Fasted Training- Hype or Helpful?
In my last post, I wrote about the importance of focusing on either building muscle OR burning fat, and encouraged you to choose one, instead of trying to do both simultaneously.
Along this same vein is the idea of fasted training, basically working out in any capacity while you don't have food actively digesting in your system. Most commonly, this occurs in the morning after you have had a night of rest and have not eaten breakfast prior to your training session. But it can also be anytime you have had an extended period of time without eating- like if you are practicing intermittent fasting, or just skipped lunch and are working out in the afternoon.
People usually have a fairly strong opinion one way or the other, on whether eating prior to working out is helpful or harmful.
In one camp, they say, "eating before working out gives my body the fuel it needs to push hard, and if I don't eat I feel flat, and dizzy, or just weak."
The other side says, "if I eat before I work out I feel sick and sluggish and have GI issues."
Neither one is necessarily right or wrong and you may have played around with this already and know your body does really well in a fasted state while pushing yourself, or perhaps you just can't make the same progress and push as hard if you don't eat first.
But I'm guessing most of you haven't really consciously set out to do a workout in a fasted state and then debriefed with yourself afterwards about how you felt during and after that workout.
That's what we are here for! Hooray- your meddlesome trainers who constantly ask you try new things that may or may not make you feel uncomfortable. (It's a love/hate relationship- we get it!)
As with everything, there are pluses and minuses to fasted training but we think it's worth trying, just to see how your own body responds. This does not mean we want you to wait all day until your 3pm strength session having not eaten since the night before! We would prefer everyone starts out slow, by doing a fast walk, jog or low-intensity workout in the morning once per week (or more if you like) for the next month. See how your body feels when you workout without food in your stomach. And yes, you can have a cup of coffee or tea (and hopefully a big glass of water) before you do your training. If you workout with Myles in the morning and you want to do it during one of your sessions with him, you can let him know and he can adjust the intensity of your session if you are concerned about how you might feel.
Why should I do this? Well, for several reasons actually. First and foremost, to burn fat. If you are in a fasted state your body is more likely to burn fat as your main fuel source for your training. When you have food in your stomach and readily available your body will usually grab onto those quick carbs (glucose- for the nerds among us) and use those instead of digging deeper (in a sense) and use your fat stores. But, when you don't have that glucose just hanging out for use, the body is smart and decides to break down your fat molecules and use that as your energy source. I could get REALLY NERDY here, but I won't. Yes, your body can, and will, break into your muscle stores too and break those proteins down if you aren't properly fueled, but that's a debate for another day.
The second reason we want you to try this is because we want you to be "metabolically flexible." I bet that wasn't on your goal sheet for 2022, but it is now! This means, we want your body to be able to quickly and easily switch back and forth between energy sources- like fat and glucose. Again, this can get too sciencey, but the general idea is, that the better you are able to adapt to using various methods of fuel, the more of a robust human you become. AND we all want to be robust humans, am I right?
One thing to note, if you are one of those people who says, I ALWAYS feel dizzy/nauseous/weak when I do any activity before I eat, then this is your body's way of telling you, you are not very metabolically flexible. In this scenario, your body is reaching for glucose, not finding any, and then unable to break into the fat stores to use that as your energy source. And, EVERYONE has fat stores to use... no matter how svelte you think you are.
So please, make your trainers happy this month, and try this out. Let us know what you experience and how metabolically flexible and robust you become by playing our game. As Myles famously likes to say, "you may be surprised" at what you discover.