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Fasted Vs. Fed Workouts: Which is Better for Women?

Want to burn more fat and build more muscle, and you aren’t sure if you should be hitting the gym empty stomach or a full one? Read the article below for detailed information.

Luna Morin
Fasted Vs. Fed Workouts: Which is Better for Women?
Table Of Contents

A fasted workout is, simply put, a workout done while in a fasted state. This means you have not eaten anything for some time (usually around 5-6 hours) before working out. Proponents of fasted workouts claim they are more effective at burning fat and promoting weight loss.

The theory is that when you exercise in a fasted state, your body is forced to burn stored fat for energy instead of the carbs you would have otherwise burned if you had eaten before working out.

Others believe that it's actually counterproductive, as you won't have access to quick energy and may end up burning muscle instead of fat. Yet another theory revolves around a different pattern of fat oxidation in female bodies.

So, what's what when it comes to fed and fasted workouts, and which one works better for women? Here is the explanation:

Benefits of Fasted Workouts

There are many benefits to working out on an empty stomach, also known as fasted exercise. We are listing the most outstanding ones here:

Improves Insulin Resistance

Fasted workouts are difficult, but your exhausted self is nothing compared to the amazing benefits you can reap from them. Top of the list benefit is that they may improve insulin resistance.

When we eat, our body breaks down the food into sugar and releases it into the bloodstream. Insulin is then released to help move the sugar out of the blood and into the cells, which can be used for energy.

Over time, this process can become less efficient, and the body becomes resistant to insulin. This can lead to diabetes and other health problems. However, exercise helps improve insulin resistance. Fasted workouts, in particular, seem to have a beneficial effect, perhaps because they force the body to use stored sugar for energy.

Fasted workouts may be perfect for those suffering from Type 2 diabetes; however, consulting the physician is important before starting any exercise routine.

Accelerates Fat Burning Process

When you haven't eaten in a while or have no carbs in your system to get energy from, your body naturally turns to the stored fat for fuel. This is how you lose fat in the absence of food or carbs.

So, when you work out on an empty stomach, you signal your body to use some of that stored fat every day, and that's one reason why you'll have burned more fat and sculpted into shape faster when working out before feeding yourself in the morning.

Increases HGH (Human Growth Hormone)

Studies have shown that fasted workouts can increase human growth hormone levels (HGH). HGH is a hormone that plays a critical role in growth and development, and it has been shown to have several anti-aging benefits. For example, it can help to reduce body fat, build muscle mass, and improve skin elasticity.

Improves Gut Health

Working out on an empty stomach has plenty of benefits - not only does it wake you up and get your metabolism going, but research shows that it can actually improve gut health. That's right - according to a recent study, fasting before exercise can help reduce inflammation in the gut, which is a major cause of gastrointestinal problems.

In the study, participants who worked out after fasting overnight showed significantly lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who ate before working out. So, if you're looking for a way to improve your gut health, try hitting the gym on an empty stomach. Who knows - you might just enjoy the results.

When Shouldn't You Work Out in a Fasted State?

Fasted workouts have some awesome benefits, but they definitely aren't for all. You'd do better staying away from fasted workouts in certain times or situations.

First, stay clear of a fasted workout if you're doing a high-intensity workout. Why? Because HIIT requires quite a lot of energy for your body to sustain the speed and intensity. Carbs are your body's main energy source, and when you're fasting, your body won't have enough carbohydrates available for energy, which can lead to fatigue.

Additionally, if you're working out for more than an hour, you may start to break down muscle for energy, and no one wants that whether or not you are trying to build more muscle. So, eating something beforehand is best if you're doing a long or intense workout.

And finally, if you're already lean and trying to lose that last bit of fat, fasting before your workout isn't for you. It could actually backfire by slowing down your metabolism and inherently putting a stop to any more fat burn.

These are the times you should make a point of gulping down something for energy before sweating in the gym.

What is a Fed Workout?

A fed workout is simply when your body is not low on its carbs stores, and there is enough to fuel your routine functions and athletic performance, strength training, or any kind of rigorous physical activity. This happens when you have eaten a few hours before your workout.

When you work out in a fed state, your body uses up the calories you consume. Since your stored energy is unused, you won't feel tired, lightheaded, or dizzy, meaning people tend to work out longer in a fed state.

Benefits of Fed Workouts

Let's take a closer look at the benefits of fed workouts:

1. Instant Energy to Power Your Strenuous Workouts

Fed workouts are the right option for weightlifters and powerlifters whose exhaustion level can't stand an empty stomach. You need instant energy for those deadlifts and bench presses, and only carbs can fulfill this need. With an empty stomach, powerlifting can make you dizzy and tired, adversely affecting your performance.

Going empty stomach to those weight stands is your ticket to low performance. Give your body what it needs, and it will return the favor in the form of high performance.

2. Perfect for Fitness Enthusiasts

Fueling yourself with energy before hitting the gym is the right thing to do when you are working out for a healthy lifestyle in a general capacity. Stay fed on your workouts to avoid feeling drained if you aren't trying to accelerate fat burning or improve insulin resistance.

That being said, it depends on personal preferences too. Some people lack energy when working out on an empty stomach, while others do not. If you feel a comfortable empty stomach, go ahead. Alternatively, you can boost your energy with a healthy snack before burning calories in a workout.

What to Eat While in a Fed State?

Fasted workouts have their value for workout performance and fat loss, but endurance and muscle building usually calls for fed workouts because of the reasons mentioned in the article.

In a fed state, you must ensure your body gets enough carbs for intense physical activity like powerlifting, bodybuilding, marathons, etc. Glycogen is the body's fuel during exercise and comes from carbs. So, carb loading is necessary for those embarking on endurance workouts where huge energy reserves will be depleted. Carb loading increases your glycogen levels, ensuring sustained energy during prolonged intense activities.

While carbs are essential for endurance athletes, Protein and fats are also important for muscle growth. Studies suggest protein intake and carbs boost muscle protein synthesis, help speed up muscle growth (because Protein is muscle's food), increase lean mass, accelerate muscle recovery, and strengthen muscles.

In prolonged activities, your body will switch to burning fat and protein for energy when glycogen reserves are depleted. Adding some healthy fat and protein options is important when you plan to go for prolonged intense workouts. You can use a whey protein powder for a quick energy boost with a yummy twist if you are a busy bee.

So, taking care of macros is essential when on fed workouts. Being fed is not about having your tank full. It's about having the right ingredients in energy reserves to support your choice of workout.

Fasted or Fed - Which One's for Women?

So, coming to the point now, which one is better for women? If we ask this question at this point, we assume female bodies are differently programmed when it comes to energy production, distribution, and consumption.

In the article above, we discussed how, in the absence of glycogen or energy from carbs, the body taps into deposited fat for fuel, leading to fat oxidation, also known as fat burning. But, if you are a female, this isn't true for your body.

Female bodies are biologically programmed to hold onto their fat reserves too tightly. A female body doesn't let go of its fat layers because it reads fat as an emergency nutrient that rushes when needed.

Why do women need emergency nutrients and men don't? Aren't they both humans just the same? Right, but women are the producers. Their bodies are naturally designed and programmed to give birth and sustain a human being for nine long months. Female bodies crave and consume energy to keep themselves ready for reproduction at any time.

Female bodies save their fat reserves because they are used to feed, nurture and protect the fetus at all costs. So, female bodies behave differently regarding safeguarding and oxidizing fat.

In short, if you are a female and plan to embark on a fed workout for fat burning, think twice. Science says you are more likely to burn lean mass for energy in the absence of glycogen and not the reserved fat because your body isn't going to let go of the fat layers so easily.

According to Dr. Stacy Sims, Some female athletes have hormonal responses to low-energy states that can cascade. Cortisol, the stress hormone, increases in concentration with relentless running leading to potential problems with amenorrhea and other reproductive health issues.

Hormone disturbances can also make you tired, cause stress fractures, and (strangely enough) lead to weight gain from a slower metabolism. And your body's ability to recover and adapt may also slow down. For example, a 2010 study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that markers for muscle adaptation responded better in female athletes who were not fasting, while male athletes responded more favorably to fasting.

So, keeping science in view, we suggest women choose fed workouts if they do not want to lose muscle mass. Plan weight loss with calorie deficit programs and moderate exercises instead of going for fasted workouts.

Yet, there is room for personal preferences. You can try a few things yourself and see if they suit you. Many women athletes experiment with fed and fasted workouts and have come up with customized routines for themselves that suit their bodies better than any generalized formula.


1. Should women do fasted workouts?

The simple answer is no. Because female bodies oxidize fat differently from that of males, so, you won't necessarily be losing fat layers if you are hitting the gym empty stomach. Instead, female hormonal balance can go haywire, causing many issues like fatigue, slow recovery, bone, and joint aches, etc., as a result of prolonged fasted workouts.

2. Does working out while fasting burns more fat?

Fasted workouts are thought to accelerate fat burn or oxidation in the body as it starts to burn fat for fuel without glycogen. (Glycogen- energy from carbs, is absent in a fasted state)

3. Why doesn’t fasted cardio work?

Because with accelerated fat burn comes the burning of protein muscles as the body uses them up to fulfill energy needs on longer runs. When fasting, no food proteins are available, and your body turns to your muscle proteins. This is one reason why fasted cardio doesn't work.

The Bottom Line

So, which is better - fed or fasted workouts? It honestly depends on the person and what type of workout they're doing. If you want to improve your performance, you should experiment with both workouts and see which works better. Remember, there's no wrong answer here - just choose the type of workout that helps you maximize your performance. Thanks for reading!

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Luna Morin

Luna is a freelance writer, passionate about bringing a positive change in people’s lives by producing well-researched content related to health and fitness. She makes sure that her content is relatable to her audience by exploring the latest trends in fitness.

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