Whether we can cycling to work on an empty stomach?

Posted by tan xiao yan on

Whether cardio on an empty stomach does harm to the health is a commonly debated fitness topic. Some people think fast cardio is more effective to burn fat while others believe without eating, it will lead to poor performance and limit fat loss as well. And cycling is also one of the cardio. Does cycling for an hour before breakfast is bad for our health? If you are confused about the above question, I hope after reading this passage you will be more clear.

Cycling on an Empty Stomach Burns More Fat During exercise

Carbs and fats are two fuel sources which are used to produce energy for muscle contraction during exercise. When you are cycling at a moderate intensity, you obtain 50-60% energy you need from glycogen( which is stored energy from carbs) and the rest of energy comes from fats.

When you consume stored glycogen by fasted overnight, or going several hours without refueling, fatty acids in the mitochodria break down to be used as a secondary energy source. As exercise intensity increases, your reliance on carbohydrates increases correspondingly.

Here are an experiment made by experts to show you the fat burning effect of cardio on an empty stomach--six healthy men cycled for an hour at a moderate intensity.

Group 1: Fasted overnight before cycling.

Group 2: Ingest 0.8g/kg of glucose or fructose to replenish glycogen level 1 hour before the the cycling.

Results: After 20-30 minutes of exercise, the rate of fat burn was higher in the group 1 than the glucose or fructose group. This trend continued in the process of an-hour exercise. It is also worth mentioning that a higher quantity of FFAs (Free flowing fatty acids) is available in the blood in a fasted state throughout the exercise.

This test suggested that more fat was burned by the group on an empty stomach when performed moderate activity during the exercise.

But the research also shows that cycling on the empty stomach cardio does not expectedly burn more total fat. The truth is: it’s not so fast. Have you ever notice that “moderate” is emphasized in the example above? Research shows that people who burn fat in the process of their exercise actually burn less fat the rest of the day. Overtime, fat burning is not an brief process, instead, it occurs over the course of a few days, not just a few hours. This is because your body will burn more fat afer workout as you burn more carbohydrates during the exercise. This “afterburn effect” allows your metabolism elevates for several hours or days following your workout. This is important when debating the benefits of fasted cardio.

Although you may burn more fat during your exercise on an empty stomach, your overall cardio intensity may decline. The ability of your body to burn fat after exercise is compromised. Considering a whole day period and cardio on an empty stomach is less productive.

Researches from Italy found the opposite result on whether training in a fasting condition benefits in weight loss. 8 healthy young men who did early morning cardio were divided into two groups. They were similar to the test I just said above. Of course, one group ate nothing before the workout. And the other refueling their body by eating. Eating enhances both oxygen consumption (VO2)and respiratory exchange ratio greatly. So the group which had eaten all had higher VO2.

The group which ate before the workout continued to burn more calories up to 24 hours after exercise. The author said that when moderate exercise was done to decrease body fat, fasting before exercise does not boost lipid utilization( which means fat loss), rather, workout after a light meal is more favorable.

whether we can cycling to work on an empty stomach

High Intensity Cardio on an Empty Stomach Can Make You Stressed Out.

Intense exercise will approach your maximum effort. As I said in the beginning of the passage,most of your energy comes from glycogen. If you deplete your glycogen stores, your energy output will compromise. As glycogen stores in the muscles and liver are consumed, and the level of blood glucose begins to fall, fatigue, dizziness, lack of coordination and lack of concentration may occur. Fat can’t be depleted fast enough to support the higher speed, so inevitably you will slow down and even stop.

Research and studies are still going on, there are a few certainties. Steady state fasted cardio could burn more fat during your exercise, but your post-workout fat burn will compromise. When doing high intensity cardio, glycogen levels need to be stored to attain optimal performance and results. If you are unable to keep enough energy levels on an empty stomach, your exercise will suffer.

Always choose energy and food before anything else

Even when you have no time to eat breakfast, grab a protein shake, piece of fruit, or handful of trail mix, to help your body wake up and power your workout.

Since we have done talking about the benefit and something needed to be aware of when cycling on an empty stomach. Here are also two tips for those people who want to lose weight.


You can add intervals during your workout to help burn extra fat and calories. Do micro intervals to increase weight loss without burning you out. Begin with a short warming up at a slower speed and then gradually increase your pace to a moderate state. Increase your normal speed to a sprint for 20-30 seconds. Then return to your normal speed. Finish with a slow pace to cool down.


I believe it’s quite understandable that cycling at a slope will add resistance to your workout and help you burn more fat. When you are riding outdoors, choose a terrain which contains lots of hills. Make the slope challenging so that you can fell your annoying fat burning and get the wonderful fat-melting effects, but make sure your ride is short since you are riding without refueling up after waking up.

Now I have done talking about whether we can riding on ana empty stomach. But I also want to remind you that bring some some little things with you to avoid lack of energy. The aftermath of lack of energy is quite terrible, since I have said that in the previous passage, I don’t want to retell it again here. The health condition varies from people to people, so you shouldn’t risk your life even I say cycling on an empty stomach is good for calories burning when you are uncomfortable. So if your body can endure cycling without fueling up, then you can go on. But if you can’t, you had better eat breakfast before cycling for the sake of yourself.