Is it better to train fasted, or eat before you exercise? The answer may surprise you!
Regardless of whether you are competing for your 50th marathon, lifting weights, circuit training, or just beginning an exercise, all of us can agree that our bodies require fuel to move. That fuel comes in the form of the food that we eat, and if we leave the tank empty for too long, we know we won’t have the energy to effectively engage in exercise.
Or so we thought.
There has been lots of inquiry into the benefits of intermittent fasting in recent years, which is simply restricting the times you allow yourself to eat during the course of a 24 hour period. (This is a topic we have even covered here on the blog.) The most common way people begin to implement fasting into their regimen is the 16/8 rule. For 16 hours of the day, you consume no calories, while your eating window is only 8 hours.
Intermittent fasting does not necessarily speak to how much you eat during those 8 hours, or necessarily what, the strategy is simply about when you eat.
Some of the research about what happens during that fasted state is promising, and some of the benefits of fasting include:
- improved insulin levels
- raised levels of HGH
- increase in resting metabolism and more energy
- increase in autophagy, or the recycling of old or worn out cells
All of these are important aspects of health. Ultimately, intermittent fasting might help people control weight, reduce the risk of diabetes, and be an excellent anti-aging modality. Intermittent fasting is an excellent strategy to add in tandem to your Kaufmann Diet, which is concerned primarily about what you eat, not when. Together though, these might be a powerful, health promoting strategy.
But does fasting interfere with exercise?
Not so, according to recent research.
It seems intuitive that if you are going to exercise, you need an immediate source of energy in the form of blood sugar, but training in a fasted state might actually confer some benefits, particularly if you are trying to burn fat. As your liver depletes it’s levels of glycogen, your body taps into its fat reserves in order to fuel itself. Our levels of glycogen are lowest in a fasted state.
According to an article in The Guardian, “The reasoning behind fasted training is that it further enhances the mitochondrial adaptations that occur as a result of aerobic training. This improves the body’s ability to use fat as a fuel source during exercise, sparing muscle glycogen for when it is most needed…” So on a cellular level, training fasted might be a good way to better our body’s ability to burn fat for fuel.
If you are not used to training fasted but are curious about the benefits, it might be best to ease into it. While training fasted won’t hurt you, some people can get lightheaded or feel lethargic. If you know yourself to be one of these people, stick to doing what works for you. If you still want to incorporate intermittent fasting into your regimen, simply structure your feeding periods around your workouts.
For others, especially those trying to burn fat, training fasted may be one more tool available to you on your journey for better health that better enables you to burn fat. In tandem with the Kaufmann Diet, these are powerful tools that will no doubt yield extraordinary results.