How and why the latest fitness trend of fasted workouts can be used to your advantage.
Fasted workouts are getting a lot of attention. But nixing your pre-workout meal a good idea for you, or your training? As it turns out, depending on your fitness goals, there may be reasons to rethink your favorite smoothie. We break down the latest research, along with advice from the pros, so that you can decide if you want to fast before your next workout session.
It’s About Time
Whether you realize it or not, if you have an early morning gym routine you’re more than likely doing fasted workouts. Sleep naturally induces a period of typically 10 to 12 hours of fasting, which makes early morning exercise the best time for fasted workouts, and researchers agree.
In a Belgium study, researchers found that exercisers who ate breakfast after they exercised and only drank water during the intense periods of 60 to 90 minutes of activity burned extra dietary fat more effectively than those who ate breakfast prior to going to the gym. The reasoning behind the participant’s fat-burning powers is said to be chalked up to those hours of fasting, which stimulate fat oxidation, ultimately leading to weight loss.
Know Your Type
When you schedule your gym time before breakfast, your body uses its glycogen stores as fuel, rather than, say, that smoothie or breakfast sandwich. With our hectic schedules, we’ve all probably experienced light-headed feelings and that’s not a good thing. So exactly how and when is training before you eat a good thing?
As Pamela Mazzuca, a personal trainer and athletic therapist in Toronto explains, you give your body a boost when you don’t eat prior to training.“ Working out on an empty stomach can help improve your insulin sensitivity, increase the human growth hormone, and boost your muscle glycogen storage efficiency,” says Mazzuca. In addition, fasted workouts also tend to increase the amount of protein that your body burns, which can be the downside to this type of training, especially for anyone looking to increase their muscle mass.
For anyone who is interested in trying to maximize the benefits of fasted training, timing is everything. According to Mazzuca, early risers are likely going to have the most success with this type of training. “While I would recommend morning for fasted training, you can do this type of workout all the time,” she says, “but if you start to plateau, then switch things up, usually every six to eight weeks.”
Whether you’re new to training or an avid gymgoer, fasted training can be worth a try. According to Mazzuca, what really matters are your goals and the type of workout you’re doing. “I would not recommend a fasted workout for someone who is trying to gain muscle mass,” she says, “but I would recommend it for someone who is looking to lose weight.” That is because muscle-building workouts require a higher degree of intensity that requires carbohydrates for energy, which you’re not going to get unless you eat before your workout.
On the flip side, Mazzuca says for some, workouts that require endurance, like distance running, may be a good option for anyone who wants to give fasted training a try. “Endurance workouts for someone looking to lose weight can be quite successful when done in a fasted state since your body has to tap into its fat and muscle reserves for fuel,” she says
In addition, Mazzuca emphasizes that high-performance athletes do not benefit from training in a fasted state because of the intensity of their training, which isn’t sustainable in a fasted state.
Bottom line: If you’re looking to incorporate fasted workouts as part of your regular training routine there is no right way, although Mazzuca recommends cardio training including running, cycling, and circuit training. She also says it’s a personal choice. “There are pros and cons to working outfeed or fasted, but keep in mind that even with fasted workouts, you still need to stay properly.