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Can fasting make you a faster athlete?
This week on 32Gi Sports Nutrition, we look at the pros and cons of fasting. Can it help you as an athlete? Is there a right and wrong way to do it? Mark Wolff gives you the lowdown right now.
You with us once again on 32Gi Sports Nutrition. Thanks for joining us, I’m Mr Active David Katz joined by Mark Wolff. We’ve had a very interesting September so far. We talked about detox we’ve talked about water absorption, which if you didn’t hear please do go back and listen. I’ll put the links up on the show notes to this episode chat.
But today I want to talk about something else. It’s popped up a little bit in previous chats, but looking at fasting. I know when we were talking about fat efficiency as well, Mark looked at fasting sort of running just on water in the mornings.
But in general I mean you know culturally a lot of people have fasting, you know they fast certain days. Fast if you Muslim, you know almost for a whole month during the day. There is benefit that people see in it. Mark in terms of an athlete; I mean would a whole day fasting benefit you in some way? How would you sort of as an athlete, look at the pros and cons of fasting?
The trouble with intermittent fasting
MW: Well I think there’s a few things to look at. First of all, we gotta understand if somebody fasts; what is the reason that they are fasting for? Intermittent fasting; generally a lot of people do that for weight loss. The problem is that if you an athlete that’s gonna impact your training without a doubt. Because it’s gonna impact your energy levels.
You know obviously fasting means cutting out your fuel. Cutting out your fuel means you’ve got nothing to fuel your engine. If you wanna train you not gonna be putting in quality workouts. I think the question is why is the person fasting? Is it to get to a specific weight?
I mean yes, intermitted fasting can assist without a doubt. I mean I’m not a big fan of it, I just believe that eating clean is the best way to assist yourself in weight loss and not intermittent fasting. I believe in fasting for other reasons, but that’s one of the reasons.
So if you are somebody that’s looked at intermitted fasting or you going to be intermitted fasting. I think as an athlete you need to decide when this is gonna be suitable to do. Because if it’s close to races you cannot do it.
If it’s doing bouts of peak or high volume training, you absolutely cannot do it. So maybe this is something to do during a very toned down season. Where you actually not doing much training at all. You just wanna try clean out the system. Eat healthy foods here and there and try maybe intermitting fasting in between.
The importance of what you eat post-fast
Another thing is that you know if you look at different cultures. Intermittent fasting for some people means cutting out the food but they still hydrate. But in some cultures and you mentioned Ramadan is one. If you look at the Jewish religion as another. When it comes to fasting they don’t touch food or water. They completely cut it out. 100% nothing passes the lips.
So I think if it’s at that stage, I think you need to decide post-fast what are you going to put back into the system. Because this is where a lot of people make a mistake. They say oh after my fast I’m going to start eating cleanly. But immediately after a fast what do they start to do? They start to eat rubbish immediately. Why? Because they think they’ve earned the rubbish because they haven’t eaten the whole day. That’s not going to do anything except cause weight gain.
So that’s another sort of con when it comes to those sort of things. We spoken at previous podcasts about fat efficiency. How to become a fat efficient athlete. This is where I’m a very big advocate of fast to training.
How athletes can benefit from fasting
The reason why I say fast to training; is because I think an athlete that goes out there and I’m talking early morning training. I’m not talking fasting from the morning all the way to the evening and then training. But going out and then training in the morning in a fasted state.
To me will obviously be able to; first of all you’ll be able to burn off and increase that amount of fat burn early on. It will make you a far more fat efficient athlete. Because you need to rely on your own natural energy stores to fuel yourself. The body doesn’t have a choice but to turn to it’s own natural resources to be able to fuel itself. Whether that be glycogen or fat.
Hopefully depending at the intensity that you going at, obviously at a low intensity you’ll be able to utilise more fat. That’s the aim of say fasted training. It’s something that I do. I actually I never ever eat before a morning workout ever. Even up to sessions that are 3/4 hours long I don’t.
Unless I know that, that session is what I call a nutrition training session. I need to test my nutrition because I am coming closer to a race. I need to be able to test it and make sure that my pre-training meal and my during training meal is taken care of. I see that it’s adaptable and it’s suitable to the stomach and the digestive system.
That’s the one reason. The other reason is that if I’m going at a much higher intensity over a long period of time, then maybe I will look at fuelling before I enter in that event. And the reason being is that if you going at a higher intensity and you not fuelling yourself, your energy levels tend to drop. You stand to hit the wall.
Basically it’s in the long run that won’t turn out to be a quality workout. So it really depends what the purpose is behind it. So I think I’ve covered a few of the reasons that people fast and why they fast. I mean we spoke about weight loss we spoke about becoming more, more fat efficient.
To me I think the weight loss aspect I wouldn’t look at for fasting. I wouldn’t look at fasting to achieve that. But being a fat efficient athlete I would say that’s definitely the way to go. By being a fat efficient athlete you can also guarantee yourself that you will ultimately lose weight a lot quicker.
Training yourself to train in a fasted state
DK: Mark I must tell you when we did that fat efficient chat. I mean I eat all the time every couple of hours. It’s not a lot but I need to eat consistently. I eat before I train in the morning, even if it’s sort of half an hour before. Often I’ve been up a little bit too long, probably a hour and a half to two hours. I just had a cup of hot water and lemon, which we’ve also previously talked about.
I went to run, wasn’t at a high intensity it wasn’t that long. I think I did 35 minutes. But I battled with nausea. So it’s not something I mean in playing around of course you do this during training, but if you are regular at eating it’s not something that sort of happens overnight. You gotta sort of train your body again to do something like that.
MW: You definitely have to train yourself to do it. I mean the reason why you would have got nausea is you probably had quite a drop in blood sugar because maybe you aren’t used to it. Also the other thing that I tell people; if you gonna wake up don’t sit and wait around for an hour or two before you go train. You know if you gonna go fast to train get up and go and train.
What I find does help is actually caffeine intake before training in a fasted state. Because caffeine has the ability to free up a lot more free fatty acids which is basically energy waiting to be utilised during exercise. It can help with the energy system. I’m not talking about caffeine with sugar. I’m talking about caffeine on it’s own. Obviously once you add sugar in, you have taken in something. Look I think that can aid and assist.
But it is also a mind-set and sometimes you need to keep pushing through these boundaries more and more. Eventually you’ll find that, that nausea or that light headedness might only set in after an hour and a half, two hours, three hours. Eventually maybe it won’t set in at all.
So it’s definitely something that needs to be done frequently. You can’t go and try and become a fasted athlete. Then all of a sudden two weeks later you become a non-fasted athlete. Then two weeks later you become a fasted athlete.
It’s something that takes many, many weeks and months of preparation before your body starts to adapt to that environment. Remember our whole cellular structure; I mean if I’m talking about our mitochondria. The way that they function within the body is that, they are used to the way that you eating, you fuelling you training etcetera.
They so used to it that they’ve adapted to this sort of lifestyle over a long period of time. Now all of a sudden you going, you changing…you changing the landscape completely. So your whole structure your whole body inside needs to adapt to this.
You know first time they’ll be in shock. Second time maybe still shock, shock, shock. Until eventually your structure starts to adapt to this new landscape. Once it adapts to that new landscape you’ll find that it’s far more comfortable to be able to deal with those, you know situations when it comes to during training and post-exercise etcetera.
How a G-shot can kick-start your training
DK: Well Mark I definitely will stick to what I know. I know I can use energy quite quickly and it doesn’t sort of sit with me. So I will stick to what I know it was a good thing to try. I just wanted to ask you one more thing. You touched on caffeine. The little G-shot hat 32Gi has part of it’s product range. One of those things and a bit of water would be a good way to start before a run?
MW: I mean I basically live on those things when I do very, very long sessions. Especially if I know it’s gonna be quite a long hard session. I try to keep my fuel minimalistic. I tend to rely on those. The reason being is there’s hardly any calories in that product. So you definitely not gonna raise your insulin levels. You’ll get that caffeine benefit.
I went on a ride on the weekend. I took one an hour before one at the start and I took another four during the ride. But it was a big mountain climb, I just felt that that’s what got me through the ride.
So for me it works. There’s a lot of people out there who absolutely love the G-shot. It also doesn’t play with the stomach. Because most of it gets absorbed actually in the mouth. Because it is a liquid guarana form of caffeine dispensation. So it really, really works very well.
I also like the fact that it’s bitter and not sweet or maybe it’s sweet bitter like an expresso flavour. So to me that’s quite nice because one of the things I don’t like during training is sweet. But yes something like that would definitely be an excellent pre-workout to try and increase that ability to burn fat. Caffeine definitely has the ability to do that.
DK: Well if you do wanna find out about the 32Gi G-shot or any of their product range do log onto the website 32Gi.com or also if you have any questions for Mark or anyone in the team, there’s an email you can use. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Also if you’d like us to discuss anything here on the podcast. But from Mark Wolff and myself Mr Active David Katz we’ll catch up again with you soon on the 32Gi Sports Nutrition podcast.