Story time! So today I was going to take a rest day from the gym. I had worked out everyday this week and felt like I needed to give my body a break. I went along with my day, food shopping, meeting with clients and meal prepping. I then ate my first meal around 4pm and within an hour or so, I felt SUPER energized! I decided I could not waste this surge of energy and headed off to workout.
Let me tell you I was surprised at how I felt....
First I usually start with some steady state cardio on the stair master with an infinity resistance band around my quads(feel the burn!). When I am in a fasted state, I can usually breeze through those 20 minutes without an issue, but after about 5 minutes, I was breathing heavy and sweating like crazy. Then came the weight training. According to my schedule it was time to hit back again, which is one of my favorite workouts.... usually. Let me tell you, I was not having an easy time. I usually incorporate plyometric super-sets in-between heavy lifts to keep my heart rate up. Today, I did some ab work targeting obliques using a Bosu ball and resistance band and well, I wan't the happiest with my performance. I got through my workout, but it definitely felt more arduous than usual. So why is this?
Here's my theory...
I practice intermittent fasting (IF) pretty much on a daily basis. This just means I fast for 16-18 hours (includes s hours slept) and have a feeding window of 6-8 hours, so my first meal isn't until 3-4pm and I stop eating between 8-9pm. This routine is not only cohesive with my schedule, it also offers many benefits such as increased testosterone and HGH production. Both of these hormones are essential for building/maintaining lean muscle mass and increasing your longevity. You want more muscle because it increases the amount of calories your body burns at a rested state, meaning, you do not have to exercise constantly to be in a fat burning mode! Fasting also increases BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) , a protein within your brain cells that promotes their overall health and function. This means that fasting improves brain function!
Back to fasted versus fed workouts... fed workouts make me feel fatigued, sluggish, heavy and give me serious brain fog. It could be that my body has just adapted to fasted workouts and working out fed just throws me off physiologically a bit. But I do have friends both male and female that absolutely refuse to workout fasted because they feel the way I do when the DO NOT eat prior. My point in sharing this with you is not only to share what goes on in my life because many of you relate, but to spread the knowledge that everyone is so different and what works for me may not work for you.
As humans we have many similarities, but one thing that differs among most of us are our environments. What you have conditioned your body to expect will affect how it responds to change in stimulus (i.e. eating vs fasting), like what happened to me today during my workout.
Your goals also dictate which method is better. I am lean bulking right now, so I am increasing my food intake, while trying to keep fat accumulation down simultaneously. Fasting allows me to do this because my body is using my stored fat for fuel as glucose is not present. If you are not concerned with fat gain and are bulking, eating pre-workout could work for you. If you have any issue with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), are pregnant, or Type I/II diabetic, you should speak with you doctor and more than likely eat pre-workout. It's a great strategy, but can cause additional stress on the body, so proceed carefully.
If you would like to try a method of fasting to see if it works for you here are a few different strategies you can utilize...
5 days of maintenance calories and two nonconsecutive days of fasting
Fasting days, men consume 600 calories, women 500 calories, only from protein and vegetables
One day maintenance calories followed by one fasting day
On fasting days you can only consume water, minimal amounts of vegetable/chicken broth, tea and coffee
The most important thing I want you to takeaway from this is that what works for me may not work for you or the next person. Strategies to improve health can be individual, so don't give up if something isn't working for you now!