Intermittent Fasting for Runners

 The internet has brought the world at our finger tips and with it comes a million opinions, suggestions and plans. Weight loss and diet plans are topics that never go out of style and there is always abundant information available to us. To choose what works best, what doesn’t compromise our health and still is sustainable is a constant topic of debate. Before choosing a diet or weight loss plan it is important to weight the pros and cons and what is the relevance of such plans in our goals.

 What is Intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting advocates eating at specific windows of 12,10, 8 or 5 hours throughout the day and fasting for the rest of the hours. The goal is to maintain the overall calorie intake by limiting the number of eating hours in order to create conditions of fasting without treading into extremes.

What happens during intermittent fasting?

  • Insulin levels in the blood drop, which results in fat burning and also prevention of type 2 diabetes.
  • Human growth hormone levels increase in the body facilitating fat burning and muscle gain.
  • Cellular repair in the body happens and the body gears up for it and reduces inflammation during fasting.
  • Blood glucose, blood pressure and LDL levels drop, which goes a long way in promoting heart health.
  • It is even proven that it results in cellular and hormonal regeneration and prevents depression and Alzheimer’s.

So, can intermittent fasting actually help runners?

Before we can answer that question, let us keep in mind that before starting any diet plan, we need to re-evaluate our health condition and check with a physician for a go-ahead.

Any cardio activity results in loss of muscle and therefore it becomes important to break the vicious circle of cutting down on calories to lose weight, run to expedite the weight loss, become fatigued as a result of calorie cut down and making the miles harder finally. Since intermittent fasting allows reasonable calorie intake during the eating window, it helps in overcoming fatigue due to calorie deficit.

As mentioned earlier, intermittent fasting raises the levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in the body, which in turn facilitates faster muscle growth, tissue recovery, boosts Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and increases energy. And voila, we have a perfect recipe for marathon training.

Better muscle recovery and more energy means better ability to run.

 Keeping calories consistent helps preserve hormone levels while losing weight thus maintaining the correct balance which is essential for peak physical performance.

Intermittent fasting is also proven to increase energy efficiency in the body as it helps mobilize and make accessible, the stored glycogen in the body at a more efficient rate. This means quick access to the stored energy in your muscles as a response to physical exercise and more energy means better performance.

Some factors to consider:

Syncing meals and runs – This is very important because running on empty (in a fasted state) is not a good thing and is fine only if you are running for weight loss and keeping the runs short, within an hour or lesser.

If marathon training or longer runs is the goal, running on empty will only make it harder to even complete the run.

This is why it is important to schedule the training at a later hour during the day, preferably before dinner, as the body has been fueled through the day to complement your efforts. It is good to keep in mind the time between the last meal and the run so that there is enough time to digest and you don’t end up cramping up or throwing up during the run.

The recovery meal – make sure you have a post workout drink or shake that you can have within 30 mins of completing a run and also make sure you have a substantial meal within the next few hours to aid in proper recovery. Placing runs too far outside the eating window is never good idea as it hampers recovery and can be detrimental.

 

Give your body enough time to adapt – Instead of going all out on intermittent fasting, it is wise to adopt it for about two days in a week to begin with. This will give enough time to your body to adapt to it and ease it into the new ways. Starting with a 12 hr fast and gradually working your way to 10, 8 and 5 hours is the right way to go, so that you don’t shock your body.

Monitor your body – Constantly evaluating progress, what works and what doesn’t is very important. Our bodies are complex and puzzling machines and it is a common occurrence that what work today may not work 6 months from now. So, listening to the cues from our bodies and tweaking routines to the best of our advantage is a wise and essential part of any work out or diet plan.

It is our attitude towards weight loss and workouts that is going to make us winners in mastering the art of physical wellness.