Is running on an empty stomach helpful?

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Running for weight loss is full of different questions and equally different answers. Is training in the morning on an empty stomach helpful?

“So can we or can’t we?” – asks the impatient reader who can’t eat a full breakfast in the morning and then wait another hour before working out. Yes, you can. In some cases, you even need to. But in some cases you don’t have to, and, in fact, you shouldn’t.

What can we do, our body is incredibly complex and we do not yet know everything about the processes that take place in it. But some facts have been established and we can say with a high degree of probability that they are true and will remain unchanged.

First of all, let me tell you who it is better not to train on an empty stomach. These are people with predisposition to diabetes or any disorders of the digestive system. And in general, with any problems in the body. It’s better to see an appropriate specialist first. Preferably an advanced one with at least some relation to sports medicine.

Running on an empty stomach for weight loss

The first question about running or cardio training on an empty stomach is asked by people who have a very specific and clear goal – to lose weight. This is logical. After all, the popular idea of the body’s energy supply system looks like this: “by the morning the carbohydrate supply has run out and we will burn fat.

It’s like that, but not like that. First of all, it’s not like you’ve been hungry for days in a row. You probably had lunch and dinner yesterday.

The body is more cunning than most people think. That’s why it has a good supply of carbohydrates. It’s reserved for different occasions: in case of explosive physical activity (for example, in case of danger), to provide energy to internal organs. And also for backup glucose supply to the main energy consumer – the brain.

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Nevertheless, when you run out for a workout on an empty stomach, you can be sure that your fat expenditure will be higher than if you had eaten breakfast. And not just higher, but up to 20 percent higher. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll lose weight faster.

What’s wrong with that? The fact is that despite the widespread opinions of researchers about the benefits or harms of running on an empty stomach, the main result was the same for all. In the long run, the amount of fat is not diminished.

And when I talk about the long term, I mean months as well as a few days. Sometimes even 24 hours. This is, of course, assuming that the total number of calories did not change in any way. And this data is provided by several reputable sources, including the European Institute of Applied Physiology and the International Institute for Sport Research.

And this seems much more logical than fat going nowhere. However, the first law of thermodynamics can tell us the same thing.

The short conclusion: you can get rid of fat and lose weight only by reducing the total caloric content of your diet. That is, consume less than you consume. Running or cardio training in the morning on an empty stomach are effective for burning fat. But they are unstable and there is not much point in using them for this purpose.

For muscle mass

Unlike fat, which is easy for the body to replenish, muscle mass is somewhat more difficult to build up. In this case, training on an empty stomach can serve you well.

This is because the body, unencumbered by digestion and digestion, can deliver more oxygen to the muscles with the blood. However, given the low glycogen content, it is important that amino acids are not wasted. That is, muscles, if there is not much fatty tissue in the body.

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Some researchers have dug up a couple of other trumps in favor of fasting training for bodybuilders. This is a cascade of beneficial hormonal changes and growth hormone production. However, these studies are so far isolated and there is still no serious confirmation.

Running and cycling

For cyclic sports, where endurance plays a crucial role, empty stomach training is used to accustom the body to optimal use of its energy resources and improve VO2 Max (oxygen uptake from air).

For example, as Strength and Conditioning Research wrote, incorporating “fasting mode” into the training process allowed cyclists to increase PWR, the power-to-weight ratio, without a loss in endurance.

Other research

Perhaps most important is the assumption that starvation training promotes insulin sensitivity. This is an anabolic hormone that is released with food intake. At the same time, decreased insulin sensitivity can cause nasty sores, including cardiovascular disease.

The only problem is that this effect will be nullified if a series of continuous snacks follow a hungry workout throughout the day.

Others, also advanced nutritionists and doctors, say not so much about decreased or increased insulin sensitivity, but that with the classic three meals a day, there is time for insulin levels to normalize. As you understand, with frequent meals, its levels almost always remain above normal. And quite badly, if the following foods have a high glycemic index.

According to the latest data, when practicing six to seven meals a day for a long time, there is a risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

By the way, contrary to common misconception, the fractional diet itself appeared not as some kind of diet for weight loss, but as nutritional medicine to eliminate complications of hypoglycemia. And the duration of the “course” was only one day, after which it was necessary to return to normal 3 meals a day.

This information may seem somewhat new to athletes with “continuous menus. But the very assumption that eating frequent small meals is detrimental to the body has been around since ancient times. Whereas some degree of starvation may have a positive effect on physiological processes. Unfortunately, there is no absolutely reliable information on this point yet.

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However, another thing is known: frequent meals, for example, 6 meals a day, but with the same content of calories and nutrients as the usual 3 meals a day, has no evidence of its usefulness. Including popular arguments about its advantage in increasing the metabolism and its importance for weight loss.

Some experiments have shown another curious thing. After an intense workout, the afterburn process lasted somewhat longer if the workout was preceded by nutrition.

To summarize

1. training on an empty stomach is perfectly justified to normalize energy processes in the body. Theoretically, it is important for an athlete to learn how to use stored energy, including fat, rationally. However, constant training on an empty stomach is not desirable.

2. Training on an empty stomach does not lead to weight loss. There is only a very short-term effect. To burn excess “ballast” it is quite obvious only one rule, which is as old as the world – it is a negative balance of calories. Eat less, run more.

3. For advanced runners in general, it is difficult to recommend starvation training because of the enormous mileage and long load times.

4. If you plan to run marathons, your body should gradually get used to digesting food and water on the go. Not spaghetti and chicken breast, of course, but nutritious bars, gels, or something easy to digest.

5. Each organism is too individual, so even large-scale studies often give a fuzzy picture when it comes to physiological processes.

The fact that such studies are usually conducted within the same region or even within the same city can also play a role. And even if the results are quite clear, they do not take into account such nuances as the food culture in a given region or the genetic characteristics of the population.

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