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Can you take pre-workout on an empty stomach?Updated 4 months ago

As humans, we're always looking for a new or better way to gain a slight edge and improve. When it comes to making sure you get the best workout, it’s no different.

In fact, pre-workouts were invented in 1982 for this reason: to take our workout performance to the next level. While it depends on which one you take, pre-workouts can help quite a bit!

Now, pre-workouts today are much more effective than they once were. Even so, to take it to the next level, people have found ways to make them feel the effects faster and stronger.

By this I mean many people have opted-in to taking their pre-workout on an empty stomach. This leaves many people wondering … Is it okay to do this, or is it not smart?

That’s a good question, and It’s exactly what I’m going to cover with you today. To give you a hint, there are pros and cons to this.

So really, you have to weigh your options, but I’ll help you make the best decision. Before I get into that, I’m sure there are some of you who don’t know too much about what a pre-workout is.

Let’s start there.

WHAT IS A PRE-WORKOUT?

A pre-workout is a supplement designed to boost performance and/or give you energy to work out.

There are several different ways a pre-workout supplement can enhance performance. Some of them you can actually feel, and some are helping in the background.

The cool thing is, that there are many different benefits of different pre-workout supplements. Let's start with the most obvious benefit that most pre-workouts bring to the table...

PRE-WORKOUTS CAN PROVIDE ENERGY

Many pre-workout supplements will have stimulants like caffeine in them to give you a surge in energy. There are oftentimes other stimulants too like dynamine, theacrine, and theobromine to name a few.

These all provide energy in different ways and for longer or shorter durations. The reason for this is because more energy can help you push yourself harder.

The harder you push yourself, the better results you have the potential to gain. It’s also very enjoyable to have a lot of energy. I definitely don’t know a single person who couldn’t use a boost of energy!

A lot of people may not even go to the gym if they don’t have it. So for some, pre-workout may be the only thing that makes them feel like they have the energy to exercise.

Obviously, people can exercise without pre-workout. However, some people just don’t have the willpower to go on days when their energy is low.

PRE-WORKOUTS CAN HAVE INGREDIENTS TO IMPROVE PUMP

“Pump” is a term used to describe the swelling in your muscles you can get during a workout. This comes from drawing more water, nutrients, and blood to your muscles.

Pre-workout supplements can increase the likelihood of getting a pump, and the intensity of the pump you get. I know what some of you are probably thinking...

“Why would you want to increase swelling? Isn’t swelling a bad thing?”

When you get injured or are sick, yes. But for those who lift weights regularly, it can actually be a good thing. Heck, glycerol for instance, which helps give you a pump, can actually help increase muscular power (1).

Some studies also show that getting a pump can enhance your ability to build muscle (2). The science isn’t totally clear on why it might help you build muscle, but the results don’t lie.

Whether it’s because getting a pump helps you focus on contracting your muscles harder, or because more nutrients are getting to the muscle … getting a pump in the gym may help enhance your results.

Most traditional weight lifters would agree that the pump is something they want. Myself included.

When you get a pump, your muscles look and feel bigger. It only lasts temporarily, but that won’t stop people from chasing it.

Some of the more common ingredients that do this are l-citrulline and glycerol.

PRE-WORKOUTS CAN HELP ENHANCE FOCUS

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but some pre-workouts will include nootropic ingredients to keep you focused on the workout.

The more dialed in and focused you are, the more motivation you can potentially have. Being focused is something we all want in different aspects of our lives.

We want to be focused and not distracted when doing pretty much anything. A workout is no different, and many people look for this benefit in their pre-workout.

PRE-WORKOUTS CAN OFFER A BOOST IN PERFORMANCE

When I say performance I’m referring to increased strength, power, and endurance. Performing better in your workouts will only help you see better results.

If you think about it, better performance technically yields better results in return.

There are a handful of ingredients that can help your body lift more weight, do it faster, and go for longer. I don’t really see a downside to boosting any of these performance aspects. There's a reason they’re highly sought after in pre-workout supplements.

A few of the popular ingredients I’m talking about are creatine, beta-alanine, and betaine. However, there are several other ingredients in pre-workouts that can help with this as well.

CAN YOU TAKE PRE-WORKOUT ON AN EMPTY STOMACH?

The simple answer is yes, you can take pre-workout on an empty stomach. There are benefits and drawbacks to it, and like anything else, there is a trade-off.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of drinking your pre-workout on an empty stomach.

BENEFITS OF DRINKING PRE-WORKOUT ON AN EMPTY STOMACH

Taking pre-workout on an empty stomach does have its benefits. For one, you don’t have to take the time to eat a meal beforehand. This may have been obvious, but it’s worth mentioning!

The extra convenience can be really nice if you’re in a time crunch. If you wake up early and barely have enough time to work out, you probably want to get to the gym and get going ASAP.

I’ve been in this position before, and it worked very well for me when I needed to do it. Also, because you don’t have food in your stomach, you feel the effects a little more and a little faster too. This is likely the main reason why some people like taking pre-workout on an empty stomach.

When you have food in your stomach, and then add pre-workout, it absorbs slower ... and it won’t get into your system as quickly. So drinking it on an empty stomach can help with this.

After eating, you may want to wait 20-30 minutes before going to the gym after taking your pre-workout. With an empty stomach, you could likely drink your pre-workout on the way to the gym. Within 10-15 minutes, you’ll be feeling the effects!

Here’s another angle though…

If you have a high tolerance to caffeine, you may be able to feel the pre-workout effects more on an empty stomach. This is for the same reason; you don’t have food in your stomach to slow down the absorption of the ingredients.

So the benefits of taking pre-workout on an empty stomach mostly have to do with two things. They are the timing of your workout, and how quickly you want to feel the effects.

BENEFITS OF EATING BEFORE YOU TAKE PRE-WORKOUT

There are definitely benefits to eating before you take pre-workout as well.

For one, when you work out, you need energy. I’m not just talking about the energy you get from caffeine either. You need the type of energy your muscles use during workouts.

Carbohydrates are the preferred source of fuel during workouts. So, if you eat something with carbs, and preferably protein too, you have more fuel for your workout.

If your goal is to get results, having more energy can give you the boost you need to get them. Without fuel for your workout, you could burn through your energy more quickly.

That’s definitely not ideal.

If your goal is fat loss, you can work out with more intensity which will help you burn more calories. If your goal is building muscle, you can potentially achieve more volume in your workouts and see better results.

Another benefit of eating first has to do with your caffeine tolerance. If you are very sensitive to caffeine, taking pre-workout with some food in your belly could help.

The food would likely slow the absorption of the caffeine and it may not hit you as hard. This is ideal if caffeine is too powerful for you to handle.

You could also look into a lower caffeinated pre-workout as well though.

DOWNSIDES OF DRINKING PRE-WORKOUT ON AN EMPTY STOMACH

The downsides to taking pre-workout on an empty stomach aren’t significant, but there are some. These downsides are pretty much the opposite of the benefits you get when you eat first.

For example, you may run low on energy during your workout.

As I mentioned before, you need real energy from food to workout. Unless your muscles are already at capacity with carbs, your workout won’t be as good as it could be.

If you’ve ever had a workout where you felt like you couldn’t push as hard as you normally would, this could be the reason. No matter how much caffeine is in your pre-workout, it won’t make up for a lack of real energy.

At the same time, drinking pre-workout on an empty stomach could upset your stomach.

Some people do get some GI upset due to the ingredients in pre-workout supplements. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but for those that do, it’s more likely to happen on an empty stomach.

You may get less of a pump from your workout as well.

If your goal is to get a big pump, you may be limiting it by not eating before taking your pre-workout.

Carbs literally fill out your muscles, and they do play a role in giving you a bigger muscle pump. Carbs also pull water into your muscles, and this helps the muscles to swell when you get a lot of blood flow to them.

So, not eating before taking a pre-workout is not the best idea if you want a good pump. You can still get one, but it likely won't be as good as it could be.

BEST PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS

Depending on your goals, there are different types of pre-workouts to choose from. Let’s cover some of them.

ALL-IN-ONE PRE-WORKOUTS

All-in-one pre-workouts are blends that contain a wide variety of ingredients to boost every aspect of your workout possible.

By this, I mean you’ll be getting ingredients to help with pump, focus, energy, endurance, strength, power, and more.

At 1st Phorm, we offer Project-1 as our all-in-one pre-workout. Trust me when I say the flavors are incredible and the performance boost is even better!

All-in-one pre-workouts like Project-1 can be great for weight resistance training. For hybrid athletes or endurance athletes, you may consider other options though.

As great as the increased pump and blood flow can be, It could also slow you down if you’re training more for endurance. This is when you may want to consider a more versatile pre-workout.

VERSATILE PRE-WORKOUTS

If you’re looking for a pre-workout that can give you energy and help you perform for virtually any activity ... that’s when I’d encourage looking into a more versatile pre-workout.

Typically, these pre-workouts have the most desired ingredients like caffeine and a few nootropics for focus. On top of that, some of them can contain ingredients to help with endurance like beta-alanine. Some will even have vitamins and minerals to encourage proper hydration.

For the most part, though, these pre-workouts are often formulated to give you the energy boost you need and some good flavor. One benefit to this is that they are normally a better bargain when it comes to price per serving.

This is exactly what we had in mind when we formulated Megawatt. Megawatt is a versatile pre-workout you can take for just about any exercise session.

While it doesn’t give you all the benefits you’d get with a more complete, all-in-one pre-workout, it can still help give you the energy and focus to perform.

NON-STIMULANT PRE-WORKOUTS

For anyone looking for a good pre-workout with no caffeine, you’re in luck. Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of pre-workouts that don’t contain any stimulants.

In this category, you can even find pre-workouts that focus on a specific benefit. There are non-stimulant pre-workouts for pump, power and strength, endurance, and even combinations of these different benefits.

If you are looking for a pre-workout to give you a pump without caffeine, check out Alphasurge. It has an awesome blend that can help increase blood flow and water retention to the muscle to give you the best pump you’ve ever had.

It also has some nootropics to give you a better sense of focus too.

If you want to boost performance with no caffeine, check out Endura-Formance. Increased strength, power, and endurance is the name of the game with this one, and it does it very well!

Both of these pre-workouts can be taken together to give you an awesome workout. These are both ideal for you if you like to work out at night, or just don’t like the energy boost from caffeine.

SHOULD I TAKE PRE-WORKOUT ON AN EMPTY STOMACH?

Pre-workout supplements are very popular and can give you better workouts.

You can take them on an empty stomach if you want, or not. It’s up to you. Personally, if you want to maximize your performance for your workout, I recommend eating first.

You’ll have better and more intense workouts that way. If you are in a time crunch though, taking pre-workout on an empty stomach is a perfectly okay option.

Regardless of when you take your pre-workout, making sure you take the right pre-workout for you is important.

If you have any questions on which pre-workout is the best one for you and your goals, we’ve got you! Reach out to our NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches with any questions you may have.

You can reach us any day of the week from 6 AM - 10 PM at 1-800-409-9732. You can also send us an email anytime at [email protected] and we’ll get you taken care of right away!

REFERENCES:

(1) Patlar S, Yalçin H, Boyali E. The effect of glycerol supplements on aerobic and anaerobic performance of athletes and sedentary subjects. J Hum Kinet. 2012 Oct;34:69-79. doi: 10.2478/v10078-012-0065-x. Epub 2012 Oct 23. PMID: 23487412; PMCID: PMC3590833.

(2) Schoenfeld, Brad J. PhD, CSCS, CSPS, NSCA-CPT1; Contreras, Bret MA2. The Muscle Pump: Potential Mechanisms and Applications for Enhancing Hypertrophic Adaptations. Strength and Conditioning Journal 36(3):p 21-25, June 2014. | DOI: 10.1097/SSC.0000000000000021


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