Why Working Out on an Empty Stomach May be the Best Thing for You

If you’re looking to boost your workout performance, you may want to consider working out on an empty stomach. Learn more about the benefits of this approach and how to make it work for you.


Exercising on an empty stomach is not a new concept. For centuries, fasting has been an integral part of various religions and cultures, and physical activity was often included as part of the fasting period. In recent years, fasting for weight loss has become increasingly popular. As more research emerges about the role food plays in regulating hormones, appetite and energy levels, people who practice intermittent fasting or exercise regularly have begun exploring the idea of exercising without eating first.

Exercising on an empty stomach typically means you wake up, drink a cup of coffee and head straight to the gym without having eaten breakfast. However, exercising without eating first is more than just abstaining from breakfast — it includes any activity done between 8–12 hours after your last meal or snack. While there are potential benefits to this method of exercise and nutrition timing, it may not be for everyone — research suggests that some people may see better results with food before or during their workouts.

In this article, we’ll discuss what science has to say about working out on an empty stomach: why you might consider trying it yourself and what to be aware of in terms of potential risks or red flags if you do decide to give it a go.

Benefits of Working Out on an Empty Stomach

Working out on an empty stomach may sound like an odd or even dangerous idea, but in reality, it can have some valuable benefits. This type of workout can help you burn more fat and increase your energy levels. It can also help you push harder during your workouts and help you build more muscle mass. Let’s look at why working out on an empty stomach can be beneficial.

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Exercising on an empty stomach can increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone responsible for storing energy and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Most people don’t realize that eating can reduce a workout’s ability to produce changes in insulin sensitivity. When you exercise on an empty stomach, your body is forced to draw energy from fat reserves, which can increase your insulin response and allow for greater utilization of glucose once you eat. This improved sensitivity can create more effective workouts and help control diabetes in those who are diagnosed with it. Working out on an empty stomach is not only beneficial to those with diabetes; it also has a positive effect on those with age-related metabolic issues due to increased insulin sensitivity.

Increased Metabolism

For those looking to maximize their physical results, working out on an empty stomach has a clear advantage. Many studies have shown that exercise in the morning, after a period of overnight fasting, can help jumpstart your metabolism and burn more calories while you exercise. Research has demonstrated that exercising in a fasted state increases fat oxidation rates during aerobic exercise. This means that your body is able to burn more fat while you work out. In addition, research has also demonstrated that performing cardiovascular exercises on an empty stomach can cause an increase in human growth hormone (HGH) production. This hormone helps promote muscle growth and improve energy levels—which could be beneficial if you’re trying to add lean muscle mass or build strength.

Increased Fat Burning

One of the most significant benefits of working out on an empty stomach is increased fat burning. When you exercise with no food in your system, your body has to use stored energy to fuel your workout, and the primary source of stored energy is body fat. This can help you to achieve faster weight loss and a leaner physique.

Studies have also demonstrated that when you exercise without eating first, post-workout calorie burn is increased. After a workout, a process called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) begins and causes your body to continue burning calories for up to 48 hours after you stop exercising. When working out on an empty stomach, EPOC activity increases by up to 20 percent thus leading to more effective calorie burn during your recovery phase.

Finally, working out on an empty stomach may activate brown adipose tissue or brown fat cells which are capable of quickly burning calories for heat production. The result is increased metabolism and reduced body fat percentage over time.

Drawbacks of Working Out on an Empty Stomach

Working out on an empty stomach is often seen as the ideal way to burn fat and build muscle. However, there are a few drawbacks of this approach that should be considered. For one, it can lead to a decrease in performance if you don’t take in the essential nutrients to fuel your workout. It can also cause fatigue and dizziness due to low blood sugar levels. Let’s take a more in-depth look at these drawbacks.

Low Energy Levels

When you work out on an empty stomach, it can cause your energy levels to drop. Low energy levels will make it more difficult to complete a full workout and the results may be less than optimal. To help combat this issue, certain food types should be consumed prior to exercise. These typically include quickly-digested carbohydrates such as oatmeal, banana or toast; or some type of protein combined with carbohydrates such as peanut butter or eggs and toast. Eating 30 minutes prior to a workout can help boost your energy levels so that you can make the most of your exercise session. Additionally, consuming food before and during a workout may reduce the amount of breakdown in muscle tissue and help prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Increased Risk of Injury

When it comes to exercise, working out on an empty stomach is not typically recommended. Exercising without food in your system can increase the chances of injury since your body does not have access to glycogen stores, which are needed for energy.

Working out on an empty stomach can also increase the production of cortisol (the stress hormone) as a way to protect muscles during workouts and this can limit tissue repair and muscle building. Furthermore, a lack of adequate fuel for intense workouts can cause fatigue and reduce performance, leading to poor results when training is completed.

There are some cases when working out on an empty stomach might be beneficial, however it should be done with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional or fitness coach who can advise on the best nutritional practices prior to exercise in order to avoid any potential harm or injury. For example, those who are trying to burn fat may find that intermittent fasting — which involves working out while not consuming food — may be effective if done in short bursts lasting up to an hour with recovery time afterward. It’s not generally recommended or safe for most athletes as it could cause dehydration as well as other CVD risk factors due to increased cortisol levels over time.

Increased Hunger

One of the main drawbacks of working out on an empty stomach is increased hunger. Working out without having eaten something can make you feel hungrier after your session than if you had had a snack or light meal beforehand. If you’re cutting calories to lose weight, working out on an empty stomach may cause you to eat more later in the day as your body responds to being hungry and craving energy. The same goes for intense workouts, which require a lot of energy, and can result in increased hunger post-workout if food isn’t available soon after exercise. To combat this downside, some people opt to have a small snack with some complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats before their workout. This provides the body with a quick burst of energy while also preventing over-eating later in the day due to excessive hunger.

Tips for Working Out on an Empty Stomach

Working out on an empty stomach may be the best thing for your health and performance. Not only does this allow for more efficient fat burning, it also increases your metabolism and means you can put more energy into your workouts. It may seem daunting at first, so let’s go into the specifics of how to properly work out on an empty stomach.

Start Slow

Starting slow is key when it comes to working out on an empty stomach. If you begin with a high-intensity power workout, your body may not have the necessary energy to keep going, resulting in fatigue, lightheadedness and reduced performance levels. Instead, focus on gentle movements such as walking which can trigger a small amount of fat oxidation during an exercise session, thus slowly but steadily raising your metabolic rate. Gradually work up a sweat and slowly increase the intensity of your routine for maximum results for every workout.

Drink Plenty of Water

Before any form of physical activity, it is important that you hydrate your body with plenty of water. When exercising on an empty stomach, your body’s energy reserves are already quite low and as such can more easily become drained. To ensure that you stay energized throughout your workout, consuming enough water will go a long way to help replenish lost electrolytes and keep you hydrated. When drinking before a workout on an empty stomach, it is best practice to start drinking at least 30 minutes prior to exercise and continue at regular intervals during the workout in order to prevent dehydration. Replenishing electrolytes that have been lost due to sweat will also help you complete the session with less fatigue than if you were dehydrated.

Eat a Balanced Meal After Exercise

Once you finish up your workout, it’s important to refuel your body with a balanced meal. Your meal should include a mix of carbs, fat, and protein in order to replenish lost energy, build muscle and give your body the nutrition it needs for recovery.

Carbohydrates provide fuel for workouts by replenishing stores of glucose in muscles and liver. Complex carbohydrates from whole grains such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice are an especially good choice because they’re slowly digested and can provide lasting energy throughout the day.

Protein helps with building muscle mass and repairing tissues damaged during exercise. Lean sources of protein like skinless chicken breasts, salmon, lean beef and tofu are especially beneficial if you frequently work out on an empty stomach because they rebuild muscle while keeping calories low.

Fats help keep your body healthy by providing essential fatty acids that help protect cells from damage caused by strenuous activities. Try including healthy fats like those found in olive oil or avocados into meals after exercise to reap their full benefits.

Remember that maintaining a balanced diet after you workout on an empty stomach is just as important as when you eat beforehand. Eating foods high in quality ingredients will keep your body running at optimal performance levels long after you’re done at the gym or on the trail.


In conclusion, exercising on an empty stomach can be beneficial in many different ways. There are positive benefits to both the digestive system and overall health. It can help you become a more efficient runner, while providing the body with the nutrients it needs to fuel activities without having to worry about digestive processes. Lastly, it allows for faster recovery from exercises and can result in increased fat burning during sessions. All in all, exercising on an empty stomach is one of the best things that you can do for your body and overall health to ensure long-term success and better results over time.

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