Recovery

Is It Okay Not To Eat After Your Workout While Fasting?

November 20th 2019

Throughout the last few years bodybuilders, powerlifters, and various strength-based athletes have relied upon the use of intermittent fasting to aid the fat loss process associated with hitting certain weight classes for competition as well as developing a better overall physique.

While many people question whether intermittent fasting is feasible in combination with intense training it is, in fact, an extremely viable option for long term fat loss when tailored correctly to the individual athlete and may help athletes in reaching their long-term goals in competition.

Although caloric restriction combined with intermittent fasting may impact training negatively at times intermittent fasting can be used effectively by strength athletes if they carefully monitor the timing of their meals with respect to training in order to preserve as much strength and muscle as possible. 

Eating After A Workout For Intermittent Fasting

A typical intermittent fasting ritual is the 16 hour/8 hour fast where people will only eat two meals a day, one of which is usually after a workout if you choose to eat dinner. Eating after a workout not only allows your body to intake more nutrients to begin recovery but it also gives you more energy for the rest of the day.

What happens if you do not eat after a workout?

You may not be optimally recovering from your workout sessions. Let us analyze that question with this example - back in our caveman days, we tend to go through many periods with no food. This was because the food was scarce and we could die from going hunting.

So, as a result, our stomachs evolved to store food for longer periods of time. At the same time, our muscle structure and strength levels learned to not disappear immediately after not eating for a couple of days. Sure, we lose a portion of strength and body weight but nothing that would drastically impair our function.
Because if that did happen, we would all be in trouble as a species.

So, what does that say about us today? Nutrient timing is important, no matter what your fitness expert says. To believe that eating something 3 hours post-workout compared to eating something right after your workout would produce the same results, it just does not make sense.

Yet, it is not the deciding factor since there are a ton of other reasons why someone can make progress faster than other athletes. This is just one small piece of a big puzzle.

What can you take away? Nothing will happen but make sure you eat enough calories and hit your macronutrients. This is because you need to make sure your body is not fighting itself from the lack of nutrients. 

Another thing you will probably feel is that you will be tired and hungry. This is due to our biology and how we trained ourselves with eating. 

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Intermittent fasting is generally recommended for athletes who participate in weight class sports and may aid athletes in reaching their desired competition weight as well as help them to better understand weight management so that they have both the ability to gain weight or to lose weight depending on their situation.

Intermittent fasting protocols come in a plethora of forms, but most athletes choose to follow plans which incorporate either daily limited windows of time for eating or weekly 24 hour periods of fasting. Those who partake in intermittent fasting tend to benefit from increased production of human growth hormone, lower inflammation, better recovery from training, and better control over the weight loss process and weight management.

Athletes who participate in 24 hour fasts may find themselves having better recovery in the long run, increased focus at the start of the new week and new weight loss lows on the scale during their fat loss journey due to having a full day dedicated solely to resting and abstaining from food. 

Recommendations for Strength Athletes Who Use IF

Most strength-based athletes are recommended to follow an intermittent fasting plan which allows them to eat each day within a limited amount of time, such as an 8-hour eating window, to reduce their risk of compromising performance during training or competition. Although weekly 24-hour fasts can be used by strength athletes it is generally best for most to use limited eating windows instead since elite athletes typically train more often than those new to the sport and in some cases train every single day. 

Intermittent fasting protocols for strength athletes typically follow a schedule of 16 hours of fasting with 8 hours open for eating.

Most of the time athletes will wait a few hours post waking to consume their first meal and will time all meals around their training with their last meal being consumed immediately before going to sleep. This method of eating allows the athlete to experience satiation more easily as well as properly fuel their training and enhance recovery post-training. Intermittent fasting plans like this also allow the athlete to reduce their body fat more easily and efficiently since it forces the athlete to run off of body fat alone at the start of their day for energy and then rely upon the food consumed around training for fuel and recovery.

Since all meals are timed around training the athlete reduces their chance of losing fat-free mass and increases their ability to burn body fat and feel stronger during lifting. Those who partake in intermittent fasting generally sleep more than those who follow typical caloric restrictions and thus not only enhance their time spent recovering but also can avoid the time spent being awake and suffering from weight loss symptoms such as fatigue and extreme, prolonged hunger.

Strength athletes who utilize intermittent fasting should ensure that they continue to have a high overall protein intake and time their carbohydrate consumption properly to enhance their performance during training and competition while still allowing their body to lose body fat over time. Strength athletes who consume between 2.3 and 3.1 g of protein per kg of lean body mass each day during their period of intermittent fasting will reduce their risk of losing fat-free mass, maintain satiety, and reserve muscle quality.

By consuming the bulk of their daily carbohydrate intake before, during, and immediately following their lifts strength athletes will ensure that their bodies use the readily available ATP produced through the consumption of carbohydrates and force their bodies to rely on body fat over stored carbohydrates upon waking during the extended period of their fast.

Strength athletes should aim to consume 4–7 g of carbohydrates per kg of body mass as well as 1.0 - 1.2 g of protein per kg of body mass in order to maximize training and meet performance. Those who are using intermittent fasting to aid with fat loss should consume carbohydrate quantities which are on the lower end of the recommended range whereas their daily protein intake should be increased to the highest recommend quantity if not slightly above.

 In order to use their macronutrients as efficiently as possible to enhance training and fat loss strength athletes should consume 1 g of carbohydrate per kg of body mass prior to training and 0.5 g of carbohydrates per kg of body mass during training. Protein should be included within each meal consumed during the eating window and each meal should contain a minimum of 20 grams of protein. 

Intermittent Fasting can be Effective for Both Fat Loss and Training 

Strength athletes may participate in intermittent fasting without much concern for muscle loss or major declines in strength as long as they carefully tailor their meals to training and recovery requirements. Most strength athletes utilize intermittent fasting plans which allow them to eat every day but within a limited time span. These plans generally work best for athletes who train and compete more frequently than those who are new to the sport and any intermittent fasting plan should be heavily researched before undertaking. 

And if you are looking for a beginner program to truly change your life by its simplicity and effectiveness, look no further

References

  1. Alirezaei, M., Kemball, C. C., Flynn, C. T., Wood, M. R., Whitton, J. L., & Kiosses, W. B. (2010). Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy, 6(6), 702–710. doi:10.4161/auto.6.6.12376
  2. Ho, K. Y., Veldhuis, J. D., Johnson, M. L., Furlanetto, R., Evans, W. S., Alberti, K. G., & Thorner, M. O. (1988). Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. The Journal of clinical investigation, 81(4), 968–975. doi:10.1172/JCI113450
  3. Mattson, M. P. (2005). ENERGY INTAKE, MEAL FREQUENCY, AND HEALTH: A Neurobiological Perspective. Annual Review of Nutrition, 25(1), 237–260. doi: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.25.050304.092526
  4. Peos, J., Norton, L., Helms, E., Galpin, A., & Fournier, P. (2019). Intermittent Dieting: Theoretical Considerations for the Athlete. Sports, 7(1), 22. doi: 10.3390/sports7010022
  5. Slater, G. & Phillips, S.M., 2011, ‘Nutrition guidelines for strength sports: Sprinting, weightlifting, throwing events, and bodybuilding’, Journal of Sports Science, vol. 29, suppl. 1, pp. S67–7.
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