We all have our preferences for the workout we enjoy and when we want to do it. Training ‘fed’ or ‘fasted’ is also a personal preference, but it may be worth choosing the latter.
It is now thought that training when you are hungry makes the workout more effective. Much of this is down to the hormone insulin and how the body deals with it.
Being hungry is more than just a mental desire for a snack. It indicates physical changes in your body, partly driven by insulin levels.
Insulin is released by the pancreas when we eat. This hormone directs body cells to absorb glucose from food, via the blood. The glucose is then used for muscle function, growth and healing. If the glucose is not needed by the muscles, it goes to be stored as fat.
It is now thought that eating too much and too often (i.e. most of us!) makes the body produce too much insulin. The muscle cells then become less sensitive to it in a ‘familiarity-breeds-contempt’ reaction. This means that the glucose goes to fat stores, both visibly and around internal organs. This increases the risk of cardiac and circulatory problems, and of type 2 diabetes.
Insulin insensitivity also makes it much harder to lose body fat.
A bit of hunger means that your body releases less insulin. This means you should become more sensitive to it again, and that will direct the glucose to the right places. It also offsets the health risks of insulin insensitivity.
If you train ‘fasted’, your body is encouraged to take the glucose from your body fat stores. The fasted state is also thought to boost production of human growth hormone and testosterone, in both sexes. Both of these have been shown to increase muscle and reduce body fat.
Try a workout on an empty stomach – you may like the results!
the problem with me is that if I get hungry I really need to eat quickly or I end up with stomach ache. So it's knowing how long to leave hunger before 'attending to it'!
I also don't like training after meals, I often just want to doze off! The insulin effect is interesting so that's a definite incentive. Every little helps!
Hate training with food in stomach. Much prefer early morning, really getting in to those reserves when on an empty session with HIIT.
I only ever train before eating (ie when hungry). Don't think it helps digestion
I often run in the mornings before breakfast - I am guessing this counts!