A lot of gym buffs say that pre-workout supplements should be taken after your pre-workout meal (you should be doing that, by the way) and right before your actual workout. This way, or so the story goes, the vitamins and minerals of the supplement start releasing while you’re pumping iron, giving you more strength to lift heavier weights and ultimately get swole faster. In fact, some bodybuilders believe that taking it on an empty stomach, just like taking other medicines, will render your pre-workout null and void.
Science, however, says otherwise.
In recent studies, sports scientists and nutrionists are discovering that, not only is taking your pre-workout on an empty stomach safe, it might actually be even better for you and your workout. But first…
Are Pre-Workout Supplements Necessary?
Cavemen and Ancient Spartans didn’t have these fancy pre-workout supplements, so why should you? Well, first of all, they kind of did. Secondly, a good pre-workout supplement not only gives you a boost of energy throughout your workout, it also provides you with the right minerals and amino acids to help your muscles recover.
The exact formulation of pre-workout supplements depends on the brand, but usually, they’re designed to turn your athletic abilities up to 11 and increase performance through safe and natural means, meaning that these supplements don’t usually have steroids or any other weird, unnecessary chemicals. Rather, pre-workouts are usually made up of a holistic blend of amino acids, vitamins, organic compounds, and minerals that act on your body temporarily. These short bursts of positive vibes almost always help in giving you just that much strength to push yourself to another set, or to run that extra mile.
It does this by acting on your nervous system and your muscles, with the vitamins and minerals facilitating better transmission of neurons while enhancing muscular strength and power. Most pre-workout supplements also have compounds to help your mind focus, so that you’re not distracted in the middle of your intense sets.
When’s the Best Time to Take Pre-Workout Supplements?
When it comes to taking pre-workout supplements, timing is just as important as the kind of minerals you’re ingesting. If you want to maximize the potential of your supplements, you’ll need to take the right kind at the right time.
Like we said, the exact formulation of pre-workout supplements differs per brand, from ingredients and ratios to strength and efficacy. Regardless of brand, however, pre-workout supplements will often have an immediate effect on your body.
Again, different brands of supplements will recommend different dosage times, but in general, it’s best to take them 15 to 30 minutes before working out, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine-based supplements.
Can I Take Pre-Workouts On an Empty Stomach?
First and foremost, the term ‘empty stomach’ can mean different things to different people, but in general, a stomach can be ‘empty’ if a person hasn’t eaten in the last 2 hours or so. However, more often than not, when people say ‘empty stomach’, they usually mean an overnight fast.
Some people, though, worry that taking pre-workout on an empty stomach might cause negative side-effects, but, in fact, it’s the exact opposite: taking a pre-workout on an empty stomach actually has a lot of benefits as compared to taking it right after you’ve eaten, including, but not limited to:
Quicker Absorption of Nutrients
The less food you have in your stomach, the faster your body can absorb the pre-workout supplements. On an empty stomach, your digestive system will pretty much digest the first thing that it comes into contact with.
If the first thing it encounters is pre-workout supplements, it will digest it immediately, which means your body will start feeling the effects of the pre-workout supplements a little faster than if you had food in your belly.
Increased Blood Flow to Muscles
Digesting food takes up a lot of energy, not to mention blood flow. On a full stomach, your digestive system is busy breaking down the food you’ve just eaten, which means less blood flow to your muscles while you’re lifting.
Taking pre-workouts on an empty stomach means that you’re getting your much needed dose of energy, vitamins, and minerals, but without taxing your body with the task of digestion, which means more blood flow to your muscles, which means more power and strength in your lifts.
Pre-workout Supplements on an Empty Stomach: Side Effects
Pre-workout supplements are designed to give you the right kind of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to maximize your workouts. This means that pretty much everything inside a pre-workout supplement is good for you, regardless of when you take it, whether it’s on a full or empty stomach.
That being said, some people do suffer from minor side effects when they take their pre-workout supplements on an empty stomach. While the side effects are minor, and sometimes ignorable, it’s still worth mentioning:
Low Blood Sugar Levels
For people who suffer from chronic low blood sugar levels, like hypoglycemia, fasting before a workout might not be the best idea. Of course, this doesn’t have anything to do with pre-workout supplements per se; however, some people who attempt to maximize their supplements without taking into account their blood sugar levels might suffer from a lack of energy.
Having a pre-workout snack is a good way to avoid low blood sugar levels before a workout, especially if you’re going for anything high intensity or cardio heavy. While this might mean that you absorb your pre-workout supplements a little slower, you won’t have to worry about your blood sugar crashing in the middle of a heavy lift.
Irritation of the Digestive Track
Most pre-workout supplements have a variety of stimulants, including caffeine, in their formulation. This is designed to give you a boost of energy in your workouts. That being said, caffeine and other stimulants have been known to increase stomach acid production in your digestive system. If you have a sensitive digestive track, this could irritate the linings in your stomach and give you discomfort.
Fasting also produces an excess amount of acid in your stomach, and while, again, this has less to do with pre-workout supplements on an empty stomach and more about fasting in general, if you have a sensitive tummy, it might be better for you to have a light pre-workout snack before taking your supplements.
So Can You Take Pre-workout Supplements on an Empty Stomach?
Short answer: Yes. Taking a pre-workout supplement on an empty stomach shouldn’t have too many negative side effects, and in fact, might even be better for you. Of course, if you have existing conditions regarding your digestive system, you might want to snack on something before taking your pre-workout supplements, but overall, it’s pretty safe.