Fasted workouts have changed the game in fitness by fighting up against the popular idea of needing to fuel up before working out. There's nothing wrong with either of these methods, as a matter of fact, it just comes down to your personal preference! Fueling up before a workout with a snack or supplement can provide effective results, especially for those who are weightlifting to gain serious muscle mass. Just as working out while fasting can help with weight loss, but its effectiveness at burning fat is why many lifters try it as a way to cut and tone up while maintaining muscle. Plus, it's always good to try new workout techniques every so often to promote new challenges that your body has to adapt to.
Fasted workouts is one of those workout techniques weightlifters and avid gym-goers give a try because of the benefits it has. In short, it can ramp up your body's ability to burn fat while working out by tapping into the body's fat stores (instead of glycogen stores) as a fuel source. But there's more to it... Like it can also cause the body to burn muscle instead of fat. Knowing the facts about fasted workouts is important because although it can be good for fat loss, it comes down to how you approach it. Approaching fasted training safely and for your fitness goals will ensure that your exercise performance doesn't dip and that you get the best results possible. Whether your main goal is fat loss or to build muscle, the following tips will help you get started with fasted workouts that way you can approach in a way that maximizes your training sessions, not make it worse!
Ease into it
One plan doesn't fit all. This is probably the piece of advice everyone hates because we can't give you the perfect plan, there's no such thing as one that works for everyone! You just have to ease into it and find what works for you. If you're used to eating before your workouts and jump straight into a long intense morning workout then you might end up feeling not so great. Your body won't be used to it and your performance can take a hit. So before jumping in, ease your way into it by doing a short low-intensity fasted workout and see how you feel. You can start by doing fasted cardio and save your lifting sesh for when you're in a fed state. Or lift weights, but keep it at a lower weight and intensity. The next day increase the time you workout and your intensity a little bit to see how you feel, continue to do that for the first week, or until you find what feels right.
Some will find that they prefer to do fasted cardio and lift in the evening after they've had a meal or snack. Others prefer to do their cardio and strength training fasted. None of those are wrong, it's just a matter of personal preference. Easing into fasted training will allow you to find what works best for you. So remember, start with a shorter time and lower intensity then increase until you find the best way to implement your training with your fasting schedule.
Think through timing
What this means is to think about the timing of your fast and how to schedule your workout around that. First, let's look at the timing aspect. The most popular intermittent fasting method is the 16:8 principle which involves an 8-hour feeding window and a 16-hour fast. Based on your lifestyle, decide what time works best for you, you can eat from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., or start even earlier! The same idea goes for those practicing different fasting methods, pick a feeding window that fits your schedule and training intensity.
This goes into our second point, not only should you consider your personal schedule, but also the intensity of your exercise. If you're going to stick to low-intensity fasted cardio then you can get away with doing it anytime during your fast to maximize the chances of fat burning. That means you can do your low-intensity exercise when you start your fast or before you end it. Since you're working out at a lower intensity you won't need to refuel as much as someone who lifts weights.
When it comes to doing high-intensity exercise like strength training, it’s best to schedule your workout towards the end of your fast. For example, if you prefer early morning workouts, then you might want to end your fast around 5 p.m. to have your first meal by 9 a.m. after your workout. If you prefer evening workouts, start your fast earlier like at 11, and that way it ends later (7 p.m.) and you have time to have one last meal after your workout and before you start your next fast. Thinking through the timing will ensure that you're refueling your body at the appropriate times that way there is little to no muscle loss and you're getting the most out of your fast and workouts!
Choose the type of workouts based on your macros
Another way to get the most out of your fasted training is taking into consideration what you're eating the day of your workout. Since you're fasting you want to make sure you're refueling appropriately for the intensity of your fasted training. If you're strength training make sure to do it on a day when you're eating more carbohydrates (and protein), to replenish your glycogen stores so your muscles can recover effectively. The same goes for any other high-intensity workouts like HIIT or running! If you're on a day when your carbs are on the lower side focus on lower intensity fasted exercise. It's best to do this by tracking your macros and meal planning. Having your meals planned for your macros will allow you to easily see what days you're eating more carbs than others. If you're not tracking your macros or planning your meals, just consider eating more carbs and protein when you're strength training and stick to low-intensity exercise if you're lower on carbs and protein. Doing this will ensure that you're not only working out effectively but that you're eating effectively for your goals.
Eat the right meals after your workout
On top of choosing the kind of workout to do based on what you're eating during your feeding window, you need to consider what you're eating after your fasted training. Post-workout nutrition is important, even if you're not eating immediately after your workout. The best approach is to time your workout to end around the time your fast ends that way you can fuel your body to recover. But if you're doing low-intensity exercise then you can get away with going longer into your fast. No matter the case, make sure you're eating plenty of complex carbs, veggies, and at least 20 grams of protein in your following meal. Avoid reaching for a protein bar or a protein shake, prioritize whole foods as your first meal.
Stay hydrated and use electrolytes
Don't skimp on water just because you're intermittent fasting! In fact, if you're going to be doing fasted cardio or any type of fasted workout then you should by hydrating leading up to your workout and even after. Morning workouts might not give you enough time to hydrate, but make sure one of the first things you do when you get up is to drink a glass of water!
Aside from staying hydrated, consider using electrolytes during, or after your fasted workout, especially if it's higher intensity. We're not talking about sugary sports drinks, we're talking about the electrolytes that come in a powder form and dissolve in water. This kind won't break your fast, in fact, it can enhance it. Since fasting can deplete your electrolytes levels you might feel that your energy is lower, muscle cramping, or even it can even give you headaches. This can all get in the way of your exercise performance, so taking electrolytes before or during your workout can help give you that electrolyte boost you need. Look for one that has most, if not all, of these: sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, chloride, and bicarbonate.
Following these tips will help you get started with fasted workouts, either for losing fat or building muscle! Many think fasted workouts are only for those who want to lose fat, but here’s a little fun fact… Bodybuilders use this technique as a way to burn fat while still putting on a good amount of muscle gain! That’s because they know how to approach fasted training, just like you do now 😉
With that being said, our last piece of advice is... Listen to your body! Only you know what works for you, these tips will help you figure out how to approach fasted workouts safely and along the way help you find what works best for you for better results.