One of the bigger problems in regards to fitness, especially when you have Diabetes, is the consumption of food in tandem with your workouts. There’s nothing I dislike more than having an hour earmarked for a workout, only to realize that my blood has significantly dropped and I have to treat the low before doing anything. This often (although not always) results in a feeling of being full and depending on what you’ve eaten, mildly bloated and is not conducive to a productive workout. So this begs a question: Is it better to work out on an empty stomach?
There are a few schools of thought on this, but none of them provide an easy answer. In my mind, I’ve always thought that working out without eating first was an easy way to ensure that your body used its stored fat as a source of fuel and help to trim down. But the flip side to this is that one needs energy in order to effectively exercise, and depending on one’s fat stores is not as effective a way of doing this as having food in your system. So, which perspective is the correct one? I call it “perspective” because in my experience, their preference is one that’s adhered to by most people, regardless of the information provided.
According to an article posted by the Mayo Clinic entitled Eating and Exercise: 5 Tips to Maximize Your Workouts, “studies suggest that eating or drinking carbohydrates before exercise can improve workout performance and may allow you to workout for a longer time or at a higher intensity.” It goes on to say that not eating may result in sluggishness or light-headedness. If you workout in the morning, ensure to have finished your breakfast for at least an hour before exercising.
The article touches on portion size, explaining that large meals should be eaten three to four hours prior to exercising, with smaller meals being eaten one to three hours before a workout. Snacks effectively won’t provide any energy if you have them immediately before a workout, especially if your workout if less than 60 minutes in length. The article also makes two important point about eating AFTER a workout in order to help your body recover and repair itself, as well as staying properly hydrated. Which you should be doing, anyway.
According to what I’ve read in relation to the body’s fat stores and how they’re used, if you’ve fasted before a workout, you’re essentially guaranteed to be in calorie deficit, leading to the burning of fat. This is because the body’s only available fuel source IS your fat stores, if you’ve skipped a meal before exercising. And that’s all well and good, so long as you monitor your blood sugars and make sure you don’t crash from low levels, depending on the type of workout you’re doing.
If you’re doing a shorter workout, an empty stomach likely won’t affect performance. A quick, 30-minute workout over your lunch break won’t send you into a frenzy. But if your workout is one or even two hours long, working out on an empty stomach can lead to a whole bunch of nasty symptoms like dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and will likely make you drag your ass throughout your routine. Better to have something to eat prior to a long workout.
No matter what your preference is (and it should be based on your preference), the important takeaway is to make certain to eat after your workout to aid in recovery, stay hydrated and make certain that whatever you do doesn’t interfere with proper blood sugar control. At least no more than exercising usually does. One issue I’ve often had with karate, is that weekday classes have ALWAYS been around the 6 to 6:30 pm timeframe, meaning I might be in the middle of digesting supper when we start up. That’s when you want to ensure that your meal is light and easily digested, otherwise you’ll inevitably face difficulties during class.
In closing, I’ll point out that most sources have stated that even if working out on an empty stomach promotes the burning of fat as fuel, it may not provide the amount of fat reduction a person is looking for. But being in a calorie deficit is the only genuine way to truly get slimmer. Also, there’s no way to focus on just ONE area. For example, you can’t do hundreds of crunches for the purposes of burning belly fat. That’s a myth. Your abs will get strong enough to crack walnuts, but your fat stores will burn equally throughout your body. ☯