To Eat or Not To Eat Before Training?

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Question: Is it better to train cardio on an empty stomach to burn more fat? Does strength training on an empty stomach burn up muscle? Should I eat prior to doing either activity?
Answer: Cardio on an empty stomach does nothing to enhance fat burning potential. That is dictated by the intensity and duration of your session.
Previously it was thought the best method to burn fat was staying close to 60% of your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) for long periods of time, 1 to 2 hours of cardio a day or more. At that intensity the primary fuel being used is fat. However, the modest intensity does little to stimulate your overall metabolism (BMR) which burns more calories during the course of the day. At higher intensity a greater amount of stored carbohydrates, glycogen, is used as well as fat for energy but the tradeoff is a greater effect on your resting metabolic rate.
Eating or not eating prior to training does little to affect how your body uses stored energy and the key point is stored energy. Your body does not utilize the food in your stomach while you are training. What is eaten has to be converted into amino acids if from a protein source, glycogen if from a carb source, or stored fat if from a fat source or, if there are excess carbs. Your energy for exercise is derived from stored sources. If you lift weights most of the energy comes from glycogen, stored carbs, not from what is in your stomach. The process to break down existing muscle into amino acids is complex and not the first choice of your body’s recovery system. As long as you are consuming protein, preferably within 45 minutes of completing a workout, you are replacing the protein and amino acids necessary for repair and muscle growth. Cannibalization of existing muscle tissue comes from over-training, under-eating and not getting enough sleep.
If you prefer to train on an empty stomach and you feel strong and energetic doing that, then continue to do so. If having an empty stomach causes you to feel nauseous or you feel hungry enough to distract you from training hard enough with the intensity for growth, you should eat. The converse is also true. If training with food in your stomach makes you sick feeling then don’t eat prior to your workout. Just get the proper nutrition after your workout to maximize both growth and fat-burning potential.
God bless and keep training,
Daryl

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