I want to simplify this as much as possible and clarify that I'm not discussing what workouts to do but instead how your body fuels itself.
You've heard for years that the best way to lose fat weight is to workout as soon as you wake up. But why? Well one of the reasons is that your stomach is empty...so when your body needs fuel during that workout it will look first for any carbohydrates in the stomach to burn. If it can not find carbs, then it will go to the next "source" of fuel which is fat stored in your cells.
Now let's look at the other scenario. You workout right after breakfast. Now image that you just ate a big bowl of oatmeal with fruit. You stomach is full of carbohydrates. Now during that workout, your body is needing some fuel and it finds those carbs first so uses them first. How many carbs are in your stomach? Let's take a single serving of Oatmeal with fruit with an average of 57g of carbs. So you have 57g of carbs (of fuel potential) in your stomach that is waiting for you to burn.
So let's just use some numbers based on a 150lb woman. A one hour water aerobics workout would burn about 5-700 calories and it's research shows that your body can burn about 62g of carbs if they are available. So you eat that bowl of oatmeal and then head to your Aqua Class. You will work off that bowl of oatmeal during an hour of class plus a little more. Another example is if you Walk at a pace of 3mph you will burn about 30g of carbs so only about half of that bowl of oatmeal will be burned and the other half will be stored.
So what if you workout before breakfast (or between meals)? You stomach will be empty and will look for fuel for that workout. Not finding any carbohydrates first, your body will look for "stored fuel" which is stored fat. So instead of waiting to burn fat, your body will start using stored fat first.
This of course is simplifying the whole process and of course we haven't taken into account the amount of stored fat, or your age, or the activity being done but this gives you a simple look at how the food in your stomach, or lack thereof, effects your fat burning. Now of course if you have very low body fat and run for hours at a time, your body will need carbohydrate fuel because your body doesn't have enough stored fat to provide fuel. But that's another blog post for later.
So what if you need to eat something before working out otherwise you feel awful? Then eat a little protein and very minimal carbs. A few almonds or a few bites of grilled chicken are good. Coconut water or milk with a little non sweetened and plain whey protein is good...or just some unsweetened coconut water which gives you some natural electrolytes, and natural carbs but not enough to fill up your stomach.
Remember this: Your body will use carbs, then stored fat and then protein to fuel itself.
Teri Lang Patterson
Certified Fitness Instructor & Coach specializing in Aqua Power Training, Kickboxing, Weight Training & Yoga.
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