The relationship between you and your empty stomach is complicated. From grocery shopping to having a conversation with your significant other, having an empty stomach will almost always make matters unbelievably worse. And don’t even try drinking alcohol without eating first, because we all know how it’ll end. While most have come to view an empty stomach as something to avoid at all times, in some situations, not having anything to eat can actually be a good thing. Here’s the rundown of activities that are actually best done on an empty stomach.
Now, this one may seem like a no-brainer, but many are actually not completely sure whether or not they should eat before their workout. Some may assume that exercising on an empty stomach is the better option simply for the reason of comfort, but it’s also a shared belief that exercising on an empty stomach will increase your appetite and cause you to overeat later on in the day.
According to Medical Daily, researchers from Northumbria University have found that exercisers who worked out on an empty stomach before breakfast not only didn’t eat more during the day but also burned more fat than people who worked out after eating. The study’s lead researcher Javier Gonzalez, explained why this was so in a press release:
"In order to lose body fat, we need to use more fat than we consume. Exercise increases the total amount of energy we expend, and a greater proportion of this energy comes from existing fat if the exercise is performed after an overnight fast.”
There is a slight catch, however. If your goal is performance-increasing and not simply staying slim, than it might be best to exercise before eating.
"I would expect a person wanting to improve their physical fitness to fall short of exercise performance for the sole reason of not being fueled to optimize their training session," founder and CEO of Diet Free Life, LLC, Robert Ferguson, told The Huffington Post.
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine published a study in 2006 after finding evidence that hunger helps students learn better. Well, to be more specific, it’s not hunger but the hormone produced by an empty stomach that stimulates the higher brain functions of spatial learning and memory development.
"Based on our observations in animal models, a practical recommendation could be that children may benefit from not overeating at breakfast in order to make the most out of their morning hours at school,” explained lead author of the study, Dr. Tamas L. Horvath, in the press release. The study even went on to link the rise in obesity to the fall in academic performance.
Digestion takes a lot of energy and blood, two things absolutely necessary for a man’s performance in bed. When a man eats a big meal, blood that he needs to produce an erection gets sent to the stomach instead, CBS reported. While sex on a full stomach isn’t impossible (as I’m sure most men have learned through experience,) scientifically speaking, your erection could be bigger and last longer with that little bit of extra blood.
A full stomach is likely to mess with a woman’s sex drive as well. It can leave her feeling bloated, immobile, and most definitely not sexy. It’s best to put off any late-night romance until well after dinner.
Not that I’m advocating for any form of gambling, but according to a recent study from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, if you must gamble, it's best to do it on an empty stomach. This is because hunger was found to be associated with advantageous decision-making.
In the study, researchers examined the counterintuitive hypothesis that being hungry would improve a person’s strategic decision-making skills. Results showed that participants with more hunger, or a greater appetite, were more advantageous in their choices compared to more satisfied participants. Hungry gamblers were better able to appreciate future big rewards. Also, interestingly enough, hungry gamblers were not more likely than satisfied gamblers to take bigger risks in order to get the object of their desire. “These studies for the first time provide evidence that hot states improve decision-making under uncertain conditions, challenging the conventional conception of the detrimental role of impulsivity in decision-making," wrote the study’s authors.
Take Certain Medicines
Some medication, such as tuberculosis drugs and Viagra, are best taken on an empty stomach. This is because food can prevent them from being fully absorbed into the body. Also, some foods such as grapefruit can actually increase the level of medication in your blood to sometimes dangerous levels. For these reasons, a pharmacist will sometimes ask you to take the medication one hour before meals or two hours after food with a full glass of water, according to the National Health Service of the UK.
According to the Official LA Fitness Blog, it’s best to go to bed with only enough in your stomach to keep hunger at bay. Sleeping requires little energy and so going to bed on a full stomach is likely to cause you to store the extra calories as fat rather than be used up as fuel. Along with being more likely to be converted to fat, too much food in your stomach before bed could cause digestive problems, the blog explained.
Stephanie Maxson, a senior clinical dietician at the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center told Time that a little late-night snacking isn’t likely to hurt your slumber, and in fact might even help it. Having a blood sugar level too low before you hit the sack can make a person feel more sluggish in the morning “and makes it more difficult to get out of bed,” Maxson said.