Nothing beats getting up early in the morning and, before anything else, hitting the gym to get your daily workout out of the way and off your mind.
Bada-bing! – the most strenuous part of your day is finished.
It’s all smooth sailing from here on out.
Except, of course, that anyone responsible enough to commit to such a laborious early-morning workout routine is likely also responsible enough to consider whether or not chugging a pre-workout supplement first thing in the morning, in lieu of a hearty nutritious breakfast, is a smart move.
Does taking a pre-workout on an empty stomach maximize the absorption and, therefore, the bioavailability of the pre-workout formula’s ingredients, or are there downsides to taking a pre-workout without a meal—say, on the digestive system?
This is a great question.
However, before answering whether it’s good or bad to take pre-workout on an empty stomach, we need to first ask ourselves: is it even okay to exercise on an empty stomach?
Let’s get to it.
Should I Workout on an Empty Stomach?
Few people exercise, and even fewer people actually enjoy exercising. And of those few, only a select few psychopaths like to exercise on an empty stomach.
Many people like the “idea” of exercising on an empty stomach, but when it comes to practicing the idea, it’s a completely different story.
But there’s solid reasoning underlying this idea, which didn’t occur spontaneously out of thin air...
...In fact, exercising on an empty stomach, especially for the purposes of burning excess fat, makes intuitive sense: with zero food caloric energy available, the body turns to stored fat to energize high-intensity exercise activity.
- Research suggests that exercising on an empty stomach first thing in the morning (i.e., in an overnight-fasted state) for healthy, young men may “enhance training-induced adaptations in skeletal muscle metabolic profile, and mitigate against the negative consequences of short-term excess energy intake on glucose tolerance compared with exercising in the fed-state.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that exercising on an empty stomach is good for everyone. Or that exercising on an empty stomach in the morning provides similar benefits to exercising on an empty stomach in the evening.
In cases of cardiometabolic complications, pre-exercise feeding may even be necessary to mitigate any potential metabolic issues.
However, in general, fasted training in the morning, with most of the fast occurring overnight (during sleep), seems ideal for incurring the fat-burning benefits of fasted training without totally bottoming out, energy-wise, during exercise.
Related Post: Should You Take Pre-Workout Before Cardio?
Is Taking a Pre-Workout on an Empty Stomach Good or Bad?
Exercising on an empty stomach, or fasted training, can be an effective strategy to maximize exercise-related calorie-burning. But this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its downsides, such as heightened muscle catabolism (protein breakdown) and general lethargy.
Of course, eating prior to working out could mitigate many of these downsides… but that’d defeat the entire purpose of the whole empty stomach thing.
This is what makes pre-workout supplements so appealing to those committed to fasted training or intermittent fasting—or both.
By enhancing exercise performance and protecting anabolic muscle and strength gains without breaking the benefits of one’s fast, a natural pre-workout supplement may help you get the most out of your fasted training.
But this isn’t the case for all pre-workout supplements.
Virtually all well-known pre-workout supplements offer something that assists with performance, yet many of them also come laden with artificial additives and sweeteners known to cause gastric distress, especially when taken on an empty stomach.
Below, we cover some pre-workout ingredients that are okay to take on an empty stomach, as well as the best all-in-one zero-calorie pre-workout formula, Performance Lab® Pre, that works particularly well for working out on an empty stomach.
Avoid Artificial Additives and Sneaky Synthetics
Though artificial, zero-calorie sweeteners found in many pre-workout powder formulas are considered safe and well-tolerated, many artificial sweeteners and synthetic additives may negatively alter the gut microbiome and pose significant metabolic disturbances that gradually impair one’s health and fitness.
If you’re looking for a pre-workout supplement that’s safe to take on an empty stomach and that may assist with performance during fasted training, look for a synthetic-free formula without any artificial sweeteners and additives. See our Best Pre-Workout Without Artificial Sweeteners article for more info.
This is obviously difficult to achieve with any powder pre-workout supplement, which is why pre-workout capsules seem to be superior to powder form stacks.
Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Training on an Empty Stomach
Not all pre-workout supplements and ingredients are great on an empty stomach, as many exercisers have found out the hard way.
Fortunately, with this list, you can find out the easy way which pre-workout ingredients to look for, if you’re looking to take up “fasted training” as part of your daily health and fitness routine.
Taken individually or altogether, the best pre-workout supplements for training on an empty stomach include the following:
L-Citrulline + L-Glutathione
Healthy circulation is key to the sacred “muscle pump.”
And nitric oxide (NO) production is key to healthy circulation, which is why the L-Citrulline + L-Glutathione combination is so popular among athletes, bodybuilders, and exercisers.
By promoting synthesis of NO, a signaling compound that relaxes blood vessels and boosts blood flow, L-citrulline acutely enhances one’s muscle strength and power.
Only one problem: despite being a superior option to NO-boosting L-arginine supplements, L-citrulline may still be limited by poor oral bioavailability and, thus, have questionable effectiveness.
This is why L-citrulline is paired with L-glutathione, one of the body’s most important and potent antioxidants that seems to assist with L-citrulline’s bioavailability.
- In one study on the combined effects of L-citrulline and L-glutathione supplementation on nitric oxide synthesis, a group of researchers observed that combining “L-citrulline and GSH [glutathione] augments increases in nitrite and NOx levels during in vitro and in vivo”
Without breaking your fast, L-citrulline + L-glutathione may help support NO activity beyond what L-citrulline (or L-arginine) alone supplementation can accomplish, improving your workout power and lean muscle mass growth.
Best L-Citrulline + L-Glutathione Supplement: Setria® Performance Blend
The Setria® Performance Blend combines Setria® glutathione with Kyowa Quality® citrulline, two premium forms of these performance enhancers that help enhance muscle performance and growth.
By protecting muscle tissues against cell-damaging oxidative stress (per L-glutathione) and supporting greater muscle output while maintaining muscle efficiency (per L-citrulline), the Setria® Performance Blend is one of the best pre-workout supplements in general, fasting or not.
An organic compound highly concentrated in muscle tissue, where its stored as fuel for ATP energy production, creatine encompasses a natural, non-stimulatory method of boosting workout strength, energy, and overall performance.
Even though creatine doesn’t provide the immediate “feel good” stimulatory advantages of, say, caffeine or synephrine, there’s a good reason why many opt for creatine in their pre-workouts: creatine works noticeably and reliably well.
In fact, few natural ergogenic aids work as well as creatine. Though the compound needs to accumulate in muscle tissue to deliver its benefits, meaning you’ll need to wait a few days to truly notice the effects of this compound, creatine helps support training intensity, muscle growth, and recovery by:
- Replenishing ATP energy levels depleted during high-intensity exercise for prolonged exercise endurance and performance.
- Stimulating insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) to promote lean muscle growth, development, and recovery.
- Buffering lactic acid within muscle tissue to help extend time of muscle exertion to failure for enhanced workout endurance.
With low energy being a risk of fasted training, supplementing creatine and pre-workout may help elevate your general ATP-producing capacity for an all-around boost on exercise health and fitness.
Best Creatine Supplement: Creapure® pH10 Creatine
Standard creatine can be distressing to the gastric system. Creapure® pH10, on the other hand, is a 99.5% pure creatine monohydrate that is pH-balanced to boost bioavailability and mitigate typical bloating and gastric distress issues associated with creatine. If you’re looking to take pre-workout creatine on an empty stomach, look for Creapure® pH10.
BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)
Protein and essential amino acids are great for promoting lean muscle mass growth. But, specifically, the aminos to look for are Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), a class of essential proteinogenic amino acids believed to stimulate protein synthesis while protecting muscle tissue against the catabolic (protein diminishing) effects of exercise.
Taken either pre-workout or intra-workout (during exercise), BCAAs rapidly absorb into muscle tissues to provide a wide range of performance-enhancing benefits:[9-11]
- Prolonging workout energy and endurance
- Blocking fatigue-inducing neurotransmitters
- Stimulating insulin for enhanced amino acid uptake
- Promoting growth hormone and protein synthesis
- Preserving lean muscle mass while reducing soreness
Because of BCAAs’ effect on insulin, many people recommend not taking BCAAs while intermittent fasting, or at least during the “fasted” portion of intermittent fasting. However, BCAAs seem particularly advantageous for promoting and protecting lean muscle mass during fasted training, which should occur during the transition between one’s “fasting” and “feeding” states anyways.
Best BCAA Supplements: Ajipure® and NutriGenesis®
Many BCAA supplements use incorrect BCAA ratios, overemphasizing L-leucine (the most anabolic BCAA) in their formulas, and supply hard-to-absorb ingredient forms. Ajipure® and NutriGenesis® respectively deliver clean, bioavailable BCAAs using patented, eco-friendly Ferment-A-Pure technology and bioavailability-enhancing natural cofactors, such as probiotics, fibers, antioxidants, and enzymes. Look for Ajipure® and NutriGenesis® BCAAs supplied in a muscle-optimized 2:1:1 ratio of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine.
MCT Oil (Medium-Chain Triglycerides)
If you’re intermittent fasting or fasted training or keto dieting, or doing all three, MCT oil is a must-have supplement. A key source of beneficial fats, MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil is a type of performance-fueling category of fats found in coconut oil.
For fasted training, the key advantage in taking pre-workout MCT oil is in the oil’s fasting-friendly supply of brain and body energy. Few foods offer such a fast-acting energy fuel source that not only doesn’t interfere with fat burning but may even promote additional weight loss.
The four medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are:
- C6 – Caproic Acid
- C8 – Caprylic Acid
- C10 – Capric Acid
- C12 – Lauric Acid
Though all possess significant health advantages, the two preferred MCTs to look for are C8 (caprylic acid) and C10 (capric acid), which efficiently convert into ketones to promote nutritional ketosis and fuel brain energy in the absence of food glucose energy, while also optimizing mitochondrial power production.
HMB (β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate)
A popular pre-workout supplement among bodybuilders, HMB (β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate) is a muscle-sparing metabolite of L-leucine, the most anabolic amino of the BCAAs. While HMB doesn’t directly stimulate fat loss, this natural compound helps protect muscle tissue against the catabolic effects of fasted exercise, essentially encouraging the body to use stored fat as exercise energy fuel—not muscle protein.
This is key for succeeding at fasted training. In conjunction with high-intensity training on a calorie-deficient (i.e., empty stomach), HMB helps foster an anabolic muscle metabolism in support of a strong, lean body composition.
- In one study on the effects of HMB supplementation on the body composition of highly-trained combat sports athletes, a group of researchers found that “supplying HMB promotes advantageous changes in body composition and stimulates an increase in aerobic and anaerobic capacity in combat sports athletes.”
If you’re exercising on an empty stomach to simultaneously increase lean muscle mass and burn off excess fat, HMB can be a powerful game-changing tool.
Performance Lab® Pre
Stim-free and 100% all-natural, Performance Lab® Pre is a unique “beast mode in a bottle” pre-workout formula.
Designed to supercharge muscle strength and stamina, cognitive intensity, and anabolic growth - without cheaply resorting to caffeine megadoses or synthetic ingredients.
Whereas the standard pre-workout formula uses low-grade ingredients and artificially sweetened powders, Performance Lab® Pre supplies premium, potent performance boosters...
...In clean, plant-based NutriCaps® capsules, making this not only one of the most effective pre-workout stacks you can buy but also the safest.
With a diverse mix of all-natural, premium performance enhancers, Performance Lab® Pre benefits exercise performance by:
- Saturating muscle tissue with ATP energy delivered by way of a reasonably dosed, bioavailability-enhanced Creapure® pH10 creatine.
- Elevating nitric oxide (NO) production to support unimpeded blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to hard-working tissues.
- Buffering lactic acid accumulation within muscle tissues to both extend time of muscle exertion to failure and protect against the catabolic effects of exercise.
- Replenishing electrolyte levels depleted by sweat-related mineral loss to ensure healthier, anabolic hydration levels during and after high-intensity training.
This combination of bio-benefits encourages an overall boost on exerciser health and fitness, specifically in the areas of strength and stamina, energy and endurance.
Taken on an empty stomach 30 to 45 minutes prior to exercise, this zero-calorie formula helps prime and “pump” your muscle tissue during exercise without harming sensitive stomachs or diminishing your fasting results.
- Setria® Performance Blend: L-Citrulline + L-Glutathione, 2200mg
- Creapure® pH10 Creatine Monohydrate, 1250mg
- CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine, 800mg
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract (95% proanthocyanidins), 100mg
- Himalayan Pink Salt, 350mg
- NutriGenesis® Iron+,5mg
Powered by sports nutrition innovations, such as Setria®, Creapure®, CarnoSyn®, and NutriGenesis®, Performance Lab® Pre addresses a major concern with many inferior pre-workout formulas: weak ingredient forms.
If you’re going to take a pre-workout on an empty stomach, let alone work out on an empty stomach, you want to make sure you’re actually enjoying the nutrient absorption benefits of doing so. Unfortunately, many supplements that use cheap, inferior ingredient forms fail to fully absorb and deliver their performance-enhancing benefits.
Not so with Performance Lab® Pre. With a comprehensive range of all-natural, easy-to-absorb ingredients delivered in all-natural NutriCaps®, a patented capsule made out of fermented tapioca, Performance Lab® Pre ensures nothing stands in the way between you and this formula’s superior sports nutrition benefits.
For Maximum Results, Stack Performance Lab® Pre With…
As we’ve already covered, taking a pre-workout supplement on an empty stomach means exercising on an empty stomach, which can be difficult to consistently commit to over time. However, there are other supplements you can take with Performance Lab® Pre that not only assist with fasted training but work synergistically with Performance Lab® Pre’s all-natural formula.
To maximize your training results, stack Performance Lab® Pre with:
Performance Lab® BCAA
For an all-around boost on athletic power and performance, Performance Lab® BCAA supplies a muscle-optimized 2:1:1 ratio of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine in two premium forms: Ajipure® and NutriGenesis®.
It's our Best BCAA for Fasted Cardio for a reason.
Making up roughly one-third of the total protein found in muscle tissue, BCAAs play a key role in protein synthesis and anabolic muscle growth.
Taken either pre-workout or intra-workout (i.e., during exercise, Performance Lab® BCAA significantly helps bolster exercise performance and endurance while protecting against the catabolic muscle-diminishing effects of fasted exercise.
While many fitness enthusiasts reasonably worry that BCAAs counteract one’s fasting metabolism, research has found BCAA supplementation to be effective at not only enhancing muscle and strength gains during exercise but also at mitigating the potential downsides of exercising on an empty stomach.
Supplement Facts: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) 2:1:1 ratio of L-Leucine+ (Ajipure® and NutriGenesis®), L-Isoleucine+ (Ajipure® and NutriGenesis®), and L-Valine+ (Ajipure® and NutriGenesis®)
Get the Best Deal on Performance Lab® BCAA Here.
Performance Lab® MCT
For intermittent fasting and the keto diet, MCT oil is a must-have supplement. Supplying the world’s cleanest MCT oil, Performance Lab® MCT is the best MCT oil complement to Performance Lab® Pre that you can take first thing in the morning to fuel your brainpower without breaking your fat-burning fasting metabolism or prior to exercise for additional glucose-free energy fuel.
Whereas inferior MCT oil supplements typically supply GMO coconut-sourced medium-chain triglycerides that are hydrogenated and chemically processed with hexanes, often including gastric distressing C6 and C12 MCTs, Performance Lab® MCT provides the two best MCTs (C8 and C10) sourced from 100% organic coconuts.
Cold-extracted with hexane-free technology and 3X distilled for purity, Performance Lab® MCT’s C8 and C10 medium-chain triglycerides help acutely boost mind-body vitality prior to exercising on an empty stomach.
Supplement Facts: C8/C10 MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) Oil from 100% Organic Coconuts
Get the Best Deal on Performance Lab® MCT Here.
Final Word on Taking Pre-Workout Supplements on an Empty Stomach
The question of whether it’s good or bad to take a pre-workout on an empty stomach is largely dependent on the question of whether it’s good or bad to exercise on an empty stomach.
Some say no, others say yes—but...
Really, it depends on when you work out, as well as what your workout goals are.
If you’re employing “fasted training” (i.e., training on an empty stomach) as part of an intermittent fasting strategy, typically it’s best to work out first thing in the morning, aided by an all-natural, fasting-friendly pre-workout stack like Performance Lab® Pre.
Taken alone or combined with Performance Lab® BCAA and Performance Lab® MCT, Performance Lab® Pre is not only safe on the stomach (even empty stomachs) but it also primes and protects exercising muscle tissues for and against high-intensity exercise—both aerobic and anaerobic.
Devoid of stimulants, synthetics, or any illegal substances, Performance Lab® Pre is one of the cleanest, most effective pre-workout supplements available—safe for daily, long-term use.
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- Durkalec-Michalski K et al. The Effect of a 12-Week Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) Supplementation on Highly-Trained Combat Sports Athletes: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Study. Nutrients. 2017 Jul; 9(7): 753.