Fit and fine by Kamal Singh: To fast or not to fast
Since its Navratri and a lot of people are fasting these days, I think its appropriate that we discuss fasting and working out. Actually I am frequently asked if it is okay to do cardio on an empty stomach and also would you “burn” more fat if cardio was done in a fasted state? Till not so long, fasted state cardio was considered the de-rigueur method for losing weight.
Conventional wisdom says that if you deplete body stores of glycogen, which is how we store glucose in the muscles and liver, then burning fat for fuel is the only option left for the body. So those looking to lose weight were encouraged to perform in their favourite form of cardiovascular exercise on an empty stomach. Thus the usual sight of half sleepy men and women jogging on treadmills or cycling in the gym early in the morning. All hoping for the fat to melt away.
Then this was upended by newer information that cardio on an empty stomach leads to loss of muscle mass. This scared the gym bros who desperately want big muscles and a six pack to boot. Conventional wisdom shifted to high intensity intervals for cardio and no wannabe muscle-head could be caught doing low intensity cardio like walking or jogging on an empty stomach!
Despite all the back and forth on working out in a fasted state or not, there are a few things we need to keep in mind if you fast and want to train to either put on muscle or lose fat:
•In a fasted state, high intensity anything is a no no. Any exercise at an easy pace is good. Now is the time to do incline walking if you have access to a treadmill or a jog in the outdoors.
•Do not go overboard in terms of duration while incorporating low intensity cardio. Keep the duration of your brisk walk/jog to about 45 minutes.
• While lifting in a fasted state, keep the number of exercises and sets per exercise on the lower side. If you do 5 sets per exercise, cut it down to three sets and also drop the intensity to manageable levels.
•Also make sure that the intake of water does not go down. If you are doing a water less fast, then working out is a strict no no.
Intermittent fasting and working out
The latest thing to hit the fitness world is intermittent fasting (IF). Though IF is not new, the craze for IF is reaching hype levels. One form of IF is called 16:8 where you fast for 16 hours and only eat during an eight-hour window in a 24-hour day. If you follow IF or want to follow it then keep these tips in mind:
•Break your fast with small protein heavy meal and then go to the gym.
•After the training session, eat your heaviest meal of the day with carbohydrates and protein in it.
•Make sure to keep your intake of electrolytes up while following IF.
•IF tends to favour people who workout later in the day as most IF fast from early evening to late morning the next day.
•If you have to or like to workout early in the morning, then IF 16:8 may not be for you.
Fasting has been an integral part our lives for centuries now. Though earlier, fasting was not used for fat loss or improving health markers. Working out while fasting can vastly improve body composition and strength, if used intelligently. Do not overdo the training and you will improve. But if you are into more is better, then fitness could plateau or injury could be the result. So choose wisely!
Author bio: Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years
From HT Brunch, October 6, 2019
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