To eat or not to eat: Should you run on an empty stomach?
To eat or not to eat? Guest columnist Sowmya Ganesh talks about the very question many fitness enthusiasts, fresh into their daily workout routine, often debate with themselves.
While several trainers say that it’s necessary to eat before a run, there are just as many trainers who emphasize that a run on an empty stomach is the best way to do it. So, how do we tackle this dilemma?
Know your Body Type
We can start by understanding that every body type is different – and that also means one solution won’t work the same for all body types. Each body is unique and with that comes it’s special way of coping to changes, as well as workouts and food habits. Carbs mainly fuel cardio activities like running and are the body’s preferred source of fuel for energy. The body always converts carbs to glucose which fuels your runs. It also stores excess glucose to fuel you in the near future should you choose to work out without having eaten. Individuals who fast before their run believe that once the glucose is used up, the body starts to burn fat. However, studies in sports medicine always argue that there’s no way to know when your glycogen stores run out, so “even if you run in the early morning without eating, you may have enough left from the night before, meaning you won’t burn more fat at all.”
Understanding running on an empty stomach
Running on an empty stomach for a short amount of time and a well endured pace will not be harmful for your body, experts say, especially for those relatively fit. Some individuals find it beneficial to allow the body to “burn out” a sufficient amount of fat and glucose without prior caloric intake. But this comes with both pros, and cons. Running on a fast can improve your body’s capacity for mobilising energy as you burn fat more easily. However, running on an empty stomach can cause fatigue and even digestive problems. Because every body is different, it is important to consider the effects you are experiencing personally, to decide the frequency and duration of your run. Also remember to listen to your body. If you feel drained out quickly when running on an empty stomach, perhaps it isn’t the right option for you.
In case you plan a longer, more intense run, be sure to eat something light or have a pre-work out drink to keep you going. Post such a high intensity run, eat something quickly – a healthy snack or a post workout smoothie, so your body can repair itself of any muscle damage.