Working out while intermittent fasting may sound counter-productive, but it’s far from unhealthy or a bad fitness combination. As of late, intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular diet fads.
But the history of fasting and its benefits dates back to Hippocrates. Fasting has always had a mystical and medical importance in society.
Now, the health benefits of intermittent fasting are incredible. No wonder it has become a go-to diet lifestyle for so many people. Oh, and it works. Not just for weight loss but it also helps to lower cholesterol, manage glucose levels, help with blood pressure and liver fat.
Not only does Intermittent fasting work, but it has an array of bodily benefits.
So, we talked with Tam Khan, ex-professional MMA fighter and founder of TK MMA & Fitness, on intermittent fasting and working out.
Now, time to address one of the most concerning points.
What’s the deal with working out and intermittent fasting?
Let’s break this down really simply. The answer is that working out while fasting is doable and safe.
But this doesn’t mean all workouts. The workouts you can do while fasting are limited.
However, once your fast is over, you can do any kind of intense workouts effectively and safely.
This blog goes deeper into the science of working out and intermittent fasting and how you can get the most out of it.
Who Is Tam Khan?
Born in London, United Kingdom
UK MMA Veteran
Multiple MMA fight winner
British UWC Middleweight champion
Founder of TK MMA & Fitness
UK House Of Parliament Award 2016
Watch Tam Khan’s Ramadhan Special
Read More About Ramadhan:
Is working out while intermittent fasting ok?
Yes, working out while intermittent fasting is allowed but there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
When you are fasting, even though you are not consuming calories, your body is still burning calories. Simple actions like breathing, thinking or even typing all require calories.
So, the body first resorts to burning stored calories or glycogen. These stored carbs are not unlimited. If these stores finish, then your body resorts to burning proteins. However, a 16-hour fasting period should not trigger this.
To put your mind at further ease, a study showed that after SEVERAL months of IF, a small amount of lean mass may be lost. Even so, other studies have shown that IF doesn’t cause you to lose lean mass at all.
Also, another research suggests that intermittent fasting might be more efficient to maintain lean mass as compared to other non-fasting diets.
Now, keeping these facts in mind, working out while intermittent fasting is a green flag.
However, not all workouts!
See, during your fasting period you should only stick to low intense workouts. These can range from steady-state cardio, light workouts, Yoga, walking, swimming or other LITT workouts.
When you are fasting, you can’t overspend calories. But, once you break your fast and have refueled, then there is nothing stopping you from hitting beast mode.
When to work out while Intermittent Fasting?
As we talked above, working out while intermittent fasting can help maintain muscles. Another interesting study can help clear up the picture furthermore.
In an experiment, 34 men were split into two groups. One had a normal diet while the other was on a time-restricted diet. Both groups had to consume the same number of calories and protein per day, the only difference was the timing of the meals.
By the end of the study, neither group had lost any muscle mass. The only plus point for the IF group was that they lost 1.6 kg of fat.
While you may not lose any muscle mass, it’s also much harder to gain mass as well.
This is because of two factors: you are already in a calorie deficit and eating nutrient-dense food post-fast doesn’t provide you with the necessary compounds to build muscle.
So, is working out while intermittent fasting counterproductive?
A four-week study may have the answer to this. In this study, 20 women were split into two groups. One group worked out while fasting while the other worked out normally.
By the end they results showed that both groups loss the same amount of weight and fat. Also, neither group showed a drop in muscle mass.
So far, the facts say that a combination of IF and working out is ideal. One drawback is that it might decrease your performance, this is more apparent for hardcore athletes.
There is a reason for this.
Professional athletes are very lean to start with, also they require more energy given their strenuous workout routines. Given their energy requirements and low stored carbs, no wonder performance for them is affected.
So, the rule of thumb here is quite simple.
Working out while fasting should be low intensity. This includes light workouts, Yoga, cycling, or any steady state cardio.
You should do your high intensity workouts after you have eaten. This will provide you with the energy required to workout and to recover.
Tam’s Tips for working out while Intermittent Fasting
Tam Khan has a few tips for working out while fasting. These tips will definitely help this process go smoother.
1. Go Easy During The First Week:
If you are new to working out while intermittent fasting, then going easy is the best way to start. Restricting calories and not being able to eat for a 16 hour period is not east. Give your body time to adjust to these new changes.
2. Do LITT Workouts While Fasting:
As mentioned above, while fasting only do low intense workouts or exercises. Stick to steady state cardio, light workouts, Yoga, runs, or cycling.
3. Do HITT Workouts After Eating:
Once you have eaten and replenished your energy levels, you can do your high intensity workouts.
4. Take Longer Rests:
Increase your rest time during sets. This is to help you maintain your energy levels and to stress too hard.
5. Listen To Your Body:
Every body reacts differently. If you feel lightheaded, then your body is telling you to stop. Or you feel that hunger pains are getting in the way of your workouts, then workout after you eat only. Also, if you feel too thirsty, then increase your intake your water. Always listen to your body’s responses.
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Diet tips for working out while intermittent fasting
Your diet becomes exponentially more important if you are working out while intermittent fasting. Tam has a few diet tips as well.
1. Drink A LOT of fluids:
Tam says he drinks water till the very moment of starting the fast. Rightly so, your body is 85% water. Sweating and working out too hard will always require an adequate supply of water.
2. Drink water before closing your fast:
This is very important if you plan on not consuming water during your fasting window. As many Muslims do not take food or water during their fast, loading up on it is essential.
3. Open your fast with dates and water:
This is an ancient Muslim tradition. Dates are amazing for restoring energy. They are packed with glucose, fiber, potassium and vitamin A. Plus, even with sugar inside, dates do not spike your blood sugar but help to maintain it.
4. Don’t over-eat:
If you binge of food and water after a long fast, then get ready for a mini food-coma. Loading up on too much food too quickly will leave you lazy and tired. Instead, open your fast with water, dates, fruit juice and some carbohydrates.
For more guidance on what you should and shouldn’t eat, check out this Ramadhan food guide to get you sorted.