Should you workout when hungry…intentionally?

In my daily routine:

  • I’m usually sitting at my desk by 6:30-7:00am
  • Have my morning smoothie, 500 calories, by 8:00am…sometimes stretching it out a bit
  • and in good shape for a workout by 10:00am ‘ish…if I get deeper into the day, it becomes progressively more difficult to get the workout in, particularly after the west coast wakes up at 9:00am, noon eastern.

But the morning sometimes doesn’t work out that way, and that 10:00 target, sometimes can stretch into 10:30, or 11:00, and I’m sometimes caught in a decision of whether I should have something else to eat before the workout.

Traditional views have promoted the idea of carbs before, during and after exercise to make sure you have enough energy for the workout, and recovery after.

Matt Fitzgerald wrote an interesting article (and other references in reading that I’ve done) entitled “Boost Your Fitness By Intentionally Under-Fueling”, that says in part:

Recent studies indicate that while consuming carbohydrate during exercise does enhance immediate performance, it can also inhibit some of the body’s beneficial adaptations to training. By contrast, exercising in a carbohydrate-depleted state, which makes workouts tougher for the body, stimulates a stronger fitness-boosting physiological response.

In a 2010 study, researchers from McMaster University showed that, compared to exercise in a state of normal carbohydrate fueling, exercise in a carbohydrate-depleted state might increase the capacity of the muscle cells to burn fuels aerobically by boosting the production of mitochondria. The mitochondria are tiny organelles within muscle cells where aerobic metabolism occurs. Increased mitochondrial density is one of the most important performance-enhancing effects of aerobic exercise.

Other research has shown that exercise in a carbohydrate-depleted state is beneficial in another way. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is an immune system agent and large amounts of it are released into the bloodstream by the muscles and the brain during exercise.  IL-6 is believed to facilitate many of the body’s post-workout fitness gains, ranging from increased fat burning capacity to greater resistance to muscle damage…The primary trigger for IL-6 release during exercise is glycogen (i.e. muscle carbohydrate) depletion.

Despite the findings of these studies, it would be overreaching to conclude that athletes should consistently avoid consuming carbohydrate during and immediately after workouts. While intentional under-fueling may have the benefit of boosting the body’s fitness response to workouts, there are other benefits that come from consuming carbohydrate during and after workouts—namely, better performance and faster recovery. So, until more research is performed to determine the optimal balance of normally fueled and carbohydrate-depleted workouts, it is probably best only to pick certain workouts to perform in a carbohydrate-depleted state, either by not taking in carbohydrate during them or by not taking in carbohydrate immediately afterward, or both.

Complete article is here:

On workouts under an hour, I’m typically just on water anyway…so that would fit the suggestion…and also thinking that if I’m a half hour later than I’d ideally like to be, that skipping anything extra to eat before the workout, particularly if it’s an under an hour workout…won’t hurt me, and in fact could be beneficial…that science experiment of one thing 🙂

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