Intermittent Fasting & Working Out: Is it right for you?

intermittent fasting Oct 22, 2020

What is Intermittent fasting?

Many people call intermittent fasting a diet, but as we learned in my Intermittent Fasting 101 article, it is actually a pattern of eating or dieting for optimal success. It teaches you a lot, including how to listen to your body's hunger signals, and to follow a healthy pattern of eating. You are following a specific pattern each day, where you only eat during a shorter block of time, fasting for the rest of the day, except for having coffee, tea, and water. This pattern helps your body to burn food more quickly, so that there is more time for burning fat.

Here are some popular Intermittent Fasting protocols people like to turn to:

16:8 – This is a popular option, allowing you to eat for 8 hours, then fast for 16 hours. You try to do it as often as possible. It can be done every day of the week.

5:2 – The 5:2 diet requires you to eat how you normally would 5 days out of the week, then have 2 alternating days of the week where you fast for 24 hours. You can often have a low amount of calories on fasted days, up to 500-600 calories.

Warrior Diet – With the warrior diet, you go 24 hours between eating, having just one large meal at the end of every fasted day.

Eat-Stop-Eat/24-Hour – This is similar to 5:2, except you may only go 24 hours once a week. You also don’t have the calories, but a full fasting day with only water, coffee, or tea.

Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a growing topic in the health and weight loss communities, but why? Simply put – it works. Many people are discovering the long list of benefits to this form of fasting, and not just those looking to lose weight. While that is definitely one of the top advantages, you will find many other health benefits as well.

Intermittent Fasting is a Simpler Way to Lose Weight

Yo-yo dieting is not only not conducive to successful weight loss, but it can actually be harmful for your body. Too many changes in short periods of time can lead to many issue with digestion, weight gain, and abdominal pain, so you want to stick one method and keep with it. The reason why so many people are having success with intermittent fasting is because how simple it is. You just have to pick one method of intermittent fasting and stick with it, eating healthy and moderately during the eating periods, and fasting during the other hours of the day. It really doesn’t get much easier than that.

Intermittent Fasting Can Help With Blood Sugar Control

Moving beyond helping you to lose weight or burn fat, intermittent fasting it also efficient at controlling your blood sugar levels. When you do intermittent fasting over a prolonged period of time, and do it the right way, you can start increasing your insulin resistance and lowering your blood glucose levels naturally. When you do this, you just might help to treat your type 2 diabetes, or avoid diabetes if you were in the high-risk category.

Intermittent Fasting Can Increase Cognitive Function

There have been animal studies on intermittent fasting and how it can have a positive effect on your cognitive health, which helps to promote brain and memory health. You can actually reduce your risk for brain-related illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease with both a healthy diet, and diets like intermittent fasting. Studies were performed at the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute of Aging on this very subject.

Intermittent Fasting Promotes Healthy Eating

Since intermittent fasting takes away overeating and requires you to really be conscious when you do eat, it can help tremendously with your overall health. Nutritious foods provide so many amazing health benefits, for your weight, heart health, cholesterol, even your bones. With intermittent fasting, you try to have nutrient-dense foods during eating phases, so it can help you to learn to eat better overall.

Is it okay to workout while intermittent fasting?

This is the first question I often get when someone is considering intermittent fasting. You need fuel to work out and it seems like fasting will deplete your fuel stores. So you might think it’s best to skip your workout. However, If you schedule physical activity during your fasting periods, it can absolutely have a positive effect on your health.

Research shows that combining an intermittent fasting diet with a regular exercise routine can produce greater weight loss results than fasting alone.

Figuring out when to workout and the types of workouts to do while intermittent fasting is among the most commonly asked questions. In short, you can still do your regular workouts while intermittent fasting, it just might take a little tweaking as far as when you workout, including if you should do your regular routine while fasting or during the eating periods.

When you exercise during intermittent fasting, it can have a measurable physical impact. It will help you burn fat, and it will affect the way your body responds to insulin and other hormones. Exercise while fasting lowers your blood sugar, increases your human growth hormone levels, ramps up fat oxidation, and increases the amount of testosterone you produce.

If you exercise during your fast, you may see better results if your goal is fat loss. The physical changes that take place can increase your fat-burning ability and help you build lean muscle.

Can you build muscle while intermittent fasting?

The short answer is yes. But, if your goal is to specifically build muscle, intermittent fasting can make that challenging. Muscle growth requires an excess of calories and a high amount of protein. A challenge with intermittent fasting is attempting to get enough calories in a restricted eating window can make you feel like you’re constantly eating - which, in reality, isn't that fun. Further, if you’re not getting enough calories or macros, your workout performance can lag – meaning you’ll be less effective at building muscle and strength.

Trying to fit all your daily protein macros into one or two meals is not as effective as protein consumption out over a longer period. Ideally, you want to eat food containing at least 30-40 grams of high-quality protein every few hours to fuel long-term muscle growth.

How much weight can you lose while intermittent fasting?

The amount of weight you can lose through intermittent fasting depends on your starting weight, age, sex, medical history, type of food you eat, and other factors including your exercise or activity level.

When you combine intermittent fasting with healthy eating, you can experience healthy (and significant) weight loss. A systematic review of 40 studies published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology found intermittent fasting was effective for weight loss, with a typical loss of seven to eleven pounds over ten weeks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (and common sense), if you lose weight gradually and safely, you’ll be more successful at keeping it off. So, the average weight loss of 1/2 pound to 1 pound per week with intermittent fasting is safe and effective - and often very sustainable.

Intermittent Fasting and Exercise: Do Your Workouts Before Eating

Generally speaking, you want to try to schedule your workouts for shortly before you are going to start your eating phase. Of course, this may vary based on the type of workout you do and how long you fast for.

The intensity of your workouts can also be a huge factor. Some people who have intense full-body workout routines find that they need a boost in protein and carbohydrates prior to a workout. If this is the case, you may be someone who should test some workouts during your eating phase as well as test during your fasting phase. Then determine the best approach that works specifically for you.

Be Cautious With Longer Cardio and HIIT Workouts

If you decide to workout when you are fasting, be cautious with long cardio workouts. High-intensity cardio, like running or HIIT, may be a challenge when you haven’t been eating for a prolonged period of time, specifically if you do the 24-hour protocols. If you are doing a 16:8 split, then you want to do cardio after you have entered your eating period, at least allowing for a protein shake or something small and healthy before starting rigorous exercise.

Benefits of Fasted Workouts

There are quite a few reasons to try and schedule your workouts during fasted periods, as long as you feel good during those periods. They include:

Burning more fat – Intermittent fasting is already helping you to burn more fat, so why not increase it a little bit? You might be able to increase how much fat you burn just by doing your workouts while you are fasting. Eating most of your energy and nutrients in the post-exercise window can also help with muscle recovery and nutrient partitioning.

Helping with indigestion – Exercising while fasting can also help with digestion issues. Many people find that eating shortly before or after a workout makes it harder to digest, leading to a variety of stomach problems.

Decreasing hunger – Fasted periods can be hard to handle, especially if you are accustomed to eating every few hours. One great way to decrease the hunger pangs is to workout in the middle of the fasted stage. This helps prevent you from eating when you’re not supposed to be.

What diet plans and workout plans should I use?

There are no specifications or restrictions about what type or how much food to eat while following intermittent fasting… but it’s not likely that you’ll experience the benefits of intermittent fasting while eating loads of fast food or processed foods. 

Anyone attempting to lose weight should focus on nutrient-dense whole foods foods like fruits, veggies, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, some and healthy fats. Following a personalized nutrition plan or hiring a nutrition coach will ensure that you’re eating enough of the right foods to experience ALL the benefits of intermittent fasting.  

The best workouts for long-term transformation are full body workouts. Bodyweight workout programs will take you through a wide range and variety of full body exercises. At-Home full-body workouts address areas such as endurance, strength and mobility. Best of all, these workouts scale to any fitness level and can be done at home with simply a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells. Finally, weight training programs combined with high intensity workouts have been scientifically proven to burn calories faster and more efficiently, build lean muscle mass, boost endurance... and it keep your metabolism running in high gear.

When it’s all said and done, listen to YOUR body!

The most important advice to heed when exercising during intermittent fasting is to listen to your body.

While exercising and intermittent fasting may work for some people, others may not feel comfortable doing any form of exercise while fasting. Experiment, track how you feel, and patiently discover if intermittent fasting and working out is right for you.


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Click HERE to download the Intermittent Fasting Quick Start Guide

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