Pre-workout on an empty stomach is a very controversial topic. You wake up one day, and you want to hit the gym in the morning. There is no time to eat breakfast and wait a few hours until the food is digested to start exercising. Why not just take some pre-workout on an empty stomach and start lifting those weights?
Is it even healthy? What if the pre-workout messes up your digestion?
Pre-workout is an excellent supplement. It gets you going, charges you up, and maximizes the intensity of your workout. However, most people don’t exactly know when and how to take it to get the best gains!
In this article, we will discuss the topic of consuming a pre-workout on an empty stomach and some science to back it up.
Is It Safe To Take Pre-Workout On An Empty Stomach?
The general answer is yes. There is no scientific evidence that proves that pre-workout on an empty stomach causes any serious side effects. In fact, the absorption of the ingredients may occur faster if your stomach is empty. The absence of food in your digestive tract allows the ingredients to get absorbed more rapidly and effectively.
This means that the effects of pre-workout can come within 15-20 minutes before your training.
You’ll be in the zone, focused, and highly energetic.
But what happens if you take your pre-workout with something to eat? What’s the difference?
Taking Pre-Workout On A Fasted State vs Non-Fasted State
Another common question that is asked is which is better? taking pre-workout on an empty stomach or should you eat something?
Well, it really is up to you and what you prefer! However, if you do eat something, make sure it’s “light” food.
Things like nuts, yogurt, fruits etc are good for a pre workout snack. I like to eat some carbs as well approximately an hour before my workout to give me energy and fuel my muscles.
And, let me just state the obvious, do NOT eat a heavy meal just before a workout. In fact, it’s recommended that you have your heavy meals 2 – 3 hours before your workout.
So, what is the difference? Why does it matter if I am in a fasted or a non-fasted state when taking my pre-workout drink? Well, if you’re taking your pre-workout with something light to eat, the pre-workout will take longer to get into your system and start showing its effects. So, if you did have something to eat, take your pre workout 30 – 60 min before your workout.
However, if you’re taking your pre-workout on an empty stomach, you will notice the effects much quicker since the ingredients in the pre-workout will enter your bloodstream rapidly. Hence, in this case, taking your pre-workout supplement 15-20 min before your workout.
Related Reading: Why Isn’t My Pre Workout Working?
Some Common Ingredients In Pre-Workouts
A lot of the time we buy supplements without even reading what’s inside of them. And no matter how much brand recognition a supplement has, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is off good quality.
Fitness influencers on social media will promote supplements that they don’t even use or have very little knowledge off just for some extra cash. Hence, it’s important you do your own research to find what fits your preference.
Let’s have a look at it the key ingredients in pre-workout and the effects of them when taken on an empty stomach.
Most pre-workouts have caffeine! Or should I say a LOT of caffeine.
It enhances performance on a cognitive level, hence increasing your focus and energy levels to maximise the intensity of your workout. In fact, various studies showcase that caffeine has direct correlation with exercise performance.
But what happens if you take caffeine on an empty stomach? Well, your body will absorb it much faster, and you will feel the effects more quickly.
Research suggests that caffeine increases the production of stomach acid. For most people, caffeine on an empty stomach is fine however some people claim that it causes digestive issues.
So, my recommendation would be trial and error. If you find that pre-workout with excessive caffeine causes digestive issues, then have it with some light foods.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that helps decrease muscle fatigue, making your workouts more efficient and intense. May also help achieve a new PR!
Despite the amazing benefits of beta-alanine as a pre-workout supplement, it causes pins and needles (i.e., paraesthesia). According to studies, this effect is dose dependent. In other words, the more beta-alanine you take, the higher the risk and intensity of this side effect.
When you take beta-alanine on an empty stomach, paraesthesia may become more prevalent. Do not panic, though! This side effect is temporary and harmless.
With that said, if paraesthesia is messing with your performance, avoid taking beta-alanine-rich pre-workout on an empty stomach.
Learn everything there is to know about creatine by clicking here.
Creatine will help increase ATP production, providing you with the energy to perform your deadlifts, squats, and bench press at a greater intensity.
But should you take creatine on empty stomach? Well, I wouldn’t recommend it. Although there aren’t many claims of any serious consequences of taking creatine on an empty stomach, I take my creatine with some foods that are high in carbs. This is because carbs will increase your insulin which essentially helps drives creatine towards your muscles.
However, if you’re pre-workout contains creatine, you can definitely take it on an empty stomach.
Also note the amount of creatine you are taking. A lot of pre-workout supplements already contain 1-2 grams of creatine, so if you have a separate creatine supplement, make sure you measure how much creatine you’re consuming per day.
Taurine is a natural compound and is commonly known as a “conditional” amino acid since it helps during illness and stress. This ingredient helps heart and brain functions while also supports nerve growth.
It’s commonly found in foods such as meat, fish, and even eggs.
This compound helps with your heart and blood vessels. L-citrulline also helps increase nitric oxide levels, improving blood flow and lowering your blood pressure.
Like the other ingredients, taking this ingredient on an empty stomach may promote better and faster absorption.
Ultimately, it’s up to you. There is no research that proves any serious side-effects caused by taking pre-workout on an empty stomach. The major ingredients in pre-workout mentioned above have little to no impact if they are taken in a fasted or non-fasted state.
Problems Of Taking a Pre-Workout On An Empty Stomach
As we just mentioned, taking a pre-workout on an empty stomach is safe. However, you may develop some adverse health effects, including:
Low glucose levels can develop if you skip a meal and opt for a pre-workout. Not having enough glucose in your blood will make you feel dizzy, weak, confused, and nauseous.
This can easily be solved with a small snack before or after a pre-workout.
2. Digestive problems
Irritation of your stomach lining is uncommon after taking a pre-workout. However, it can still occur. The triggers of this irritation include the following ingredients:
- Artificial sweeteners
Therefore, if you already face digestive trouble after consuming caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and other stimulants, you should avoid taking a pre-workout on an empty stomach.
It all comes down to trial and error. Most people don’t get this issue however everyone is different.
3. Rate of Absorption
Some ingredients already cause some side effects when taken in high doses. Fortunately, the gastrointestinal tract will modulate their absorption and lowers their bioavailability. Lower concentrations in the bloodstream mean a reduced risk of side effects. In this case, food plays a crucial role in decreasing the amount of the ingredient that reaches your cells and the absorption rate.
When you take a pre-workout on an empty stomach, there is no food to lower the concentration of the active ingredient. As a result, your risk of side effects increases.
Also, be mindful and take controlled and measured amounts of pre-workout. Excessive consumption can lead to many side-effects since you’re taking large amounts of caffeine that is bad for both your physical and mental wellbeing.
Do Not Forget About Water!
We understand if you don’t want to eat breakfast before working out. However, do not compromise your hydration by forgetting about water.
Proper hydration is indispensable for good physical performance. On the other hand, dehydration can put a toll on your stamina and endurance. However, water alone may not be enough. You still need electrolytes. Luckily, you can get sodium and other important minerals from your pre-workout supplement.
A common question when taking pre-workout supplement is how much water do you need to drink when you take it? Well, in general, drink about 230ml to 300ml (8-10 oz) before you workout.
Also, keep yourself hydrated throughout your workout and after your workout.
What Is The Best Time To Take Your Pre-Workout Supplement?
This question might sound silly since a pre-workout should clearly be taken before a workout. However, if you take it just before your workout, it may not kick in while you are at the gym. Conversely, taking the supplement too early might be useless since you will miss out on its benefits.
As a rule of thumb, you should take a pre-workout 15–20 minutes before your exercise if you’re having it on an empty stomach. If you are having something light to eat, I would recommend taking it 30 – 60 min before your workout. This is enough time for the pre-workout to take action and remain active. However, read the label on the supplement as it will most likely give you clear instructions on how and when to take the pre-workout.
Before you take a pre-workout on an empty stomach, make sure to speak with your healthcare provider to ensure that these products are safe for you. This is especially important if you are taking any pharmacological drugs.
Bonus: The Pre-Workout Cycle
The biggest mistake people make is taking pre-workout on a daily basis thinking that it will give you the same benefits. However, unfortunately, that is not true! You see, caffeine is the main ingredient in most pre-workout supplements and one serving of pre-workout contains about 150mg to 300mg of caffeine.
If you take this much caffeine daily, you will start to build “caffeine tolerance”.
In other words, your body will adapt to the amount of caffeine, and you will need more to gain the same benefits. So, your every morning coffee won’t have any effects on you.
Now, the biggest mistake people make is that they increase their caffeine consumption to get the same effects as before. I mean we all want to have that lazar focus and increased energy, right? But let me make one thing clear. DO NOT keep increasing your caffeine consumption. Higher doses of caffeine are likely to cause headaches, anxiety, increased heartbeat, and other mental and physical issues.
Instead, what you want to do is perform a “pre-workout cycle”. This where you take some time off pre-workout just so your caffeine tolerance decreases so you can maximise the effects of pre-workout when you start taking it. During this cycle, I go a step further and completely stop my caffeine consumption for about two weeks. But that’s just me. You might need more or less time off caffeine.
As long as you don’t consume pre-workout on a daily basis and cycle of your pre-workout, you should still get that energy boost when you do take it. I wouldn’t recommend taking pre-workout more than 3 times a week.
Taking a pre-workout on an empty stomach is generally safe. In fact, it will absorb into your bloodstream rapidly giving you the effects much quicker. For some, this can cause digestive issues which is why I would recommend trial and error. After all, our bodies are different. However, for most people, pre-workout on an empty stomach is completely fine
Hopefully, this article managed to clear up some confusion about the safety of taking a pre-workout on an empty stomach.
As always, stay Fit & Healthy and I will see you guys’ next week!
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