloric excess – meaning you’ll need to take in more calories than you are burning. Typically, a pound of fat takes about an additional 3,500 calories to burn/create and a pound of muscle takes 2,500 additional calories to create.

If you have any other questions, or this is unclear, just drop me an email.

Doug Holt, MFS, CSCS

Conditioning Specialists

Doug Holt has over 16 fitness related certifications and degrees. He is the managing owner of the Conditioning Specialists, running the day to day business operations as well as providing fitness services to clientele from around the world. Doug is able to draw upon his experience as the former Assistant Director for the International Sports Sciences Association’s Education Department, Director of Information Services for the National Board of Fitness Examiners, and his years in the exercise equipment industry to give clients a well rounded offering of services.



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