How to Safely Bridge Weightlifting and Intermittent Fasting

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Intermittent fasting could come in many shapes and sizes depending on what you’re hoping to achieve from it. Some of these methods include the 16/8, or the 5:2 methods. 16/8 involves having an 8-hour window in which you consume all your nutrition, and then you don’t consume any food during the other 16 hours of the day. The second method has to do with eating normally on 5 days of the week, then eating almost nothing the other 2 days. 

There are countless variations of intermittent fasting right there… but which one should you focus on if you’re looking to achieve its benefits while maintaining progress in strength training?

The belief that fasted workouts can help improve your performance in the gym stems from fundamental changes that manifest in the way our body uses energy for fuel during a workout. The idea is, because you essentially have no carbohydrates (the body’s preferred energy source) available and somewhat lower glycogen stores, then the body increases its reliance on fat for energy. That’s why, in theory, if we teach our bodies to rely more heavily on fat for energy, we can then reap a performance advantage.

When it comes to weightlifting in a fasted state, one study discovered no difference in body mass composition among a group of athletes who fasted, then compared to athletes who haven’t fasted before a workout. 

Another study then found no negative effect on the power output when it comes to powerlifting exercises, as long as the athlete had met their sleep needs.

This means that as long as you’re able to continue eating enough calories you’re your partake in your usual strength training routine, you should still be able to make significant gains. But with that said, you should also keep in mind that prolonged fasting periods will naturally lead you to lose the muscle tissue you’re working so hard to acquire.

Naturally, the loss of muscle tissue is one concern when you’re talking about a fasted-strength training workout because the body can just as well dip into protein stores for energy. One review concluded that there was a loss of lean tissue mass among fasted athletes, and this increases over longer periods of fasting such as Ramadan.

When it comes to weightlifting and fasting, you have to be aware of protein catabolism. The breakdown of muscle protein is a prevalent concern when the body has little available energy stores to pull from. 

There’s not enough research showing actual benefits when it comes to fasting before a weight-training workout, so it’s likely something you want to avoid if you’re training to become stronger.

Finally, you should be aware of the difference between fasting and weightlifting and lifting weights in a fasted state.

Lifting weights while fasting is definitely not recommended, especially during your heavy lifting sessions. It’s also not recommended if your goal is to build muscle. For best results, lift weights during the windows of time that you’re eating. You have to make sure your body has the necessary energy to not only complete your heavy lifts, but also to recover adequately after your training. 

If you’re currently exercising at a moderate or high-intensity workout, you have to make sure you’re eating close to your workout, so your body has the necessary glycogen stores (stored energy) to complete the lift. When it comes to more intense exercise, including HIIT with weights, you should be exercising much closer to the time in which you break your fast.

And always remember – there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to fuel, fitness, and fasting. If you’re someone who is new to either of the two, you have to take the time to adjust to this new way of eating and consider adding in your workouts slowly.

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