To eat or not to eat before a workout has always been a debate. While there's no clear answer about eating before exercising, a 1920s' study had revealed that eating carbs right before gives you more energy.
Yet, things took a strong turn over the years and multiple recent studies reveal that hitting the gym on an empty stomach, especially in the morning, is more beneficial when it comes to burning fat.
Also read: Count carbs instead of calories
Now, several trainers and nutritionists have revealed to Daily Mail Online some myths and facts revolving around eating before working out.
Running empty burns more fat
Rui Li – personal trainer and owner of New York Personal Training — claimed: "Eating right before (exercise) shouldn't be necessary if you have a well-structured and well-balanced diet."
But this goes for people who are fat-adapted in their ability to consumed energy: People whose body converts fat into energy without giving them bursts of hunger.
On the other hand, sugar-adapted people — the ones who consume high levels of sugar — need glucose for energy, leading to they requiring food before working out.
However, it is easy to switch from being sugar-adapted to fat-adapted by cutting down sugar intake and reprogramming the body to use stored fat instead. In this case, adding healthy fats like olive oil, avocados and nuts to the diet can be helpful, suggested Li.
Breakfast doesn't help early morning work out
Nutritionist Nikki Ostrower, who owns NAO Wellness, shared: "If you're just waking up and want to go do cardio and go for a run, there is no need to eat prior to the workout and it may also prove to be beneficial."
This happens due to the body still being in a "fasting mode" from sleep, meaning it won't need food until after one "breaks" the "fast".
"If you work out right when you wake up you can burn fat faster because the fat our body has stored runs out overnight," she said. "So first thing in the morning the body will convert fat to use for energy."
Staying away from sugars and eating carbohydrate-rich foods that are low in fat is what benefits the body in this case.
Good Morning ☀️ Worked through the night and I haven’t slept yet... idk what’s up with me but I don’t feel tired yet.. ? Prob will hit me like a ton of bricks later . Spinach & Feta Chicken Sausage (gluten free, no casing, no nitrates/nitrites) + a Sunny, Pasture-Raised egg cooked in Himalayan PS Ghee w/ Feta & Red Pepper Flakes + Spinach + Spouted Sourdough w/ PBB&J . Happy Friday!!! -Allison
Body's focus is digestion
Personal trainer Diane Williams — the founder of Curvy Goddess — said: "I don't recommend eating a big meal or even a moderate meal right before exercise because the body will have to focus on digestion."
A 2017 study from the University of Bath had also suggested that eating breakfast makes exercise less effective than eating afterwards.
Study author Dylan Thompson said: "Tissue is busy responding to the meal and a bout of exercise at this time will not stimulate the same [beneficial] changes in adipose tissue. This means that exercise in a fasted state might provoke more favourable changes in adipose tissue, and this could be beneficial for health in the long term."
A light snack an hour before workout
While Williams suggested not eating anything at least 90-120 minutes before hitting the gym, she also advised that in case blood sugar levels are low, a light snack is okay as long as it's eaten an hour ago.
Also, a simple snack does well in case of strenuous, high-intensity exercises. "Pair a slow-burning carbohydrate with a protein," she recommended.
An apple with a tablespoon of almond butter 30-60 minutes before a workout is ideal, according to Nikki; but there's also a downside to snacking. "You just run the risk of indigestion, which can come in between the workout and make you feel uncomfortable," she said.
Working out on an empty stomach can also lead to acid reflux and overall discomfort or cramping.
To conclude, the safest way to ensure an effective workout is by staying away from all grains and sugar as it might spike insulin levels in the body. Fresh fruit with Greek yogurt or a meal replacement shake without sugar are ideal before a training session.
But it also crumbles down to one's blood sugar levels primarily, and for those with low blood sugar, a snack is recommended before training.