Should You Be Doing Fasted Workouts?

Should You Be Doing Fasted Workouts?

Fasted versus fueled training has become a popular topic as exercisers want to maximize their goals in both performance and body composition. Does training on an empty stomach lead to increased fat burning?  What about the effects on performance?

What does Fasted Actually Mean?

A true fasted state means that the body has been unfed (no calories at all) for at least 8 hours. This typically occurs naturally over the course of sleep. If following an intermittent fasting plan, typical plans advise a minimum of 12 hours unfed.

When Is Eating Before Training Highly Recommended?

Fueling prior to training is recommended for most individuals training at high levels and those seeking performance related outcomes. I always recommend fueling prior to training for workouts lasting longer than 60 minutes and include any form of intensity training such as speed or tempo work, high intensity interval training, and resistance-based workouts.

Some of the benefits of eating before training (especially carbohydrates) include:

1)   Having plenty of glucose (aka carbs) helps power our muscles and help prevent any unnecessary fatigue.

2)   Without enough energy for fuel our bodies resort to breaking down muscle for energy, which will negatively effect training and body composition goals.

3)   Eating before training is a kick-start to your recovery. Recovery is key to make sure you are getting the most out of your workouts.

When Is Fasted Training Okay?

There are situations where training in the fasted state is okay and likely won’t cause negative outcomes. Fasted training may be best or recommended if:

  • Your workout is less than 60 minutes
  • It is a low intensity workout
  • You suffer from severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome or GI discomfort from food while exercising

So, Should You Train In A Fasted State?

Based on the current research, my recommendation to individuals looking to perform at their highest potential is to fuel prior to exercise. While there are situations where fasted training may be okay, more times than not being well-fed during training will produce the best performance results.

If you are seeking weight loss results from working out in a depleted state, training fasted may work against you, as you may not be able to hit the intensity or duration that will trigger performance and body composition gains.

Short on Time Before a Morning Workout? 

Keep it simple!  If you only have 20-30 minutes before you workout,  aim for 150-200 calories from easily digestible carbohydrates. Keep the protein & fat to a minimum to avoid GI distress. If your workout is going to be longer than an hour, I suggest consuming an additional 100-150 calories at the 30-45 minute mark to ensure you have enough fuel on board to finish strong. Good choices include:

  • Banana
  • Piece of toast with jam
  • 1 cup dry cereal
  • Handful of pretzels
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • Sports Drink such as Generation Ucan or Nuun Endurance
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