Secret weapon: running on an empty stomach

11. April 2018

One thing is for sure: once you have discovered how liberating and refreshing it can be to ease yourself into your day with a run, you will love this feeling, regardless of whether it is the non plus ultra of training techniques or simply a very ordinary continuous run.

But first things first: when you get up in the morning, your glycogen stores are no longer completely full, and your insulin level is low. According to theory, if you train in this state, then your metabolism won’t run in “carbohydrate mode” but the body will increasingly use fat as fuel and thus train its lipid metabolism. In endurance sports, the following applies: the more economical the lipid metabolism function, the more careful the use of carbohydrate reserves. In order to be able to perform for as long as possible during long units and / or competitions, it makes sense to train the body’s lipid metabolism. This is also the view of competitive athletes. For instance, the Kenyan top runners always complete their first run of the day on an empty stomach before breakfast.

However, this fat burning theory requires that you observe the following: the body can only get energy from your fat reserves if enough oxygen is available. In other words: running on an empty stomach should be done at a tempo that is relaxed enough to talk without any problems. Those who run too fast will increasingly rely on their carbohydrate reserves. Another point: lipid metabolism training generally has nothing to do with losing weight. Although you burn a higher percentage of fat when running at a moderate tempo than when doing intensive training units, in absolute terms you burn less, however, because intensive training units require far more energy than slower ones. The most important points for running on an empty stomach:





  • A talking tempo with a heart rate of ±120 is sufficient, as the oxygen shower not only refreshes your body but also your spirit.  
  • Don’t do any interval training or tempo runs. After getting up, many still feel stiff and immobile, so taking a relaxed approach to your run on an empty stomach is therefore obligatory. Starting to run too intensively when your muscles are cold can lead to injury. And your tendons, ligaments and joints should also be somewhat sedately prepared for the day.


  • Run in the morning, before breakfast, right after you get up. Take a sip of water or tea, but then put on your running shoes and off you go! If you first need to kick-start your circulatory system with a coffee - then go for it!
  • The last meal should be eaten at least 6-8 hours beforehand.
  • If it is still dark - don’t forget your headlamp!


  • Those who have not (yet) run on an empty stomach should pace themselves and perhaps first start with 20 minutes. Gradually familiarise yourself with it and observe how your circulatory system copes. 
  • Depending on your condition and performance in terms of health, you can increase your run to 40-60 minutes. And those who have enough time and are used to running on an empty stomach can also take up to two hours to complete their LSD (Long Slow Distance) run. But make sure you take carbohydrate-rich emergency provisions with you in the event of an imminent hunger knock.


  • Right from your front door if possible. Don’t get into your car first, as this will only unnecessarily complicate your start and take up time.
  • Running on an empty stomach can be done anywhere, even when you’re on holiday. All you need are the right clothes and shoes. Have you ever seen the Eiffel Tower, Broadway, or the Copacabana at half past five in the morning? When you run on an empty stomach you get to know your surroundings in a completely new way, particularly at dawn. Choose a circuit that corresponds with your time frame. 


  • Yes, of course, always, even in bad weather. Or even more so, because then really only the hardened runners are outside. And breakfast tastes just that little bit better after running in bad weather!


  • Every morning, everyone has 24 hours at their disposal until the next morning - you too! There is no such thing as no time!


  • Running on an empty stomach is not only great for the body and soul, but it is also used by many as a running training medium. It should therefore not be practiced exclusively. Running on an empty stomach not only serves to relax but provides a new training stimulus and brings variety into your everyday training. It is best combined with other running training units at different times of the day. 




Conclusion: running on an empty stomach not only triggers new physical adaptation processes in the body, but also exerts a particular fascination as regards experience. Early in the morning, the air is measurably better than the evening, your schedule is still uncluttered, you’re still full of beans, your batteries are full, and your creativity is high. You'll see: the best ideas come to you early in the morning, you can structure the upcoming day, and are thus one step ahead of everyone else, and not just in terms of sport.

Once you’ve tried running on an empty stomach, you’ll never want to give it up. And the best thing about it: after a run on an empty stomach, the recommended health motto “breakfast like a king” applies twofold!