If I go to the gym in the morning, is it better to eat before a workout? It's a common question I get asked. People want to know if they'll lose more fat if they skip breakfast and train fasted.
Fasted cardio, in particular, has been mentioned for roughly a decade now. Gym goers are under the impression that they will burn more fat if they don't eat before training.
Furthermore, with the increase in interest over the last few years in diet strategies that involve fasting, confusion ensues.
Is it better for me to skip breakfast and train fasted?
Well, the answer is "it depends."
Essentially, fasting is where you rest your digestive system over an extended period of time. As a result, you're not consuming any calories or kilojoules during this time.
Now, there may be some advantages to this in certain circumstances. However, I wouldn't recommend this as the first change you make to your diet.
Before considering fasted training and skipping breakfast, understand the key principles of healthy eating to support your training goals
First off, you should make sure you have all your ducks in a row with your overall diet.
A well-structured diet will provide enough energy, at the right times, to allow you to get the most from your exercise sessions and gym workouts.
Only once you have this in place should you consider adopting further methods such as fasting.
If you skip breakfast and train fasted, it may put additional stress on your body
As we said earlier when you're in a fasted state you've essentially gone for an extended period of time with no calorie intake.
There may then be less 'fuel in the tank' for your gym session.
Consider your overall stress levels and the intensity of the planned session. If your body has lower energy reserves then it follows that your body will come under yet more stress during your training sesssion.
So if you're already undergoing other stress in your life, if you skip breakfast and train fasted, this will be to your disadvantage.
For most people under most circumstances, I tend to prefer they eat something before a morning workout.
However, if you're looking to train on a lower energy intake due to the phase you are in with your training then this could be the new stimulus your body needs.
If you want to skip breakfast and train fasted, here's what you need to know
So, if at this point you're keen to give fasted training a shot, there are a few things to consider.
Intensity and duration of the workout
As mentioned earlier, training in a fasted state means you will have less fuel in the tank to complete the exercises in your workout.
For that reason, it's best to keep workouts short - under an hour. Additionally, they should generally be at a lower intensity. If you skip breakfast and attempt to train high intensity in a fasted state, you'll soon run out of gas.
Generally speaking, aerobic cardio sessions are better suited when you haven't eaten. Leave the heavy weights session for another time.
Alternatively, you might want to leave the days you skip breakfast to days you're not exercising. That way you don't have to worry about having any pre-workout meal at all.
Regardless, if you are skipping breakfast you must ensure you have a solid plan in place for the rest of the day. Your recovery meal immediately after the session will be vitally important, as will the rest of your meals that day.
For this reason, you might wish to consider a consultation with an accredited sports nutritionist or dietitian.
Circumstances where you should not skip breakfast as it would be a disadvantage to train fasted
Like I said above, I'd very rarely recommend skipping breakfast if you plan on hitting the gym early.
For a variety of reasons, it's unlikely to give many advantages when it comes to performance. So if your session is over an hour, or you're going to be doing any high intensity and/or anaerobic work, you should definitely eat first.
Likewise, if you really want to get the most out of your session and really push your limits, you'll need fuel to do so.
Anyone whose main goal is bulking up or adding muscle mass should always ensure a suitable pre-workout meal. If train fasted and skip breakfast, you'll make conditions much harder for your body to grow muscle.
You should also bear in mind that missed meals may lead to stronger sensations of hunger later in the day. Many people find they overcompensate and end up eating more than they planned. This, obviously, can make fat loss more difficult as we want to carefully monitor our energy balance.
Lastly, certain medical conditions make fasted training unwise. If you have diabetes, for example, you shouldn't exercise without having something to eat first.