The Truth About Working Out on an Empty Stomach
Ladies, how many of us have those moments where we think "I haven't eaten yet this morning, if I workout now I'll burn away some of this unwanted fat"?
Although this idea is a foot in the right direction, it can potentially cause more harm than good.
Let me explain.
Whenever we partake in physical activity our bodies naturally need energy to fuel every minute of our workout. Although we have tons of energy stored away in both muscle and fat compartments, our body views these stores as "in emergency only", and would rather not touch them.
The reason for this comes from a couple of different things: for our ancestors eating was not an everyday luxury. They lived off simple and easy finds (fruits, vegetables, etc.) When they found something big, such as a large animal, overeating allowed their bodies to store away fat and protein for the inevitable hunger pangs that were sure to come when hunting was slow. Our bodies react in a similar manner. If we go through phases of not eating enough, or starving ourselves from proper nutrients, our bodies learn to wait until we overeat again so that it can store away protein and fat for the next occurrence of starvation.
When we workout on an empty stomach our body looks to its most direct energy source - the food we have been consuming already that day (nom, nom, nom.)
When we skip breakfast and head to the gym our body starts its normal routine and looks towards the stomach for energy, this time finding the fuel tank on empty. Acting quickly the body looks for any type of energy to fuel your workout. Remember those energy stores we discussed earlier? Your body goes into those "emergency only" stores to find the fuel it needs.
Here's where the common misconception comes into play: in moments like these your body will not use stored fat for energy As much as we hope our body is in tune with our own wants ("use the stored fat!!"), it takes a look around and leaves the fat where it is, opting to use muscle instead.
"Why" you ask through tear stained cheeks?
Quite simply - muscle has more energy than fat. When the body needs to refuel, it will use the option containing the most energy ..... aka your muscle.
That being said, you can accomplish exactly what you're hoping for with one little change...
Let me introduce your new best friend: BCAAs (also known as: branch chain amino acids)
A quick background on amino acids; in order for a protein to be considered "complete" or "whole" it needs to contain all 8 of the essential amino acids. Only certain protein rich foods are considered "complete" (more on this later).
Branch chain amino acids, also known as the "building blocks" of the body, make up 35% of your muscle mass and need to be present for molecular growth and development to take place.
BCAA levels can increase the availability of carbohydrates (fuel) in the body and will help protect your muscles from exercise induced breakdown.
What this means....
When you take BCAAs you allow for:
a) an increased workout intensity (better workout)
b) muscle protection - no more using muscle for energy!
b) a reduced rate of protein breakdown
All of this equals your body using stored fat, instead of muscle, while working out.
I'd advise using BCAAs no matter what time of the day you workout as it will give you more energy and increase workout performance; but I would highly recommend using them if you like to workout on an empty stomach - protect your muscles!
Have a Strong(her) day!