People who work out before breakfast are said to benefit from burning fat, it is said again and again. But is exercise on an empty stomach really THE diet secret?

Basically, our body needs energy in order to achieve top performance in sport. Is pre-workout food essential to replenish energy stores? No, say some athletes: Exercising on an empty stomach supposedly burns more fat. But is that even true? And is that also healthy?

FITBOOK asked Winfried Banzer whether “fasted training”, as the sober training is also called, really melts the fat deposits . He is a professor of sports medicine and headed the Institute for Sports Science at the University of Frankfurt aM. The focus of his research is on performance diagnostics and training control as well as nutritional medicine. And the sports medicine specialist Dr. Dr. Michael Despeghel explains when exercising before breakfast helps.

Why exercise on an empty stomach?

The thesis is: on an empty stomach, the body taps the fat deposits in order to get energy. The combustion apparatus is working at full speed. If the training goal is primarily weight loss, training on an empty stomach can lead to the desired weight loss. Many find exercise on an empty stomach more pleasant anyway.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Banzer confirms that theoretically the fat deposits could be attacked with an empty carbohydrate store, but makes it clear that in the end it is just a myth. Because: “Whether on an empty stomach or after eating, the energy supply in the body is always the same. So it makes no difference in energy consumption whether you train on an empty stomach or not. “The expert also gives hope:” You would have to increase your performance additionally in order to achieve the desired fat-burning effect. “

Study shows positive effect

A British research team led by Dr. In a study published in October 2019, Rob Edinburgh of the University of Bath came to the conclusion that exercising before breakfast does indeed stimulate fat burning: According to Edinburgh, twice as much fat is burned before breakfast than afterwards. 30 overweight men took part in the study. One group trained before breakfast, the other after breakfast – with identical training sessions and adapted food intake. A third control group, however, did not change their behavior at all.

The authors of the study say that the test subjects lost weight equally over the six-week study period – regardless of whether they exercised before breakfast or after. As far as weight loss is concerned, the time when you train makes no difference.

Co-author of the study Dr. However, Javier Gonzales emphasizes the great health benefits of sober training: “Our results suggest that a change in the time of eating compared to when you do sport brings about profound and positive changes in the general state of health.” because the body responds better to insulin if you exercise before breakfast. Blood sugar levels are better kept under control and the risk of developing diabetes or heart disease may be reduced.

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Anyone who wants to develop muscles should eat before training

Sports scientist Dr. Dr. Michael Despeghel sees many positive aspects in exercising before breakfast. However, he differentiates when it comes to the training goal : “ If it is only a matter of helping you lose weight, then training on an empty stomach is certainly a good method. Fat burning is optimized because there are no disruptive elements in the low insulin phase that block fat burning. The weight loss is only marginal if the subjects continue to eat too high calories. “

On the other hand, if you are training to build muscle, you should eat something before exercising.   Despeghel recommends training with prior food intake to all those who want to develop muscle mass and have sufficient patience and time .

Are there any risks involved in exercising on an empty stomach?

Anyone who already suffers from circulatory problems in the morning should rather avoid training on an empty stomach. “Exercising on an empty stomach can lead to massive drops in performance,” warns Prof. Banzer. Dizziness due to low blood sugar and malaise may cause you to feel faint. The risk of injury is correspondingly high. “If someone is already weak or diabetic, training on an empty stomach can lead to a lack of sugar and there is a risk of hypoglycemia.” Symptoms of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar are rapid heartbeat, sweating and tremors. Caution: If the blood sugar concentration continues to drop, it can, in the worst case, lead to hypoglycemic shock, which is life-threatening. Dextrose or a sugary juice spritzer offers quick help.

If you decide to train on an empty stomach despite the risks, there are a few things to consider:

  • Doing sport in the morning: This is how you can prevent long periods of time without eating
  • Drink a glass of water before exercising
  • Better a short jog than strength training with weights
  • Keep the intensity of the exercise low

What is the Train-Low-Compete-High-Method?

The train-low-compete-high method is a trend that is popular with endurance athletes, e.g. B. marathon runners, is very common. Usually, you train with a poor carbohydrate store. Bread, pasta, etc. are then taboo. Intensive training units and competitions, on the other hand, are contested with a full memory. This is primarily intended to stimulate and train fat metabolism and mitochondria formation (mitochondria are also called the power plants of cells).

Does training on an empty stomach prevent muscle building?

Another point made by critics is that training on an empty stomach prevents or promotes muscle loss. The thesis is that the body gets the energy it needs from breaking down muscle proteins. That is only partly true. The body stores sugar as glycogen in the liver and muscles and draws the necessary energy from it during exercise. Only when this glycogen cushion is exhausted would the body begin to gain the energy from muscle breakdown. This is usually not the case. Because then the body would be so weakened that the training session would have to be stopped. If very lean people want to build muscle, it is not advisable to skip meals before exercising. You should rather pay attention to an increased calorie intake in order to “feed” the muscles.

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Proper nutrition after exercise

A post-workout snack should always be included, regardless of whether the goal is weight loss or muscle gain. After exercise, the body’s energy stores need to be replenished. So he can recover and build new muscle tissue. Therefore, the glycogen store in the muscles in particular needs the right nutrients in order to regenerate. Protein and carbohydrate rich food prevents protein breakdown in the muscles.

Recommended foods include:

  • Potatoes
  • rice
  • Eggs
  • fish
  • flesh
  • low fat quark
  • Protein shakes

Conclusion: There is nothing against a relaxed run on an empty stomach, as long as you pay attention to sufficient energy supply after the workout and keep the intensity of the training low.