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Is It OK to Work Out First Thing in the Morning on an Empty Stomach?

working out on an empty stomach
Is working out on an empty stomach a good idea? Learn about the pros and cons and how you can improve your exercise performance

Many people recommend exercising first thing in the morning before eating breakfast, also known as fasted cardio. But is it safe?

The theory is that exercising in a fasted state can help you lose weight because the body feeds on stored fat and carbohydrates instead of the food you just ate, thus leading to more fat loss.

However, research has shown that exercising on an empty stomach may not be ideal:

  • Exercising on an empty stomach could make the body use protein as fuel, and protein is needed to build and repair muscles.
  • Using fat as energy does not particularly mean it is going to decrease overall body fat percentage or burn more calories. 
  • Working out in a fasted state can result in decreased stamina and low blood sugar levels, which can cause lightheadedness, nausea, and fatigue

Of course, exercising in the morning is a great way to start the day. But eating a light snack such as an apple beforehand may give you more energy and the boost you need for an effective workout.

What foods can improve exercise performance?

Eating a balanced diet can help you enhance your exercise performance:

  • Whole, nutritious, natural foods
  • Healthy carbs, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes
  • Healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocados
  • Protein from lean meats, eggs, fish, or low-fat dairy products
  • Nuts, seeds, and sprouts

If you do eat before exercising, make sure that you:

  • Choose something that is easy to digest
  • Eat 2-3 hours before vigorous physical activity
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after

What are the best exercises to do in the morning?

Cardio or aerobic exercises

Cardio exercise uses the large muscles of the body over a sustained period, keeping the heart rate at about 50% of its maximum level. With regular aerobic exercises, you can develop a stronger cardiovascular system, with more oxygen delivery to the muscle cells. For maximum benefits, cardio should be done at least 3 days a week.


Walking briskly for just 20-30 minutes a day can help you reach the minimum recommended weekly amount of 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise. Walking lowers the risk of heart disease and obesity while also minimizing wear and tear on the body. It can also help you burn about 300-500 calories an hour, helping you shed extra pounds, build healthy bones, and improve heart health. When walking, wear quality shoes to reduce strain on the joints.


Swimming is a fun and relaxing way to burn calories and boost overall health. A 30-minute swimming session can help you burn about 150-250 calories, build strength and stamina, increase metabolic rate, and combat stress.

Strength training

Muscles play a crucial role in keeping your body healthy and in shape. Strong muscles can help you burn calories even when resting and may also help manage diabetes and obesity. Strength training workouts prevent muscle wasting, which occurs when muscles are no longer actively involved in burning calories and building strength.


Yoga focuses on bringing your mind and body into harmony. It combines physical poses with breathing control, relaxation, and concentration techniques. Yoga helps improve flexibility, fight stress, promote sleep, boost immunity, manage weight and build strength.


Push-ups help strengthen muscles in the arms, shoulders, and chest and also engage the abs and lower back. This basic exercise can be done anywhere and doesn't require special equipment, making it a great option if you don’t or can’t go to the gym.

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