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Fitness and fasting: keeping on track

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Fasted training has gained in popularity in recent times with the rise of the intermittent fasting diet methodology. But whether you fast for better fat loss, as backed by the science[1], for religious observance such as Ramadan, or for any other reason, fasted training can be tough.

To ensure that you manage to keep working out while fasting without burning yourself out, here are a few simple tips.

Hit Your Calorie and Macro Goals

For effective training in general, whether the goal is fat loss or muscle gain, it’s always important to keep track of your target calories and macronutrients for the day (protein, fat, and carbohydrates).

When fasting however, it becomes especially important to take these factors into consideration. That’s because your “feeding windows” are likely to be small throughout the fasting period, which means that undereating – sometimes dramatically – can be an issue.

It’s hard to squeeze in, say, 3000 calories in a 4-hour feeding window (a typical intermittent fasting practice). If during this window you just eat as much as you feel like, you’ll likely find yourself dramatically undereating.

This is bad for your fitness goals in general – but it’s especially bad for your wellbeing during the fast. Remember that you’re not just eating to satisfy your hunger, but to fuel your body for the next fasted period.

Eat too little and you can expect to feel massively fatigued, grumpy, and unwell during your fast, and have your performance in the gym take a big hit.

Plan ahead to make sure you can meet your targets each day. Supplement with protein and meal replacement shakes if you need to.

Gym Manager at  PureGym Stirling and Qualified Personal Trainer, Neil Paterson recommends tracking your food intake using a Tracker like MyFitnessPal to help in ensuring you reach your calorie targets. He also suggests to avoid caffeine, salty foods and spicy food as much as possible as these can give you problems such as water retention which can make you feel bloated.

Take a Good Multivitamin

 

When you break your fast, I would suggest supplementing your diet with some B vitamins. This has been proven to keep the energy levels high when you are fasting. I always recommended to clients to have this supplement. PureGym stocks Yanga Water at selected gyms so you may not have to go to the shops to get this and can enjoy it with Extra membership or as a bolt on if you’re gym has this available.

Neil Paterson
PureGym Gym Manager, Stirling and Qualified Personal Trainer
Neil Patterspn

Along with the risk of eating too little in general, there also a risk of eating too little nutritious food specifically. During the feeding window of an intermittent fast, it’s common for people to take a no-frills approach to getting as many calories in as possible. E.g., a loaf of bread for carbs instead of a balance of vegetable starches.

What’s missing is the variety that should ideally be present in a healthy diet.

While trying to maintain a well-rounded diet is the ideal solution, a decent backup plan is to invest in a good multivitamin and to take it during your feeding window- boosting overall health during the fast.

 

Get Enough Sleep

Fasting puts your body under stress. Luckily, that stress seems to promote a variety of positive changes in the body, ranging from improved fat loss[2] to cell repair[3] and more.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to push things too far and end up weak and sick if you don’t manage your fast carefully.

One of the worst things you can do during a fast is to get too little sleep.

Sleep is known to be critical for proper immune function[4], cognitive function[5], and muscle recovery[6]. If you’re not getting plenty of sleep during your fast, you simply will not have sufficient energy, recovery, or wellbeing to keep your fitness program on track.

 

Shorten Your Workouts, Focus on Key Exercises

 

Training is going to feel harder for most during a fasted state so keep in mind that during your workouts that you might need to take it down a notch. If you're wanting to exercise whilst fasting, Gym Manager and Qualified Personal Trainer Neil Paterson, suggests avoiding high intensity or heavy weighted workouts. Instead, opt to listen to your body to see how you feel so that you don’t overdo your workouts and fatigue. Low intensity exercises such as going for a walk is a great way to keep moving and staying active. Remember, dehydration can occur during your workout even if you don't feel it. Just 2% decrease in water can really affect how you function daily so make sure to keep hydrated when breaking your fast.

If you're thinking about working out while fasting or during Radaman then try to train like an hour before or after Iftar (breaking of the fast). Avoid doing super intense cardio. Opt for lighter weights and increase the amount of reps you perform.

Josh
PureGym Insider and Assistant Gym Manager, Leeds City Centre North

By default, the body relies on its internal glycogen and glucose stores for the majority of physical exercise. The longer the exercise goes for, the more you’ll notice the absence of glycogen.

The thing about fasted training is that it leads to rapid depletion of the body’s glycogen stores, meaning that, especially during longer, moderate-intensity workouts, you’ll simply “hit the wall” and run out of energy to keep going.

To work around this, shorten your workouts as much as possible during your fast. Under an hour is good, under 45 minutes is better. 

Stick to performing your main exercises first, which would most likely be your compounds movements that require a lot of energy, and depending on your energy levels after these exercises, strip away accessory exercises that usually supplement your training if necessary. Whilst it's good to push yourself and challenge yourself in the gym, make sure to listen to your body, and know when it's time to take a step back.

 

If you're fasting for Ramadan, remember it is a time for celebration. We hope that the tips provided can help you keep active and healthy during the holy month without undoing all the hard work you’ve been putting to your workouts and healthy lifestyle. If you feel you need more information, feel free to contact Personal Trainer and PureGym Gym Manager at Stirling Neil Paterson or speak to one of the personal trainers in your gym. We are always more than happy to help.

 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22248495

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640462

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3106288/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21550729

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