Intermittent Fasting And Your Exercise Routine
June 14, 2019
I've been reading a bit more on the Intermittent Fasting (IF) regimen again. It's not a completely new idea, but it has been getting a lot more play in the news and social media. There’s also a lot of research and reports about how to make IF work — especially if you’re planning to exercise while doing it.
Intermittent Fasting involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating. There have been many studies that show this can cause weight loss, improve metabolic health, protect against disease and perhaps help you live longer.
What is (IF)?
IF is a concept that doesn't focus on which foods to eat, but rather when you should eat them. No food is allowed during the fasting period, but you can drink water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages.
There are several different intermittent fasting methods, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and fasting periods. Most people already "fast" every day, while they sleep. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as extending that fast a little longer. You can do this by skipping breakfast, eating your first meal at noon and your last meal at 8 pm. Then you're technically fasting for 16 hours every day, and restricting your eating to an 8-hour eating window. This is the most popular form of intermittent fasting, known as the 16/8 method.
What Happens When You Fast?
All sorts of processes in the body change when we don't eat for a while, in order to allow our bodies to thrive during a period of famine. It has to do with hormones, genes and important cellular repair processes.
When fasted, we get significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as a drastic increase in human growth hormone .
Many people do intermittent fasting in order to lose weight, as it is a very simple and effective way to restrict calories and burn fat .
Others do it for the metabolic health benefits, as it can improve various different risk factors and health markers. And others do it for religious reasons.
Other people simply like the convenience of intermittent fasting. It is an effective "life hack" that makes your life simpler, while improving your health at the same time. The fewer meals you need to plan for, the simpler your life will be.
Is It Good To Fast And Exercise?
Some research shows that exercising while fasting affects muscle biochemistry and metabolism that’s linked to insulin sensitivity and the steady control of blood sugar levels. Research also supports eating and immediately exercising before digestion or absorption occurs. This is particularly important for anyone with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
An upside while fasting is that your stored carbohydrates — known as glycogen — are most likely depleted, so you’ll be burning more fat to fuel your workout. Though, studies on this are small and countered by studies saying that you don’t burn more fat when you work out on an empty stomach.
It's also possible that your body will start breaking down muscle to use protein for fuel. Plus, you’re more susceptible to hitting the wall, which means you’ll have less energy and not be able to work out as hard or perform as well.
Some Tips to Exercise and Fast Safely
- Eat Close to Your Workout: Timing a meal close to a moderate- or high-intensity workout is key. This way your body has some glycogen stores to tap into to fuel your workout.
- Stay Hydrated: Fasting doesn’t mean to remove water. In fact, you should drink more water while fasting.
- Maintain Electrolytes: A good source of this comes from coconut water. It's low in calories, tastes pretty good and avoids sugars found in other sport drinks.
- Listen to Your Body: If you start to feel dizzy or light-headed. Stop! Chances are you’re experiencing low blood sugar or are dehydrated. Get some electrolytes and carbs into your body.