Intermittent Fasting and Exercise: When Should I Workout?

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Intermittent fasting and exercise can be a great combination, but finding the best time to workout when you’re intermittent fasting can pose a challenge.

Consider this.

Before you proceed, let’s take a moment to consider a few things when it comes to intermittent fasting and exercise.

What do you want to learn about intermittent fasting and exercise? What is the end result that you want to achieve when it comes to your intermittent fasting and exercise routine?

  • Are you looking to optimize your fat-burning potential?
  • Are you looking for the best time(s) to get the most out of your workout regardless of what “state” you are in? Or,
  • Are you simply looking for ideas to pursue when scheduling your workouts while intermittent fasting?

In this post, I will review all of those questions, provide a little of what I learned about intermittent fasting and exercise in regards to my own fasted workouts, and breakdown some workout schedules that might work with your individual intermittent fasting schedules.

For the Burn.

If you’re reading this post, and you’re intermittent fasting, my guess is that you want to time your workouts to enable your body to be a more efficient fat-burning machine.

As an intermittent faster, you’re already providing your body the opportunity to shift its fuel-burning process from a “sugar burner” (pulling fuel from your food stores) to an efficient “fat burner” (pulling your fuel from stored fat) so, in theory, by adding a well-timed workout to your routine you should only enhance that “fat-burning” opportunity. Right?

Let’s take a look.

Early Morning / Fasted Workouts.

According to science, early morning is the best time to work out if you want to burn more fat and optimize your weight loss. This science is based on the fact that you are working out on an empty stomach (in a fasted state). See below.

According to Anthony Hackney, a professor in the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, “Working out in the morning — especially on an empty stomach — is the best way to burn stored fat, making it ideal for weight loss. In the early morning hours, you have a hormonal profile that would predispose you to better metabolism of fat,” People naturally have elevated levels of cortisol and growth hormone in the morning—both of which are involved in metabolism—so you’ll “draw more of your energy from your fat reserves,” Hackney says. That can potentially help with weight loss. Research also suggests that morning exercisers may have less of an appetite throughout the day, which could also help protect them from putting on pounds. SOURCE

If you are looking for optimum fat burning potential, then an early morning fasted workout is your best bet.

But is it really worth it?

See my thoughts below.

Afternoon / Evening Fasted Workouts.

There is little science out there comparing early morning fasted workouts to afternoon or evening fasted workouts, so what I write below is all based on my understanding of working out in the fasted state.

What we do know about working out in the fasted state is that, once our glycogen stores in our liver are depleted, our bodies will start to pull fuel from our fat stores. If we are at this stage when we start working out, we can assume that our bodies will pull fuel from our stored fat to fuel our workouts.

Knowing this, we can pretty much assume that we will still burn more fat by working out in a fasted state whether it’s morning, afternoon, or evening.

Is it Worth It?

The science behind the potential benefits of working out in a fasted state seem encouraging, but if you hate working out in the morning, or completely fasted, is it worth it?

That’s up to you!

I happen to enjoy working out in the morning in a fasted state. I get up, drink my black coffee, and hit my Peloton.

My early morning workouts range from easy rides to very difficult rides.

It took me a while to adapt to the early morning fasted workouts, but once my body adapted, I’ve had little issues with those workouts.

Do I notice the extra burn?

As far as a noticeable difference in fat burn and weight loss in regards to an early morning workout, I don’t see much of a difference.

As we have learned over the past several years, working out is just one element of weight loss. What we eat is the real catalyst of weight loss, and WHEN we eat catalyzes that weight loss even more. I believe that intermittent fasting was my catalyst for weight loss, and not working out in the morning in a fasted state.

Something might be happening?

Unfortunately, I’m not a part of any scientific study that monitors my fat burn after my fasted workouts, so I really have no idea how much more fat I’m burning or if it’s aiding in my weight loss efforts.

Am I benefitting from something? Probably, but I really can’t tell.

Early morning workouts in the fasted state, for me, is more like adding a little extra icing on the cake to “round out” the cake. It’s not the ONLY reason I’m losing weight, but it has its benefits.

Find the BEST time to workout for YOU.

Intermittent fasting and exercise is an amazing combination, but only if you find an intermittent fasting and exercise schedule that works for you.

If you’re new to intermittent fasting and just want to review some options regarding when to exercise while intermittent fasting, then take a look at some of my suggestions below.

I know that this may come as a shock to some of you, but you DON’T HAVE to plan your exercise schedule around your potential maximum fat-burning potential (GASP!).

You can live a successful intermittent fasting lifestyle and plan your workouts around when you want to properly fuel your workouts as opposed to working out on empty.

It all comes down to what works best for you.

Early Morning.

If you’re like I was and just want to get that workout out of the way early in the morning, but you’re concerned about working out in a fasted state, I’m here to tell that you will be OK.

With some time and prep, you can become an efficient fat burner and train your body to pull energy to fuel your workouts from your fat stores and not from a workout supplement. It just takes time for that to happen.

Start slow, build your base, don’t overdue it, and in a short time your body will adapt to those early morning workouts.

Supplements?

I realize that many in the supplement and the health industry will tell you that you MUST workout with some sort of pre-workout food or supplement. However, most of that science is backed by the same industries selling you the product. Take what they say with a grain of salt. Science has changed and that science affects their bottom line.

Supplements are not necessary, but if you want to “dirty” your fast because you absolutely need a supplement to get you through an early morning workout, then you do you.

That’s what I did in the early stages of my intermittent fasting journey!

For quite some time I fueled my early morning workouts with a pre-workout supplement and still lost weight. I opted to remove that supplement when I switched over to a clean fast.

Currently, like many intermittent fasters, I drink black coffee as my pre-workout supplement. And, truth be told, I saw no difference in my workout when I made the switch from the pre-workout supplement to just black coffee.

Important Note: There are different schools of thought in the intermittent fasting world when it comes to fueling your workouts. Most opt for a completely fasted workout while others will “dirty” their fast and opt for a pre-workout supplement. That choice is yours and yours alone.

Timing.

What if it’s not the time of day that worries you but the length of time that you have to remain in a fasted state after you finish your workout?

Let’s review a few intermittent fasting for exercise schedule options for those of you who may want to eat directly after you workout, or those who do not want to workout in a fasted state at all.

Early afternoon workouts: Right before your eating window opens.

If waiting 6+ hours until you can eat after a good hard workout doesn’t interest you at all, then maybe working out right before your eating window opens is a good option for you!

Many IFers like to complete their workouts right before their eating window opens. This allows them to open their window and fuel their body with food right after their workout is complete.

An example of this workout schedule might look like this (this is based on an 18/6 intermittent fasting schedule):

  • 7:00 PM – Close eating window.
  • 11:30 AM – Workout (assuming I’m working out / showering for 90 minutes).
  • 1:00 PM – Open eating window.

This is an example of a schedule that will allow you to eat/fuel directly after your workout.

This was my preferred method before making the switch to morning workouts. When I first started intermittent fasting, I had a really hard time finding my workout grove. I also thought that I would STARVE if I didn’t eat right after a workout. For a good several months I would workout right before my eating window opened.

After your eating window has opened.

For those people who have ZERO interest in working out in the fasted state, there is an option for you!

By waiting until your eating window has opened you have allowed yourself the opportunity to fuel your workout with a pre-workout supplement, and you have provided yourself the opportunity to eat once your workout is complete.

An example of this schedule might look like this (this is based on an 18/6 intermittent fasting schedule):

  • 7:00 PM – Close eating window
  • 1:00 PM – Open eating window.
  • 1:30 PM – Consume pre-workout supplement.
  • 1:45/2:00 PM – Workout (we will assume 90 minutes)
  • 3:30 PM – Complete workout. Consume post workout supplement.
  • 6:00 PM – Eat dinner.
  • 7:00 PM – Close window.

The beauty of this schedule is that those pre and post-workout supplements are 100% completely allowed because your eating window is open!

By waiting until your eating window opens, you allow yourself to continue on as you had before you started IF. There is no need to change anything about your workout!

Adjust as needed!

The beauty of intermittent fasting is its flexibility.

Say, you want to workout early in the morning, but you really don’t want to workout in the fasted state. No problem!

You can simply adjust your eating window to an early morning eating window so you can incorporate that pre and post-workout supplement.

For example, your schedule can shift to look like this (this is based on an 18/6 intermittent fasting schedule)

  • 12:00 PM – Close Window.
  • 6:00 AM – Open eating window with pre-workout supplement.
  • 6:30 AM – Workout (we’ll assume a 90 minute workout).
  • 8:00 AM – Complete workout. Consume post-workout supplement..
  • 12:00 PM – Close window

The flexibility belongs to you! You do what you need to do to make it work!

Be a Weekend Warrior!

If you have little time to workout during the week, but really want to get in some good workouts, take advantage of the free time that you have on the weekends!

My workout schedule has me working out 3-5 times a week. If I can get two workouts in during the week, and two really good workouts in over the weekend, I consider that a HUGE success.

Even if I only get one workout in during the week, I know that I have more time to commit to my workouts over the weekend and commit a little more time to those workouts than I do during the week.

This is also a great option for those who absolutely need to eat something before or after their workouts. Take a look at your schedule for the weekend, see if there are adjustments to be made to that schedule, and make those changes!

Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle, and if you want to make this work, make adjustments that will work for you!

Too much is ALWAYS too much!

This is my disclaimer to those of you who want to go a little too far.

Too much is too much is too much it too much.

If you’re feeling lightheaded or sick while you’re working out while intermittent fasting, then STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING!

I get it, I do. You want all the results in none of the time. But, if you feel sick or lightheaded when you start working out fasted, then you need to SLOW DOWN. This isn’t a sprint! It’s OK to take some time and ease into working out in a fasted state.

So, when is the best time to workout while intermittent fasting?

Personally, I think anytime you can get in a workout is the best time to workout!

While there may be more benefit to working out in the morning or in a completely fasted state, the reality is that “difference” probably won’t make THAT much of a difference anyway. Just working out and raising that heart rate has way more benefit than not working out at all.

In all cases, you do you.

Don’t beat yourself up about this. Finding what works for you will take time, and guess what, it will most likely change! Life changes. What works today may not be what works for you a year from now.

Be flexible, experiment and you will find what works best for you sooner than you think.

Follow my Reset Plan Progress!

If you’ve been keeping up to date on my recent post, then you will know that I gained 10 pounds WHILE intermittent fasting during the COVID stay-at-home order. In order to lose that weight (and more) I have implemented my own little Intermittent Fasting Reset plan to help lose that weight.

I just posted my Month One progress, and the results are pretty interesting!

Keep Reading!

Disclaimer: The information in this email is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the stuckassdown blog.

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