Should I Workout Fasted?

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I’ve recently published two articles on Intermittent Fasting. Read “What is Intermittent Fasting?” and “Does this Break My Fast?” If you’ve been following along, hopefully you are understanding the vast benefits of maintaining a fasted routine. The next question I often get asked is:

Should I Workout Fasted?

The short answer is: yes.

Many people exercise in the morning and if they are following the 16hrs fasted, 8hrs fed routine, their workout will fall within the fasted time frame. There are a few tactics to maintaining a successful fast while working out. I will outline those below. I will also be answering popular questions and de-bunking some “bro science” below.

To Work Out While Fasted:

My first tip is to stay hydrated. Purified water and herbal teas throughout the previous day and early morning are essential for a successful fast. Secondly, when you are creating your schedule to work out in the morning, make sure that you ate dinner the night before. If you have a tendency to skimp on dinner you won’t have enough fuel or energy that you need.  A good dinner consists of a balanced plate of protein, fat & carbohydrates.

If your fasting and workout cycle puts your exercise within the “fed” time frame, but you still want to reap some of the benefits of working out fasted, make sure you are doing so two hours after you’ve had a meal.  You would want to consume something that is quick digesting, like protein and carbs. A meal heavy in fats, or other ingredients that you don’t digest quickly, will leave you feeling not so good during your workout.

“Hey Cynthia, don’t I need supplements before my workout? All the FITSPO’s on Instagram are taking them.”

Good question. I too, have seen many personal trainers recommend Branched Chain Amino Acids before or after a workout. BCAA’s are often filled with artificial sugars and will break your fast. My personal recommendation is this: If you aren’t a body builder or show prepping you don’t need supplements. Let that sink in. You don’t need extra energy or extra minerals to have a great workout. If you follow my intermittent fasting advice and are already eating whole foods, your body will reap the benefits of a good sweat session.

“Don’t I need to eat quickly after my workout for muscle development?”

You do not need to eat protein right after a workout. This is what I call out-dated “bro science.”  If you work out at 6am your blood sugar and muscle tissue repair will be fine by 10am, when you are ready to break your fast. Developing muscle, losing body fat, and maintaining balanced blood sugar is more about consistent, quality macros over time.

A few more tips for a successful fasted workout:

CHEW YOUR FOOD. The digestive process starts in your mouth. Allow your body to absorb as many nutrients as possible from the food you consume.

Stop drinking your calories. I don’t care how clean your protein powder is. It is still processed. The brain triggers satiety when you chew. When you are driving home from the gym, drinking a protein shake while worrying about he carpool line at your kids’ school, you aren’t maximizing muscle repair or nutrient absorption. Quit doing that, stay fasted, and break your fast later when you have time for a quality meal.

Eat Balanced Macros. To feel good while exercising fasted you need to have consumed an adequate amount of all macronutrient groups. You should feel good and not be queasy while exercising.

Who shouldn’t workout fasted?

Refer to my previous article on intermittent fasting. Then understand if it is safe for you to fast. If it is, and you are following my guidelines, then you should be able to exercise fasted. If you are a sugar-burner and have hypoglycemia, you probably won’t feel good exercising fasted. My clients who are fat-adapted are the ones who do best with this technique. Fat adapted means being capable of going a long time without eating and still maintaining stable blood sugar. This is how you should be feeling while working out fasted: energy is stable, mind is clear, feeling good, not queasy, not shaky, not starving.

Preparing for my TEDx Talk, I was not as “on track” with food and sleep, and my exercise has suffered.  I don’t have the energy to give my workouts my all when I don’t follow my own advice, and neither will you!

Let me know, do you workout fasted? Do you still have questions? Ask them below and I will do my best to answer them!

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