To eat, or not to eat before you exercise ... that is the question! And if you want to get the real skinny on the smartest and fastest way to burn body fat, you'll definitely want to listen up!
You've probably heard you should always eat something before exercise. The idea behind this bit of fitness "wisdom" is that a pre-workout meal will help fuel your muscles for a more effective fat-smashing exercise session. But is this really the best advice when it comes to weight loss, or more specifically burning body fat?
One key factor people often neglect when trying to lose weight is the importance of hormones, which control and set the pace for how quickly we lose weight — and even how fast we build muscle — which also helps to boost metabolism. Yes, calories do play a big role in weight loss, but when dieting and exercising you shouldn't only focus on calories while neglecting your hormones, because it's your hormones that will enable you to achieve the fastest fat burn and most rapid body transformation
When you eat a meal containing carbohydrates (and to a lesser degree, protein), your body releases insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Without it, our blood sugar would spike after meals, remain elevated and we'd eventually die because too much sugar in our blood is toxic.
But insulin is also a fat storage hormone. So when insulin is elevated — as is the case after you eat — your body will be in a state of wanting to store fat, not burn it. It doesn't matter if you exercise like a mad man after a meal, you won't be able to burn body fat until insulin levels drop, which can typically take two-to-three hours, if not longer.
Now let's talk about another hormone that controls fat burn: growth hormone. Growth hormone not only facilitates fat burn, but also stimulates muscle growth and metabolism. And incidentally, insulin and growth hormone are antagonistic hormones. In other words, when one hormone is elevated, it will suppress the other hormone. So when we eat something, insulin levels rise, suppressing growth hormone. On the flip side, when we're in a fasted state, insulin levels are at their lowest point, so growth hormone will be elevated!
So, given all this information, do you still think it makes a ton of sense to eat before exercising if you're trying to burn fat as quickly as possible?
The answer is no. So let me introduce you to "fasted training." Never heard of it? Don't worry. All it involves is exercising on an empty stomach. One very basic fasted training protocol is to simply exercising first thing the morning before breakfast when when your insulin levels are at their lowest.
If you're new to fasted training, make sure to pace yourself and listen to your body. If you ever start to get dizzy, take a break. Also, drink ample water during your workout, as well as during the day. After your fasted workout, eat a balanced meal. That's it!
Between the numerous studies backing it's benefits and countless fitness experts who swear by it, fasted training is absolutely something you should consider (if your health permits). Fasted training works because you are working with — not against — your hormones to maximize fat burn. And since hormones help set the pace for weight loss, skip the pre-workout meal and start looking into fasted exercise. Hands down it's one of the best kept fitness secrets!
Photo Credit: Shutterstock