Combining intermittent fasting with workouts provides many benefits in terms of fat burning, improving insulin resistance, and stimulating growth hormones. The right foods during fasting and feeding can further increase the benefits.
Losing weight is not solely about what you put – or don't put – into your mouth. Whether you are a workout newbie, a weekend warrior, or a seasoned athlete, consistent exercise is key to long-term weight management success.
Many people like to wake up and go for a run, hit the gym, or put on a cardio video to start their day. A genuine concern for women starting intermittent fasting is what to do about exercise. We have always been told not to work out on an empty stomach.
Women on a traditional eating schedule (3 meals a day with snacks in between) often report feeling lightheaded or nauseous when they kick up their heart rate on an empty stomach. But women who adopt an intermittent fasting lifestyle do not experience those things. In fact, in time, they feel energized, enjoying greater endurance and stamina.
Here are some of the amazing benefits of working out in a fasted state.
The type of exercise you choose will help determine the timing of your fasting and feasting schedule. You may need to be flexible with your fasts, depending on which workout you choose each day.
Low-Intensity Workouts–These are best for women new to intermittent fasting and can either be scheduled within your feasting or fasting window. Try doing Pilates or Yoga before eating to ease yourself into more strenuous workouts in a fasted state.
Cardio Activities–Fasted cardio is great for fat-burning. If you feel good afterward, wait for 2 to 3 hours before eating. These few hours allow for a rise in the Human Growth Hormone, which helps you burn more fat.(3) Running, biking or any activity during which you elevate your heart rate for a sustained period of time are good choices.
Strength/Weight Training–Try to perform any exercise involved in building muscle mass or strength a little before breaking your fast or early in your eating window. That's when your body is more fueled and can recover without muscle breakdown. Grab your hand weights, use the machines at the gym, or do bodyweight exercises like squats and pushups.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)–This combination cardio/strength workout should be performed right before or directly after breaking your fast.
The last meal you eat the night before exercising plays a role in how you will feel during your workout the next day. Focus on eating protein and fats for dinner, rather than simple carbs like pasta. Protein and fats will provide more sustenance if you plan on exercising before your first meal the following day.
What you choose for your first meal of the day is also important. Eat proteins (lean meats, nut butters, tofu, eggs), complex carbs (quinoa, oats, brown rice), healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil), and vegetables/low-glycemic fruits with high fiber (broccoli, artichokes, swiss chard, berries, apples) during your eating window to maintain a healthy fast.
More complex carbs are needed for workout days. More protein, veggies, and fats are needed on rest days.
Intermittent fasting and exercise can be a powerful duo for permanent weight loss. Depending on what workout you feel like doing each day, you must wisely choose when and what to eat for the greatest benefit. Go slow and pay attention to your body. If you start to feel unwell, stop. Otherwise, reap the many benefits that working out and fasting can give you.
1. Moro T, Tinsley G, Bianco A, et al. Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. J Transl Med. Oct 13 2016;14(1):290. doi:10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0
2. Cho Y, Hong N, Kim KW, et al. The Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting to Reduce Body Mass Index and Glucose Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Clin Med. Oct 9 2019;8(10)doi:10.3390/jcm8101645
3. Ho KY, Veldhuis JD, Johnson ML, et al. Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. J Clin Invest. Apr 1988;81(4):968-75. doi:10.1172/JCI113450
4. Meamarbashi A, Rajabi A. The effects of peppermint on exercise performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. Mar 21 2013;10(1):15. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-15
Intermittent fasting is a popular weight-loss method. But it also comes with some cons. Read on to learn more.
You can hit a plateau at some point when applying intermittent fasting for weight loss. Read our article about reasons for a plateau and what you can do about that.