Fasted State Training

by Brad Pilon

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about fasted state exercise lately. Specifically, people want to know if it’s OK to exercise while they are doing their Eat Stop Eat fasts.

I’m still of the school of thought that it doesn’t matter WHEN you train, as long as you’re training consistently, but for the sake of argument I’d like to explore this concept.

The general idea is that by performing exercise at the end of a fast, you are burning more fat (This is the main idea behind fasted state morning cardio).

From this the general premise we seem to get the following idea – Use your fasts to optimize the fat burning of your exercise.

Based on this I would suggest that we have the entire concept backwards.

As a conservative estimate an hour long cardio session may burn an additional 500 Calories..so fasting to optimize this calorie burn seems a little silly considering we COULD be using exercise to optimize our fasts.

In other words instead of optimizing the fat burning potential of 500 calories, we could be optimizing the fat burning potential of over 2,000 calories by starting our fasts with exercise.

The benefits would be two fold:

Firstly – for all the people who fret about their pre-workout BCAA‘s or Arginine, or Protein or whatever this is now a non issue…take what ever you want, your not fasting…You’d be omitting your post-workout meal, but I doubt this would be an issue for most people.

Secondly – by working out at the beginning of your fast you technically SHOULD enter the fasted state earlier, so you’d have higher levels of fat burning, higher Growth Hormone levels and lower Insulin levels.

In the end, I think we are talking about the ‘nickles and dimes’ of a thousand dollar deal, but nonetheless it is worth considering…if you are the type of person who frets over when to train, training at the beginning of your fasts may be a logical option.

But as always, the most important thing is not when you are fasting and exercising, but simply that you ARE fasting and exercising.

BP

{ 35 comments }

Sue June 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Brad
I would imagine that it would mean exercising on a full stomach, which, for me, would interfere with my performance – especially HIIT sprints. I can’t imagine trying that on a full stomach.

Or maybe I wait an hour or 2 after, then exercise – I am still in the “fed” state then, right?

Maybe I should bookend my fasts with exercise and get the most bang for my buck?

Danny Haas June 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Hi Brad,
Looking at this the other way,coould you cut your fast short after exercise,if you use your rates theory reversed,could you after a 500 Cal cardio session cut your fast by 5 hours and end up with the same net result??
Regards Dan

Brad Pilon June 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Yeah, I’m not a big fan of full stomach training either…like I said, I really don’t think it matters, this was more a thought experiment than anything…

Brad Pilon June 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Interesting question… I’m not sure I have an answer, let me think about it for a bit.

Bret June 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Maybe I am confusing the issue with this question:

Is there any truth to the premise that once the muscle glycogen stores have been depleted the body then turns to burning fat cells for energy? For example one “old school training regimen” where one does weightlifting for about 45 minutes in order to deplete muscle glycogen and then follows up with “cardio” (my preference would be Tabatha protocol) type exercises in order to “burn fat”..?

I have indeed exercised in the fasted state, or at least during the day of the fast. I did several sets of 100-rep kettlebell swings 3 or times throughout the day. The only effect I can say that I noticed was that I was extremely irritable the next day! ;-) I have also lifted relatively heavy weights during fasting days w/o loss of strength, but endurance/stamina seems to suffer a bit. Since reading Brad’s work I have eliminated the unfounded “fear” of working out when “hungry” or in “fasted state” and that in itself has been a great relief. My training motto: Worry less – workout more. If a workout day happens to coincide with fasting day then so be it.

Alex P. June 9, 2011 at 3:12 pm

I prefer to lift fed, or right before. Nothing special, it just gives me incentive to go get it done.

If I’m doing any cardio activities, I usually do it fasted. Not for any physiological reasons, but after all that work, I become “protective” of my day’s calories, and I’ll choose what I really want to eat, instead of just mindless reaching.

Sean June 9, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Hello! This post comes at the perfect time, as I want to lose lots of fat, and to do that, I just started working out on an empty stomach every weekday at 10AM. I don’t start eating until 6PM, when I have a protein shake, followed by a huge salad, followed by fats/meats/veggies, followed by a small portion of low-glycemic carbs (beans, rice, etc). Then, on weekends, I snack all day. Do you have an opinion on this? And do you think working out in the mornings, then fasting until the evening, 5 days per week, will lead to muscle loss? Please advise. Thanks!

Ann June 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Danny Haas has asked quite an interesting question…I really am no expert on fasting ( nobody beats Brad in that department anyway), but I would think that when we estimate that we are doing 500 calories of exercise, it is more often than not, quite an optimistic figure (especially if we take into consideration that the RMR can be subtracted from that figure, which we will burn even when resting) and moreover, based on what Brad has mentioned, isn’t the 18-24 hr window the optimal period of fat burning? Considering everything, I would think if we were to consider both situations, we would probably burn fat more efficiently with a complete 24 hour fast as compared to what Danny suggested..just my 2 cents btw.:)

D in Japan June 9, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Personally, I prefer to lift, eat, and THEN start my fast. I get ravenous after lifting, but don’t particularly enjoy training in a fasted state (my lifts seem to suffer — it’s demotivating). The next day I’m pretty hungry, too, but I can deal.

cesqua June 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm

brad, what are your thoughts on not drinking water on fast days? i usually go through 60- 90 ounces but someone told me i shouldn’t drink anything at all. it sounded off.

Sherry June 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I find that I feel more energetic and maybe even stronger when I train fasted. I went to muay thai training on the 21 hour mark of my fast and I could do push ups way easier than when I train fed. I actually thought that I’d feel weaker but I guess it’s the other way around.

Clint - Crude Fitness June 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Q for you Brad,
I fast from 8pm at night until 1pm the next day, but train in the mornings.
I take small amounts of BCAA’s split over the hours from when I train (7am) until i break the fast.

Be interested to know your thoughts on whether you think the body goes out of a fasted state and into a fed one because of the BCAA intake.
(im talking 10grams pre-train, 40grams post split up over 4 hours).

C.

Larry June 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I tried exercising then fasting only to stop having bowel movements for 2 days, then had painfull constipation. Should I modify the fast to just eat fiber/water to avoid this and is the exercise making this worse?

Kit Palmer June 9, 2011 at 8:16 pm

All I know is I tend to feel better during and after running on my fast days, than on the days I eat normally. I usually run in the early evening and eat an hour or so after.

Ken June 9, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I find nighttime exercise feels like it burns way more calories when you sleep, makes sense too.
My fasts have been really lazy recently, but exercise before bed is what I do to maximize the fasted nighttime.

I would think that exercise before and after sleeping are possibly the best for me.
With 2 pre-school kids, I find the early mornings great for sleeping.

Dwayne June 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm

I like Brad’s idea of ‘nickle and dimes of a thousand dollar deal’ – and to that end, i say workout in whatever state gives you the best workout. An intense weight session is going to increase testosterone, HGH, lower insulin, lower blood sugar, etc… so just figure out when you FEEL like working out the most, and when you get the BEST workout. If you feel like crap lifting on a full stomach, then don’t do it. if you get light-headed or feel weak on an empty stomach, then don’t train on an empty stomach!
A long time ago, after a Karate camp, we trainees got t-shirts that said ‘JUST TRAIN’. The idea being that so many unnecessary questions get answered when you just train. Put yourself into it, pay attention to what you’re doing, and do it. Forget all the meaningless over-analyzing.

(isn’t that what Eat-stop-eat is all about?)

Alykhan - Fitness Breakout June 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Brad,

I prefer to do cardio in a fasted state to maximize fat burning and strength training on a normal eating day to help assist muscle development.

Alykhan

Brad Pilon June 9, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Hi Cesqua,

I’ve tried it, it’s really rough..I know some people who do this for a month straight, but it’s not something I’d ever do…just don’t like the feeling of being dehydrated / thirsty

Ian June 10, 2011 at 3:10 am

Shoot, you could start AND end your fast with exercise. Then you get all the benefits!

Carl - Six Pack Workouts June 10, 2011 at 3:51 am

Hi Brad,

Thanks for bringing this topic up. I have just purchased ESE about a week ago and have just completed my first two 24 hour fasts. I must say it was easier to fast than I thought. However, I was concerned about nutrition just before workouts and just after. After reading your book I know that your view is “keep it simple” and this works for me right now. And I think the logic behind that is that if it is not simple you probably will not end up doing it long-term. Which I totally agree with.

I was concerned about the whole, whether to eat before and after thing but it never even crossed my mind to workout at the beginning of the fasts. I thought that if I do that it increases the chances that I will get really hungry later in the fast and be tempted to break it. I guess it is a matter of will power.

All that said, for now I am just keeping it simple and for the first couple of months I plan to do exercise at the end of my fasts without having broken my fast.

James June 10, 2011 at 8:40 am

Great idea. Metabolic weight training or intervals to help deplete glycogen and mobilize FFAs for oxidation could work well, as one enters the fasting period. Especially for really lean individuals targeting stubborn fat.

Ron Richards June 10, 2011 at 9:20 am

“Nickels and Dimes” is exactly correct. Why oh why do people fret so much on the tincy wincy little details and ignore the big stuff? Dwayne’s got it all figured out, train when it feels best to you. But train hard! Fast when it feels best to you. But do the fast, no cheating, BCAAs, all that other crap. Don’t sweat the small stuff but take care of the big stuff and you’ll see the results you desire.

I’ve trained on fasting days and on non-fasting days and I personally have not seen any difference in strength or endurance between fasting and non-fasting training. I do get hungry as a bear coming out of hibernation when I train on a fasting day so I try my best to schedule my training on non-fasting days. But if my schedule gets changed due to conditions outside of my control then I just grin and bare it and train while fasting. It’s no big deal and better than missing a workout. The important part is that I’m doing the fasts and I’m training hard. Fasts and hard training is 99% of the equation. All this other stuff is unnecessary distractions.

Drew June 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

Dear Brad Howard.

I would like to try eat stop eat, but I’m not sure if it is suitable for my current goals. I would like to build muscle while staying lean. I do not have to lose any fat, as I already have a low body fat percentage. If I follow East Stop Eat will I be getting enough calories to build muscle? The reason I would like to follow this way of eating is because it is way easier than having to make 6 meals a day. Thanks.

Alex June 10, 2011 at 9:41 am

Brad,i fast every day and eat only at night.A do my workouts at 17 and begin to eat at 19 untill bedtyme.Do you think it is better to train in the mornings and fast untill the evenings and that way dont have a postworkout meal?

DR in NC June 10, 2011 at 10:00 am

Dwayne has it nailed down. We are all on the right track and every single human body has it’s peculiarities. Since we are all caring enough about our health and fitness to even be on this page, we are all on going down the right track. Brad: thanks for this thought process. I am a work out fasted guy and my body responds well to it.

James June 10, 2011 at 10:07 am

I usually do a trail run/jog/walk coupled with push-ups & pull-ups and other bodyweight exercises. I’ll do this in a fasted state 75% of the time because my body stores fat easily, so I’m usually trimming it back off. For me, working out in a fasted state means quicker lean-down times and what I’ve pleasantly found to be better long-term muscle growth. For some, building muscle is easier using elevated growth-hormone rather than the traditional insulin route. I really value relative strength or what some call power-to-weight ratio for my own physique and working out in a fasted state makes it easier to get and stay optimal.

Brad Pilon June 10, 2011 at 10:12 am

Ian, I was wondering when someone would bring this up!

Good call.

Brad Pilon June 10, 2011 at 10:14 am

I’d agree too, train when training feels best.

Brad Pilon June 10, 2011 at 10:15 am

Hey Drew,

Brad Pilon here. Best bet would be to go through the old posts on this blog, you’ll probably find that most of your concerns are non-issues.

B

Mike Whitfield June 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Well said Brad… “nickels and dimes of a thousand dollar deal”… LOVE IT.

Bret June 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm

“brad, what are your thoughts on not drinking water on fast days? i usually go through 60- 90 ounces but someone told me i shouldn’t drink anything at all. it sounded off.”

I am not Brad but I would reply “Yes, that is definitely “off” – you should drink plenty of water all the time even when fasting. The benefits of good clean water are too numerous to list here – also it has zero calories..;-)

Brad Pilon June 16, 2011 at 10:54 am

The only reason to not drink anything at all is if you are fasting for religious purposes and this is what is asked of you…otherwise drink up.

B

Bret June 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Drew wrote ..”I would like to follow this way of eating is because it is way easier than having to make 6 meals a day.”

Hi Drew – then you should prolly stop eating 6 times/day. It is totally unnecessary and I would argue bad for your health overall. I also bought into the eating 6 times/day myth for many many years. After reading Brad’s writings and then also reading about some of the old timers who ate 3 meals/day or sometimes only 2 large meals/day and they seemed to develop incredible muscularity w/o the aid of PEDs. I started spacing my meals 5 hours apart and never felt better and still gaining muscle at 56 years old. The sheer relief of worrying much less about food every few hours is worth it alone. Read more of Brad’s writings to finally dispel the 6 meals/day myth perpetuated by “trainers” or “experts” who are just regurgitating bad information to the masses.

daz June 20, 2011 at 4:07 am

Hi Brad,
I have given up worrying about the whole pre, during, and post workout nutrition. it was giving me a headache.

Tho i have just read a recent post from mercola.com;
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/19/359315.aspx
i’d be interested if you have any thoughts/comments on the article, esp. his comments on post workout recovery meal. Here are two paragraphs on the subject from the article;

“Your post exercise recovery meal is critically important. It’s needed to stop the catabolic process in your muscle and shift the recycling process towards repair and growth. If you fail to feed your muscle at the right time after exercise, you won’t just miss this window of opportunity to restore and build your muscle, you’ll actually let the catabolic process go too far and potentially waste and damage your muscle.

So you MUST EAT within 30 minutes after your workout. And you must feed your muscle with fast assimilating proteins. If, for whatever reason, your fail to supply your body with the protein it needs you may actually accelerate the damage you are seeking to repair. Let me STRONGLY warn you that you are playing with fire here. You need to be ultra-careful and use this program as described or you will pay the consequences.”

Owenscott July 11, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Daz that whole thing is all bs. Read thru all of brads stuff. U you will find its crazy crazy stuff they are talking about and its wrong on how the body works.

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