Exercising in a fasted state: fat torcher or myth?

Exercising on an empty stomach may sound unpleasant, but what if it enabled you to turn your body into a better fat burner? Who doesn’t want the biggest possible benefits from their workouts? Is exercising in a fasted state really the answer or really a bad idea?

I have some personal experience with this because I have been doing this once a week for about 6 months during my Sat morning solo spinning HIIT workout. I will go to my local gym’s spinning room when there is no class and knock out a 20 minute High intensity workout that includes varying intervals of 10-20 sec sprints and 20 – 30 sec “rest” periods. By “rest” I mean moderate intensity- not stopping! To be honest I have not been doing this as a fat loss experiment. I do my shortest workout of the week early to get home in time to spend the day with my family and not let my exercise session take up half of my Saturday. I don’t eat b/c I don’t like feeling full when I exercise. I do however have a cup of coffee on my way to the gym.

So what are some of the benefits I may have been unknowingly been getting from this workout?

Here’s the list:

1. Better insulin sensitivity: The common recommendation of eating small meals/snacks throughout the day calls on our bodies to frequently release insulin. Periods of fasting makes the body more sensitive to the insulin the few times it is actually released. I am taking note of this since I am one of those people who eats small meals- something to consider.

2. Burn up to 20% more fat during a workout: Some studies suggest this to be true. The key here is DURING the workout. We are not talking about after burn, but hey I will take 20% during my 20 minutes!

3. More testosterone: Keep reading ladies….This may be a good thing even for us. Testosterone is good for our heart, raises our mood, helps with lowering body fat and with increasing muscle.

4. More growth hormone:To us ladies this may not sound appealing at first, but more of this hormone produces more lean muscle, burns fat and is good for our bones. a 24 hr fast has been shown to produce a 2,000% increase in growth hormone production in men and a 1,300% increase in women.

5. Higher VO2 max: Higher VO2 levels were seen in participants in some studies on fasted exercise. VO2 max is the measure of the amount of oxygen a person takes in during a workout. This measurement is a great way to see how fit you are.

Fasted state exercise is also used to train many endurance athletes. They believe that by training their bodies to exercise efficiently with no fuel their bodies will run that much better with a storage of carbs to get them to the finish line.

After seeing this long lists of benefits there are some things to consider before trying this out:

1. This could be unsafe for certain medical conditions: I am not a doctor by any means but clearly individuals with blood sugar sensitivities (diabetes and other related conditions) need to be cautious and probably find a different way to torch the fat.

2. Stick to cardio and avoid fasted weight training: There are differing opinions on this out there, but it is thought (and I agree) that the body is in more of a catabolic (breaking down) state during a fast. This is not a time to try to build that lean muscle. If you still insist on doing this then make sure to get some protein in after your workout. One way is by having some fast acting whey protein and also some more slowly released protein such as casein powder.

3. Use the common sense rule! : If you feel sick or dizzy during these workouts, then this may not be the way to go. ALWAYS listen to your body! 

Lastly, it is suggested that a more moderate level of cardio in this fasted state produces the most benefits. Try going at least 30-45 minutes of “moderate” cardio. By this I mean that your are able to speak in short sentences (4-5 words).

So give it a try and see if those stubborn pounds melt away!

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