Whenever possible, I like to work out fasted whether it’s cardio, yoga or strength training. A fasted workout is getting a lot of buzz lately (granted “a lot” is a subjective phrase!). However, fasted workouts have long been a pillar in the bodybuilding community, and with good reason. Some experts say that working out in a fasted state encourages your body to use your reserves (ahem, your fat) instead of recently consumed calories. The idea is that you’ll burn fat instead of that energy you just consumed in the form of a protein shake or banana. If that’s true, then great! If not, then there’s really no harm done as long as your doctor hasn’t warned you against a fasted workout for your personal well-being.
I’m a big supporter of every person figuring out the best fitness plan that works for them. Some people are adamant that they need some form of energy before a workout, which is why you’ll see some spin instructors finishing up their banana even as they get in the saddle. Still, it’s a good idea to experiment and play with what you eat and when in regards to your workouts. There’s a difference between needing to eat at a certain time and wanting to, or just being used to it.
Get There “Fast”
As someone who strongly prefers morning workouts, with my lifting routines starting at 5 a.m., it’s not difficult to see why working out in a fasted state is relatively easy for me. I certainly wouldn’t be taking a fasted workout in the evening! Another reason I’m such a fan is that I strongly believe in immediately consuming at least 20 grams of protein after any type of strength training. For me, this is paramount for lifting and highly desired after yoga.
Gaining and “feeding” your muscles is only half in the strength training. The other half is in proper protein consumption. I tried to put on muscle for years with no success, and it was because I wasn’t prioritizing protein immediately after my workouts. Sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, starts in our thirties. It gets a little more aggressive in each following decade. If we’re not addressing muscle gains or sustenance until well after our thirties, we have some catching up to do.
What does this have to do with fasted workouts? Well, it’s a lot easier to have room for that 20+ grams of protein when you didn’t eat before your workout!
Yoga + Fasting: A Long History
Fasting and yoga have a long, close history. When I was in yoga teacher training, our first practice began every day at sunrise, and breakfast was offered immediately after. A fasted yoga practice is in keeping with Indian and yogic traditions. It’s also much easier to succeed in some poses, especially twists and inversions, when you don’t have a full stomach.
If you’ve never tried a fasted (preferably morning) workout before, give it a shot with an open mind if your doctor gives you the okay. You might be surprised at how fulfilling it is. As an added bonus, as much as I don’t like using food as a reward, it can also be motivating knowing that as soon as you complete your workout or savasana, you have a nutritious, filling and protein-rich treat waiting for you.