I’m not one to take things on faith – I like to see the studies, their methodology and findings before I just believe what I read – Face it, you can find “evidence” to support any theory or point of view presented without backing data. In this post I will reveal the truth about doing cardio on an empty stomach backed by data and not theory.
Over the weekend I was with my buddy, lets call him Mikey, for a morning “cardio” workout.
Now, I say “cardio”, but really it was a metabolic resistance training session.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the simple definition for metabolic resistance training is “cardio with weights” – pretty much the same stuff I prescribe for my fat loss and Flat Belly clients for optimum results. We’ll cover this more in detail in another update so as not to get too off topic.
So, we’re about 10 minutes into the workout and Mikey looks like he’s in pretty rough shape (despite being in really GOOD shape). So I asked him “what the deal was.”
“I didn’t eat anything for breakfast.”
Me: Why the hell not?
“I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do if you want to burn the most fat from your morning workouts.”
Perhaps you’re still believing this old myth just like Mikey, so allow me to take a moment to dispel it.
The theory behind empty stomach is cardio is simple: supposedly, by doing cardio on a empty stomach, you tap directly into fat stores since glycogen (carbohydrate) stores are somewhat depleted after an overnight fast. Right?
Seems to make sense, but research has proven this to be dead wrong.
Several studies have shown no difference in substrate utilization (glycogen vs. fat) for those working out on an empty stomach vs. those who eat a small meal prior to their morning workouts.
In fact, one study showed the exact opposite—those who had a small meal first burned more calories and more fat than the empty stomach group.
So how can this be?
The reason is rather simple if you think about it: I was kicking ass and taking names with my workout, and Mikey was barely able to get through his. Even if not eating beforehand allowed you to burn more fat (which it doesn’t), the major trade off is performance.
And why does performance matter? Well, if you can’t perform at an optimal level and put forth maximal effort, then you’re not going to be burning an optimal amount of calories–period.
The truth is, empty stomach cardio is an outdated philosophy whose theory was proven incorrect by research. Still, there are plenty of people who hold on to the theory despite the available data. Perhaps they’re not aware of it, perhaps they just go by what “Muscle and Fiction” and the bodybuilding magazines tell them (bad idea); I’m not sure.
Whatever the reason, popular gym philosophy doesn’t always mean correct philosophy, and this is an example.
So I’ll leave you with some practical recommendations:
At the very minimum, have a couple scoops of whey before any morning “cardio” workout. You can get it here if you don’t have any<<<
That said, if it’s still negatively affecting your performance, you need to go a bit further. The meal doesn’t have to be large, but it should contain some complex carbs (oatmeal, etc) along with a small serving of protein.
Give it about a half hour to begin digesting and then hit your workout. Even if this means you have to get up early to eat for boot camp, do it anyway.
Better performance = more calories burned = more fat loss = improved cardiovascular functioning =even better performance = even more calories burned = even more fat loss.
Don’t be like my friend Mikey and have a crappy workout because you didn’t eat. As I shared with you, the research shows that’s not going to make a difference anyway. Instead, eat your Wheaties (figuratively speaking) and then dominate your workout!
Alright, now it’s comment time:
I want to know: Do you still do empty stomach cardio? Will you give it up based on this post? Do you notice your performance suffers?
Or maybe you do REALLY well with empty stomach cardio.
Either way, let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!
Chat with you below!
Committed to your fitness and success,