Fasting is one of those terms that show up a lot in the health and fitness world.
Like Kale, Juicing, and supplements, fasting has experienced a surge in popularity over the last couple of years. Although fasting for fitness has actually been around for centuries, it’s recent explosion comes in part because a lot of celebs are adding intermittent fasting and exercise to their routines.
If it’s good enough for Wolverine, then it’s good enough for us.
So, what exactly is fasting and how can exercise and intermittent fasting work together to help you lose weight?
Let’s find out.
Fitness through fasting: What is intermittent fasting?
Fasting is all about having discipline.
When you fast, you stop eating for a certain period of time. When you fall asleep each night and attempt to get your eight hours, you’re technically fasting during that time.
Intermittent fasting, or “IF” is a practice used to enhance fitness.
With this strategy, you cycle between periods of eating, and fasting. That means you don’t have to worry about what you eat so much as when you eat it when you’re trying to lose weight.
As hunter-gatherers, us humans are pretty good at going without food for certain periods of time. You don’t have to snack every time you pass a vending machine or when you’re bored at work.
You can actively choose when you’re going to eat, and when you’re going to keep your stomach empty, for the sake of your metabolism.
What are the benefits of exercise and fasting?
Let’s get real for a sec.
Just because the celebs love intermittent fasting, doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a good time with it. Forcing yourself not to eat for several times a day can be hard work.
If you’re used to starting every morning with a fresh plate of eggs, then it’s going to take a lot of effort to force yourself to wait until 1pm to eat for the 16/8 method (more on that in a minute).
That means you’re going to need some motivation if you’re going to consider the benefits of exercise and intermittent fasting. Fortunately, we do have some science-backed evidence that suggests a little short-term starvation could be good for you.
If all that wasn’t enough to convince you, how about the fact that fasting for fitness gives you a killer body?
Because you eat fewer meals, and hopefully less calories, you’re automatically going to start losing weight. Fasting can also increase your metabolic rate, so when you do eat fat doesn’t stay in your system for as long.
You don’t just bust fat with fasting – you get rid of that pesky belly fat that can contribute to a higher risk of disease.
So, how do you get started with fasting and exercise?
Exercise and fasting: The methods
There are several ways to approach intermittent fasting. All of these strategies involve splitting your week or day into periods when you eat, and times when you don’t.
These methods are the most popular:
The 16/8 method
Known as the Leangains protocol, this period involves skipping your breakfast and restricting your everyday eating periods to an eight-hour session. That means that for 16 hours of every day, you eat absolutely nothing.
The 5:12 diet
This strategy asks you to eat only 500-600 calories on two days of the week (non-consecutively). You can eat normally for the rest of the week.
With this strategy, you stop eating for 24 hours, once or twice a week. You might not eat from 12 pm one day to 12 pm the next day.
All of these strategies restrict your calorie intake, which helps you to lose weight.
However you need to make sure that you’re blending exercise and intermittent fasting properly. That’s because you can easily lose muscle at the same time as fat if you aren’t careful.
Achieving fitness through fasting isn’t just about picking the right method of fasting. You also need to know how to work out while you’re reducing your calorie intake.
If you’re planning on committing to long-term fasting and exercise, you’ll need to build a workout routine that’s catered to your calorie intake.
Intermittent fasting and exercise: Getting started
As difficult as it may sound to restrict your eating schedule each day, you’ve probably already tried intermittent fasting, without realizing it. If you’ve ever slept late and not eaten your breakfast, then you might have tried the 16/8 strategy already.
Most people agree that the 16/8 method is the easiest way to try intermittent fasting. If you find fasting for fitness to be easy enough, you can start exploring some of the other methods mentioned above.
However, whichever strategy you might use for fasting and exercise, it is important to make sure that you’re approaching your plan safely.
Do this by:
Avoiding your fasts before high-intensity workouts
Meal timing is critical when managing long term fasting and exercise. If you’re going to be engaging in a high-intensity workout, then your body is going to need more fuel. Activities that require power and speed demand calories.
Just because you’re eating less, doesn’t mean you should be drinking less. Keep yourself topped up with water when you’re fasting. Hydrating your body is always crucial to good health. Additionally, a dose of water in your system can help you to feel less hungry too.
Choose low-intensity fasting workouts
If you’re going to work out with something on your stomach, choose something that isn’t going to be too hard on your system, like basic cardio or some yoga. If you start to feel dizzy or lightheaded, then sit down and take a break.
Choose the right time of day
Depending on the kind of fasting and exercise you’re doing; you’ll need to time your workouts throughout the day. If you’re doing a 24-hour fast, you’re more likely to have energy when you first wake up than you are last thing at night.
Keep your electrolytes up
Need some low-calorie sources of energy and hydration? Coconut water will replenish your system and ensure that you don’t burn out before your fasting session is over.
The key to long term fasting and exercise
Used correctly, fasting for fitness can make achieving the ideal body a lot easier. Unlike other diet and fitness plans, you don’t have to spend as much time calorie counting. You can eat the food you like – as long as you make sure that you’re not eating too much to make up for the meals that you miss.
Fitness through fasting can cause less muscle loss than standard methods of caloric restriction. What’s more, as well as helping you to lose weight some studies suggest that fasting could also improve your heart health.
If you want to keep your ticker strong, fasting regularly can reduce your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammatory markers too.
Our top tip?
Listen to your body.
When you’re heading into fasting and exercise, you’re likely to have more trouble at the beginning, when you’re not used to plowing on with limited fuel in your system. During that time, you do need to push yourself, but not to the point where you pass out.
If you start to feel weak or dizzy, stop pumping iron and give yourself a break. Figure out what you can reasonably accomplish during your fasting and non-fasting sessions, then build your workout routine around that.
Only you know what you’re capable of on an empty stomach.
Should you try fasting?
Intermittent fasting and exercise aren’t right for everyone.
Going without food, even for short periods of time can make you seriously #Hangry. Plus, if your fitness aim right now is to build more muscle, cutting down on your calorie intake is the last thing that you wanna do.
However, if you’re looking for a more comfortable way to lose weight, and cut down on the amount that you eat, then fasting could be just the tool for you.
Our advice? Give it a go, keep an eye on how your body responds, and adjust your strategy whenever you need to. Losing weight isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing.
If you want to try some alternative methods, you can always find other guides and tips right here at Blitz’d.
This article contains general nutritional tips and advice. However, no diet or exercise program should be started without consulting your physician or other industry professional first. For more information read our full disclaimer here.