Keep walking; you're doing your body good.

Does Walking on a Treadmill on an Empty Stomach Harm You?

by Nicole Vulcan

You want to get the exercise your body needs -- but the only time you have for that task is a time when your stomach is empty. If you're worried that exercising on an empty stomach is going to do damage to your health, let that idea go. Exercising in the fasted state may actually be better for you, especially if you have a goal to lose weight.

Fasted Exercise

Numerous studies have looked at the effects of exercising in a fasted state, including one published in the "International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism" in 2012. In the study, researchers found that exercising in a "fasted" -- another way to say the participants had empty stomachs -- state helped participants lower body weight as well as lowering their percentage of body fat. Participants who were in the "fed" state lost body weight but didn't lower their percentage of body fat.


If you're still not convinced that exercising on an empty stomach is fine, keep in mind that your body needs time to digest your food in order to use it for fuel for exercise. After your body processes the food you eat, the energy, in the form of fat and glycogen, is stored in your muscles, fat cells and liver. Your body usually has enough stored fuel to last you though 1 to 2 hours of intense exercise, or 3 to 4 hours of moderate exercise, reminds Because walking is considered a moderate-intensity exercise, you should have plenty of fuel for that treadmill workout.

How You Feel

Exercising in the fasted state is not without its concerns, however. If you start to feel dizzy, lightheaded or weak during your walk, slow down or stop. You don't want to bring on an episode of fainting, or risk getting hurt by falling on the treadmill. In some cases, your glycogen and fat stores may already be depleted due to other activities you've been doing throughout the day, meaning there isn't anything left for your workout. In short, listen to your body; it will give you signs that you're putting yourself at risk.

Fueling Tips

If you find that you're continually feeling sluggish but you don't have time to eat a full meal before your workout, consider other ways to give your body the fuel it needs. Drink a sports drink that will replenish your body's sugar and sodium. Also be sure you're drinking enough water -- but not too much -- as dehydration can also make you feel sluggish or reduce your athletic performance. Drink 17 to 20 ounces two to three hours before your walk, another 8 ounces about 30 minutes before and up to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during your workout, reminds the American Council on Exercise. If you're working out in the morning, eat an evening snack of carbohydrates and fat so you'll have some fuel stored for the morning. A granola bar or energy bar 30 minutes before your workout can also be a big help.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images