There’s a lot of talk about the benefits of fasting for health benefits, both longer term and intermittent fasting. When you fast, you are often lower in energy, especially if you’re doing a fast that’s a day or longer. That’s not necessarily true of intermittent fasting, which can be as simple as eating all your food in an eight-hour time frame and fasting the other sixteen hours. Should you skip your workout on those days when you’re fasting? There are reasons to believe that it isn’t necessary to give up all activity, as long as you follow some rules.
When you’re working out, your body uses the stored carbohydrates in the form of glycogen.
If you haven’t eaten in a while, you might have depleted those glycogen reserves. There’s a good and bad side to that. The body needs to find another energy source, which could be fat. Some studies show that the body burns more fat if you eat after working out, rather than before you do. However, there’s another source of energy the body might use and that’s protein, which means you’d lose more muscle tissue. The less muscle tissue you have, the slower your metabolism works and the less effective your workout will be.
If you’re intermittent fasting, schedule your workout to mesh with your fast.
Rather than risk a slower resting metabolic rate, it’s smarter to plan your workout to mesh with your fast. If you’re simply eating in an eight-hour window, workout after you’ve eaten, that’s especially true if you’re doing high intensity training. You’ll have the glycogen available that you need and keep your fire burning strong, while also reducing the risk that you’ll end up with low blood sugar levels.
If your fast is longer, stick with lower intensity workout while you’re doing it.
What’s a low intensity workout. For cardio, it’s one that you can talk while you’re working out. A walk, light jog or some easier exercises at the gym will keep your body moving without drawing too much energy. Your body will tell you if the exercise is too much. You’ll feel dizzy or light-headed during your workout. Remember, your body is already struggling from deprivation, you don’t want to add to the burden.
- A full meal right before a workout isn’t good either. If you’re headed for a workout, break your fast for the first meal of the day with a high protein style snack or light meal at least a half hour before you workout.
- Snack on protein throughout the day during your window when you eat. It helps build the muscles. Don’t forget a protein snack after a strength training workout. That’s when your muscles desperately need it for repair and growth. Don’t forget to hydrate frequently, either.
- You’ll probably find that eating snacks frequently during the window when you eat will help you feel better and have more energy. Make them a combination of protein and carbohydrates, like peanut butter and apples.
- Save a full meal for after a tough workout. It should be within a half hour of the workout. Make sure it includes at least 20 grams of protein to help boost your muscle maintenance.
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