Intermittent fasting has been around for much longer than most of us realize, and it also comes in many different forms. For example, some people fast for a certain portion of the day while fueling during other periods. Others eat one day and fast the next.

However you choose to separate your fasting from your fueling period, it is important to ensure you can realistically fit your fasting schedule into your life. One challenge many people have while starting this lifestyle is figuring out when to work out and if they can do it while fasting.

What Is Fasting And Intermittent Fasting?

A diet plan known as intermittent fasting alternates between eating and not eating. Intermittent fasting cycles can occur hourly or daily. Fasting is used to describe the period of time you aren’t eating while fueling or feasting is used to describe the amount of time you spend eating. 

What Happens When Your Fast?

Fasting affects your body on both a cellular and hormonal level. Many of these changes occur as your body tries to access your body’s fat stores through hormonal adjustments. Four primary processes occur while fasting: 

  1. Insulin levels drop, and insulin sensitivity improves.
  2. The amount of human growth hormone (HGH) in your body dramatically increases. 
  3. Gene functions change to promote longevity and protection against disease.
  4. Your cells begin repair processes. 

Pros And Cons Of Intermittent Fasting

Luckily, intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that has been studied extensively. While some people should not apply fasting to their diet, it can actually have many benefits, including:

  • Reducing insulin resistance
  • Weight loss
  • A reduction in inflammation
  • Promoting brain health
  • Lowering LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and insulin for better heart health
  • Promotion of anti-aging functions

Even though there are many benefits to practicing intermittent fasting, there is also evidence that it is not the best approach for everyone. It can be especially harmful to those who are underweight or have a history of disordered eating. 

There is also evidence that intermittent fasting is not as beneficial for women as it is for their male counterparts – however, this primarily comes from studies in animals. As for human evidence, most of the information is purely anecdotal. 

And, as always, it is very important to speak with a healthcare professional before changing your diet if you 

  • Have diabetes 
  • Have issues with blood sugar regulation
  • Are trying to conceive
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have low blood pressure
  • Take medications

With both the pros and cons in mind, intermittent fasting appears to have more benefits than drawbacks for relatively healthy people. And with any healthy lifestyle, it is important to incorporate movement and fitness. 

Can You Work Out While Fasting?

Many people favor fasting workouts rather than eating before exercise. But is this healthy, and can it positively contribute to your goals? As it turns out, there are health benefits to a fasted workout. So, in most cases, yes – it is perfectly fine to work out if you have been fasting. 

Individual goals and preferences may dictate otherwise, but you are likely not harming your body by working out on an empty stomach. As long as you are supplying yourself with adequate and (hopefully) proper nutrition throughout the day, there is very little chance of any drawbacks to fasting workouts. 

women doing intense exercise

Benefits And Disadvantages To Working Out While Fasting

While contemplating whether to work out while fasting, there are a few things you should keep in mind. For example, fasting workouts have been shown to burn more fat while your body is active. Therefore, this can be a great way to encourage greater fat depletion to reach weight loss goals. 

While exercising in a fasted state has shown to cause the body to use up more glycogen from your fat stores, some people simply don’t feel good while working out during their fasting period – and that’s okay! Working out, staying active, and keeping your body in motion should feel good. 

Some common drawbacks to fasting workouts include:

  • Decreased performance during workouts
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • The inability to build muscle (maintaining muscle is usually not an issue)

If you try working out while fasting and notice that you aren’t performing at your usual level or your endurance and stamina are plateauing, it may be a sign that your body needs more fuel during workouts to function at a higher level. Another important thing to consider is the type of workout you are doing. For example, fasting during yoga or Pilates practices may be much more realistic for your body than fasting during a HIIT workout or heavy weightlifting. 

Most Effective Workouts While In A Fasted Stated

Choosing the right workout is nothing short of a challenge. However, most of us could probably agree that we want some variety in our workouts, and some may even have a picture in their minds of their desired outcome. This, of course, would dictate the types of workouts you do. 

Fasted cardio is one of the most popular choices for those looking to maximize the benefits of their exercise plan while working out during their intermittent fasting. When you undertake fasted cardio, your body is in a fasting condition. 

In essence, it refers to performing aerobic exercises without food. This typically occurs first thing in the morning after sleeping all night, but if you engage in intermittent fasting, it may also occur later in the day. When you practice fasted cardio, your body has no glucose and uses your stored fat for fuel. 

Other common and effective fasted workouts include walking, cycling, yoga, Pilates, swimming, and jogging. If you plan on lifting weights and want to gain muscle, you may not reach your desired results while working out on an empty stomach. But, this isn’t something that has been studied in depth. 

Cardio workouts are usually better if you want to exercise while fasting. This quick, but intense, 30-minute cardio HIIT workout is a great way to get started!

The Bottom Line

There are so many factors that contribute to the success of your health and fitness goals. While we all know that nutrition plays the primary role, many other things, like hormones, are affected in between all these other conditions.  

To put it simply, if you feel better working out while fasting and you are safely reaching your goals, then go for it! But if it doesn’t feel good or you have an underlying medical condition, it’s best to talk to your doctor first.