Fasted Workouts: Yay or Nay?
I preface this post by noting: No, I am not a doctor, nor a nutritionist, nor a pro athlete. BUT, my history with running, yoga and cross fit go back beyond 10 years. I have been coached by the best of the best, have amazing doctors and well, have over a decade of practical experience! But regardless, your body is your body - so do what feels right for you. Enough on that soapbox for now.
As an athlete, the debate over eating or fasting prior to workouts (particularly, in the morning) has raged for years. People argue over which leads to greater weight loss, better performance and increased metabolism. And it was a question I hadn't quite figured out where I stood on until the last few years when I really began committing myself to endurance training.
So, it may seem like a cop out, but as a non-competitive** athlete, my answer is: practice both fueling and fasting, and you'll see results.
How do you decide when to fast and when to fuel? What type & intensity of workout you are planning!
- Fast when you are planning lower intensity workouts and/or workouts under 40 minutes. When I practice yoga, spin, walks, or a run shorter than 5 miles, I fast - meaning, I won't eat beyond 7 PM and until an hour after my workout. Fasting helps your body more effectively and efficiently utilize its glycogen stores, improves insulin sensitivity (thus regulating blood sugar - something so necessary for me, as I struggle with blood sugar issues and that I have noticed significant improvement in) and increases your levels of HGH, promoting tissue and bone growth. And yes, it does help shed weight a bit quicker for me.
- Fuel with a small meal if you are planning higher intensity workouts and/or workouts over 40 minutes. I eat a small meal 1-2 hours before higher intensity or endurance workouts, like day hikes and runs longer than 5 miles. The earlier I eat before, the better! If sleep is an issue for me, I honestly without shame, will eat and then go back to sleep, waking up just before my actual workout, but ensuring that I have some food in my stomach. Fueling up helps your body break down sugars, increases EPOC which means your body continuously burns more calories throughout the day beyond the time of your workout, and leads to consumption of fewer calories later in the day. Plus, it helps sustain muscle as your body isn't leaning into protein to burn for energy right away. I recommend eating if you are training to improve speed across long distances - you have to have the proper energy and fuel in your body!
Do I have a preference on fueling or fasting even though I practice both? Definitely! I will always prefer fueled workouts. I'm notorious for always waking up so hungry, so this solves any potential hanger issues.
**I am a competitive person, but no, I no longer race for a team.