It’s no secret that intermittent fasting is becoming an increasingly popular dietary strategy, and with good reason. Numerous rodent studies have shown that intermittent fasting, or IF, can reduce obesity rates and cut the risk of related conditions, such as diabetes, fatty liver disease, and even cancer. Still, if your goal is to engage in IF to lose weight, you might struggle to work out during the early weeks, when hunger pangs are at their strongest.
While it is possible—and even beneficial—to exercise during IF, it helps to follow some simple tips. Learn more about intermittent fasting and what parts of the day are best and worst for working out.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
So, what is intermittent fasting anyway? A flexible dietary strategy, intermittent fasting involves refraining from consuming food for a certain number of hours a day or days a week. While some people opt to follow a 16:8 schedule, fasting for 16 hours a day and eating for the remaining 8, others opt to practice alternate-day fasting or even fast for 2 days out of every 5. During non-fasting periods, participants engage in relatively normal eating.
Because most people who fast eat less overall, they often end up losing weight. However, fasting can make it difficult to exercise. Because the glycogen supply is limited when fasting, bodies can end up breaking down protein and muscle mass rather than fat. Read on for tips to maximize your workouts while fasting.
Opt for Morning Workouts
It’s natural to want to hit the gym before going to work or school. However, morning workouts can be different when you’re on a 16:8 fasting schedule. Most people on this eating plan consume food between the hours of noon and 8 pm, so if you work out at 7 am you’re likely to be starving by lunch. For best results, start your workout an hour or so before breaking your fast instead. That way you won’t have to wait long after working out to enjoy a meal.
Cardio can be an effective and beneficial workout choice. However, people who are fasting need to gauge the intensity of their exercise routines, especially when first starting out. Because a lack of fuel can leave you feeling light-headed, avoid pushing too hard during a training session. Not only could you get hurt, but you’re less likely to persist if working out is unpleasant or even painful.
If you do want to engage in some more challenging workouts, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), opt to schedule these sessions after your eating periods. That way, you’ll be able to burn some carbs during your workout, limiting your risk of low blood sugar.
Regardless of when you decide to work out, it’s important to stay hydrated. In some cases, the body confuses dehydration and hunger, and neglecting to drink water can actually boost hunger pangs. If you’re sick of drinking the stuff that comes out of the faucet, opt for sparkling water or even a cup of broth to get you through.
By staying hydrated, and timing your workouts carefully, you can exercise successfully while fasting.