Do you exercise daily? Are there days when you are fasting and still feel like or have to exercise? Yes, exercising while fasting becomes unavoidable when you want to keep up with your fitness regimen, and there can be no two ways about it.
However, individuals with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or blood pressure, should be particularly cautious since strenuous workouts may lead to electrolyte imbalances or dehydration. But keeping in mind the restrictions and with the help of a professional, you can achieve your daily fitness goals as you exercise while fasting.
So, fret not and follow these dos and don’ts for best results as you exercise during your fast.
Why do People Exercise while Fasting?
It’s pertinent to first know what is fasting.
Fasting is characterised by refraining from eating food and/or beverages for varying durations, ranging from several hours daily to a few weeks.
People choose to exercise while fasting for various reasons, and the decision is often influenced by individual goals, preferences, and the type of fasting regimen they are following.
Exercising while fasting enhances the breakdown of fats in the adipose tissue through lipolysis while stimulating peripheral fat oxidation, leading to increased utilisation of fat that can contribute to weight loss. Both trained and untrained individuals experience a reduction in body weight, lean body mass, and fat content as a result of fasting.
A 2018 study by Anton, Stephen D et al published in Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) states exercise while fasting can even lead to metabolic changes in the body that may slow down the ageing and disease processes.
Pros and Cons of Engaging in Exercise while Fasting
1. Fasting results in reduced insulin levels and heightened hepatic glycogen breakdown, indicating that engaging in endurance training during this period promotes increased utilisation of fat compared to the state of being fed. So exercise while fasting is a good option.
2. Numerous studies have extensively explored the impact of short-term fasting on exercise performance, indicating that a decline in physical performance is likely during fasting. This decrease can be attributed to factors such as the fasting period duration (exceeding 24 to 55 hours), dehydration, prolonged exhaustive exercise testing, and/or engaging in very high-intensity levels of exercise.
3. Although fasting is linked to a coordinated set of metabolic adjustments aimed at preserving carbohydrates and enhancing the use of fat for energy, it is also accompanied by reduced cognitive performance. The reduction in cognitive function observed during fasting could be attributed to a decline in blood glucose levels as you exercise while fasting.
4. Fasting may elevate negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, anger, irritability, fatigue, and tension while concurrently diminishing positive emotions and vitality. But, for many individuals, short-term fasting can improve mood, as evidenced by heightened positive emotions and increased vitality.
Best Ways to Exercise While Fasting
1. Don’t do Heavy Workouts:
Performing heavy or intense workouts during fasting periods can be strenuous for the body because less energy is available to the body. There are two primary forms of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise, often referred to as 'cardio,' involves sustained activities like running, walking, and cycling. On the other hand, anaerobic exercise demands maximum effort in a short timeframe, such as weightlifting or sprinting.
The choice between aerobic and anaerobic exercise while fasting is likely influenced by the fasting regimen. Those engaging in alternate-day fasting who wish to exercise on fasting days should lean towards less intense aerobic activities. However, individuals practicing 16:8 or nightly fasting can opt for either aerobic or anaerobic exercise during their eating windows.
2. Ensure Adequate Hydration:
Drink plenty of water during fasting, and monitor your hydration level by observing the colour of your urine. Maintaining hydration is crucial during exercise, given that a significant portion of the human body is water. It is essential to replenish fluids lost during physical activity.
3. Schedule Physical Activity After Meals:
While it's possible to exercise while fasting, it might be more beneficial to schedule physical activity after meals. For many individuals, the time of their daily workout is typically when they burn the most calories. Consider aligning your fasting schedule with this workout period. Some individuals prefer working out after breaking their fast and having a substantial meal to fuel their exercise. Alternatively, others choose to exercise towards the end of their fasting window and break their fast with a post-workout meal.
4. Be Mindful of the Food You Eat:
When working out during eating windows, it is crucial to carefully consider the type of food you consume as it helps the nutrition levels peak. While fasting can assist in calorie restriction and offer flexibility in food choices during your eating window, it's essential to exercise in moderation. Opt for nutrient-dense foods that provide the energy necessary for your workouts when consuming meals within your feeding period.
5. Pay Attention to Your Body’s Signals:
Fasting may occasionally result in reduced energy, so be mindful of your body's signals during exercise. Make adjustments to your fasting window, dietary choices, and exercise routine based on how you feel. Regularly monitor your progress to ensure you are advancing toward your fitness goals as you exercise while fasting.
1. Monitor your Intensity Levels:
To preserve energy throughout the day, opt for lower-intensity exercise while fasting, especially if you're exercising early or midway through your fast. However, when exercising after eating, it is generally safe to participate in any exercise.
2. Pay Attention to the Body's Signals:
If you feel uncomfortable or unwell as you exercise while fasting, it's important to stop. Consider replenishing with a small snack if needed.
3. Ensure Adequate Electrolyte Levels:
Opting for low-calorie choices such as coconut water or natural sports electrolyte drinks (SteadLytes) can assist in replenishing electrolytes without disrupting your fasting routine.
Even with precautionary measures, engaging in exercise while fasting carries potential risks. If you are on medications, have any health conditions, or face other health issues that might impact your ability to exercise or fast safely. It's crucial to listen to your body, stay hydrated, and consult a healthcare professional or fitness expert if you require help following this tough regimen.