Trainer Tip: Does Working Out on an Empty Stomach Burn More Fat?

This is a question I have heard many times throughout my career in the in the fitness industry, especially lately!

First, the facts. Exercising on an empty stomach is working out on what researchers call “low glycogen stores.” This simply means that your muscles are depleted of their immediate fuel sources— glycogen and glucose (sugars)—in body cells and in the bloodstream. (A recent study published in Exercise and Sports Science Reviews sheds much light on this issue.)

There is more than one way to work out on “low glycogen stores”. If you choose to work out on an empty stomach shortly after you wake up in the morning, and if this is safe and tolerable for you, that is one approach. Many of my strongest clients tell me they can’t eat before exercise because they get nauseated. The opposite is true for other clients. Most have tried both. What works best depends on the individual.

Another way work out on a low sugar supply is to do aerobic conditioning—such as our HIIT, Zumba, or Triple Fat Burn classes or other cardio exercise such as walking, jogging, or elliptical training—AFTER your strength training/resistance-based workout. This will deplete glycogen stores in the muscle temporarily so that, when you begin your cardio conditioning, you will burn fat.

If either one of these methods results in an inappropriate level of intensity for your workout or impedes your performance in any way, then working out on low glycogen stores is not for you. But there are other ways to increase fat-burning! Stay tuned…

Tomorrow: Using Diet Supplements to Burn Fat

Trainer Tip by Sandra Ferrerio, certified Live Rite weight loss coach, trainer, and class instructor at Lucille Roberts in Yonkers. Read her full bio here.

Lucille Roberts Staff


  1. Interesting info Sandy. I have worked out w/ and w/out eating. Only got nausea once from eating something that was a little to heavy. I usually eat an apple n have some green tea prior to wrkin out. Gives me a lot of energy! But glad u hit on this topic. Felt a little guilty working out on an empty stomach. Lol But def get my carbs n protein within the hr after working out.

    • Dear Debbie,
      It is NOT for everyone, working out on Low Glycogen stores does burn more fat. There are two choices,after strength training is one. My experience is the supplement of choice for you matters.Green tea will cause nausea in and of itself. This is probably the problem.I use green tea with my shake AFTER work out in the morning. The supplement of choice, if not contrainicated, by your doctor, would be Pounds Away before, a LiveRite whey protein shake after! Check out our recipes.This is what I do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *