Last updated on November 15th, 2022 at 02:37 pm
I know for a fact that many of you are wondering whether you should eat before working your abs.
I’m sure you typically fuel your major workouts, especially when you’re hitting the largest muscle groups with the biggest exercises.
However, when it comes to working abs, should you be doing the same?
Will eating before an ab workout affect your training and play havoc with your digestive system?
Or should you treat working your abs the same as training any other muscle?
Allow me to explain what you need to know about eating and training abs.
Should I Eat Before Working Abs?
Whether you eat before working abs is a matter of personal preference. However, you should treat your abs the same as any other muscle group. Therefore, ensure you eat 1-2 hours before your ab workout. The time can be shorter or longer depending on the size of your meal. Once more, much the same as any other muscle group, your ab workouts will generally be better when fuelled through food. However, you can complete an ab workout fasted, but keep your workout to 30 minutes or less.
1. Food Timing is Everything
I’m never quite sure why most people look at training abs completely differently from the rest of the body.
By this I mean, the abs are a muscle group, and therefore should be trained in much the same way as other muscle groups.
Okay admittedly, your abs may respond better to different rep and set schemes than other muscles, but they are still a muscle group nonetheless.
So, whereas some people may perform 100s or even thousands of sit ups and crunches, they would never even consider doing the same when training chest or legs.
For me, the same principles that apply to your other muscle groups still apply when you train abs.
So, this means that you’ll need to hit certain rep schemes depending on whether you’re training for strength, hypertrophy, or muscular endurance.
Additionally, much the same as any other muscle group, your abs will respond better when they’ve had adequate rest and recovery, i.e. you shouldn’t train abs every single day.
Furthermore, you should also practice progressive overload when working abs, whether this means more reps, more sets, or more weight.
Plus, if you’re working your abs with the desired intensity then it makes sense to fuel your workout beforehand.
In other words, eating before a workout will help you to train with the right intensity and maintain your energy levels.
I think when it comes to ab training, many people are worried about how the digestive system may react if you’ve just eaten.
I mean, no-one particularly wants to perform ab exercises while they’re still full up from a large breakfast or dinner.
However, once more, the exact same can be said for any other muscle group.
So, while it’s perfectly fine to eat before an ab workout, you’ll need to time this in the same way that you would when you train any other muscle group.
If you’re eating a heavy meal then I would suggest waiting 2-3 hours before your ab workout.
You should be good to go 1-2 hours after a medium-sized meal.
And 30 minutes is more than enough following a light snack.
So, yes you can definitely eat before an ab workout, but just ensure that you leave adequate time for digestion.
I’ve actually previously discussed a hot topic, so discover what I have to saying about starving yourself to get abs.
2. Abs Still Need Fuel
This is something I’ve alluded to already, but to get the best out of your ab workout (or any workout for that matter) you would be better off eating beforehand.
Basically, irrespective of which body part you’re training you’ll always be able to perform at optimum levels once fed.
You’ll typically fuel your workouts from stored glycogen.
This is generally provided by the food that you eat, especially carbs.
However, let’s say you decide to train before you’ve eaten anything, then your stored glycogen will get used up much quicker.
This will generally leave you feeling fatigued and devoid of energy, or this is usually when your workout comes to an end.
Something else to consider is the type of ab exercises you’re going to perform.
I’ve already spoken about training your abs with the same intensity as other muscle groups.
So, when you’re properly fuelled you’ll have the energy to perform more difficult and intense exercises.
A prime example of this may involve weighted ab exercises or more advanced exercises.
You’ll quickly run out of energy if you’re performing weighted leg raises and Swiss ball pikes with roll out (see video below).
You should also be aware that training in a fasted state can increase your cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
And unfortunately, when it comes to exercise and the body, high cortisol levels can cause the body to breakdown muscle for energy.
So, you could in effect lose your toned, sexy, and athletic physique by consistently working out at high intensity in a fasted state.
Swiss Ball Pikes With Rollout
3. Fasted Abs Will Also Work
Okay, I don’t completely want to bash working out in a fasted state.
Plus, there are times that you can perform an effective ab workout without eating first.
However, as you’re now aware, you’ll need to be wary of your energy and cortisol levels.
So, in reality, if I was going to train abs (or any body part) without eating beforehand then I’d want to dial down the intensity somewhat.
Then again, I can still workout with maximum intensity, but then I’d want to keep my workout quite short.
Realistically, for most of us mere mortals, we wouldn’t want to workout for much longer than 30 minutes in a fasted state.
Once we start getting beyond the 45-minute mark then the “bad stuff” starts happening.
By this I mean that your cortisol levels will generally spike, plus you’ll have probably used up your stored glycogen.
Unfortunately, this can often lead you to simply go through the motions and not workout with the required intensity and efficiency.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I frequently train abs or other body parts before I’ve eaten anything.
Personally, I enjoy training first thing in the morning.
However, I always try to train with maximum intensity, but I’m also wary of keeping my workout short and sweet.
So, as you can see, eating before an ab workout is more a matter of personal preference.
However, I truly believe you should treat the abs the same as any other muscle group.
So, in my mind your workout will always be better when properly fuelled with food.
Simply ensure that you leave adequate time for digestion before hitting your ab workout.
With that being said, you can still train abs (or any other body part) in a fasted state.
But, you’d be better off keeping your workout to 30 minutes or under.
Unfortunately, any longer and you may find that your energy levels are quite low, plus your cortisol levels may have spiked.
Next, here’s what I have to say about doing cardio or abs first.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.