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Old 01-21-2013, 06:56 PM   #1
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Fasting and workouts

Hi all!

I do intermittent fasting where I contain my daily eating to a 5 to 8 hour window. Usually I don't eat until at least noon. However I do my workouts in the a.m. and I'm working up to joining the strength training group class twice a week. It's an intense workout and I have no problem working out in a fasting state but I've always heard that you should eat some protein soon after a workout to help your muscles recover. Is there any truth to this and is it a big deal if I don't eat for an hour or two post-workout if I feel fine?
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Old 01-22-2013, 05:20 PM   #2
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I've heard different things:

1. You should fast before a workout.
2. You should eat a good source of protein 2 hours before a workout, then protein powder right afterwards.
3. I doesn't matter whether you fast or not.

My solution is to do different things. Sometimes (1) and sometimes (2). I do like my protein shake right afterwards -- my reward.
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Old 01-22-2013, 08:39 PM   #3
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One of the (relatively) newer movements in bodybuilding is intermittent fasting. Bodybuilders have always wanted to get "huge" without getting fat, but gaining has traditionally meant adding significant amounts of fat with muscle size. The intermittent fasting guys claim that their approach has helped them make "lean gains," which is the Holy Grail that bodybuilders have been searching for but have never found. Berkhan and his men and women are ripped-lean and gigantic, so they've built a solid following of younger bodybuilders who are currently trying the intermittent fasting approach to muscle gains.

Intermittent fasting is still not super mainstream in the bodybuilding culture -- as a group, bodybuilders tend to go with what's been *proven* by champions of the past -- but a growing number of young bodybuilders are currently doing intermittent fasting. I don't actually know you but I'd guess that their lifting regimes are more rigorous than anything you're considering, since you're just starting out. So there is some evidence that intermittent fasting is compatible with weight training and that there's no need for you to change your diet approach in order to effectively train with weights.

The current *guru* of intermittent fasting alongside heavy lifting is Martin Berkhan. He does recommend BCAA protein supplementation before and after training, to support protein synthesis for maximum size gains, and he explains why:
However, more relevant and telling studies, which don't involve fluid restriction, show that strength and lower intensity endurance training is unaffected - even after 3.5 days of fasting. New research on fasted training supports this. If you read my review of that study, you'll see that the only parameter the fed group did better on was improvements in V02max, which is likely explained by the fact that the carbs allowed them to train at a higher intensity. However, note the other interesting results obtained in the fasted group. Also note that a review I did of another fasted endurance training study showed no negative effect of fasting on endurance or VO2max (quite the contary in fact). This can be explained by the lower intensity.

In conclusion, training in the fasted state does not affect your performance during weight training, which is what most people reading this are interested in. However, training in a completely fasted state is still not something I recommend for optimal progress. Research is quite clear on the benefits of pre-workout and post-workout protein intake for maximizing protein synthesis. For this reason, I suggest supplementing with 10 g BCAA prior to fasted training.
That entry on his site includes links to the studies to which he refers. The link to this entry is included, below. This passage is from #9 on Berkhan's list.

Here is a link to his basic overview of why it's possible (and preferable, in his opinion) to weight train while intermittent fasting. He includes citations to all of the supporting information, if you would like to investigate further.

Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked (Major Update Nov 4th) | Intermittent fasting diet for fat loss, muscle gain and health

Berkhan is a bit of a character and he can be quite sarcastic at times. But he's fighting against an entrenched attitude toward bodybuilding nutrition that is often not founded on actual research, so I think his frustration with the situation comes through in a way that doesn't always help his case.
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Old 01-22-2013, 08:51 PM   #4
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Trillex beat me to it - I was going to suggest the Leangains site as a resource on this. For me, fasted workouts are fine and dandy, though I don't usually do them I never experienced ill effects when I did. But I'd recommend breaking the fast shortly thereafter to minimize catabolism of your lean tissue
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:29 PM   #5
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I've been taught by my fitness and nutrition coach to have lean protein and a carb immediately after a weight workout. it is supposed to help with the healing process of the muscles. there have been times when I was low carbing that I had the protein but limited the carbs if I didn't have room for them for the day but I tried to plan around it.
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:59 PM   #6
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Thanks everyone. After my original post I remembered leangains and went to see what his recommendations are. After my strength training class Tues I drank some almond milk with whey protein and ended up eating lunch earlier than usual too. I think I did have much better muscle recovery as compared to the same class the previous week where I was very sore for days. However, I've been struggling with hunger and carb cravings since then. I know the hunger may be related to stepping up my exercise a lot lately and the cravings are likely a result of me wanting to use food as an emotional band-aid. Changing habits can be sooooo challenging. Thanks for the help
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