Some people absolutely hate fasted training, but there are also those who swear by it. Regardless of which side you’re on, there’s no denying the benefits and results one can attain from fasted training. What is fasted training? Basically, fasted training is the act of training or working out while your body is in a fasted state. A fasted state is not limited to “an empty stomach.” It could also pertain to a period of time wherein the individual has gone five or more hours without food or drink that contains calories.
If not performed properly and with the correct precautions, fasted training can definitely be counterproductive to your goals since it may impede recovery. (1) Additionally, lean muscle tissue is at a greater risk of being catabolized as energy during long, fasted states. In order to reap the benefits of fasted training, it’s important to know what body parts/muscle groups to train, the intensity at which you should work out, and which supplements to take and when.
Adjusting to Fasted Training
It’s very important to understand that your body will need to adjust to fasted training. For most individuals, the adjustment period may take up to 1-2 weeks. A select few may be able to adjust in less than a week and others may take longer than two weeks which is why it’s important to pay close attention to how your body responds to fasted training. During this time, it is highly recommended to train smaller muscle groups during the adjustment period as you may feel weak and lethargic due to the lack of food that you have been previously accustomed to.
Going straight to your regular training program, especially if it contains heavy compound movements, may prove to be too taxing to your central nervous system, thereby prolonging recovery time in between sessions. (2) Furthermore, it could be dangerous and may even increase your chances of getting injured.
Avoid Training Big Muscle Groups Right Away
Avoid training big muscle groups such as legs, back, chest, and avoid HIIT (high-intensity interval training). Instead, opt to do smaller muscle groups such as deltoids, biceps, triceps, calves, forearms, and perform only light cardio. Incorporate the bigger muscle groups only once you get accustomed to fasted training. There is always a risk of low blood sugar levels, also known as hypoglycemia, in a fasted state and can result in headaches, dizziness, and fainting, so transition slowly to give your body time to adjust.
Modify Your Training Intensity
Keep in mind, your body still has to adjust to training fasted so be sure to pay close attention to how your feels during and after your training. Are you exhausted? Do you still have the energy to go about your day? Do you feel lightheaded and undernourished? If you’re having a difficult time recovering, lower the weight or decrease the number of sets you perform for each exercise. (3)
Conversely, if you truly feel that you are capable of doing more and the weight is moving fast, increase the intensity gradually. This can be done by using heavier weight, keeping rest times shorter, adding more repetitions, or adding more sets per exercise.
Supplements for Fasted Training
Studies show that fasted training can significantly help with fat loss since insulin levels are very low when the body is in a fasted state. (4) When insulin levels are low, the body becomes more efficient at using fat as energy for your training. Unfortunately, your muscles can also be used by the body for energy which is why correct supplementation is vital for muscle preservation.
BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) should be taken before training to prevent your body from going catabolic and possibly losing the muscle. (5) Those who train for an extended period of time, roughly more than an hour and a half, should sip on BCAAs throughout their training session to reduce the risk of muscle loss.
A pre-workout supplement can give you a much-needed energy boost to get you through hard training sessions and may actually improve your workouts. (6) At times, getting that extra kick of energy can turn a training session where one simply just goes through the motions, into a training session with intensity for every repetition. Remember to always listen to your body. A pre-workout supplement can mask the symptoms of overtraining and eventually lead to excess fatigue resulting in missed training sessions.
A very popular fat loss stack that is meant for fasted training is the yohimbine HCL, l-tyrosine, and caffeine stack. Studies show that this stack is effective for targeting stubborn fat areas. (7) For women, these areas are the triceps, hips, lower abdomen, and legs. For men, it’s the lower back and love handles. The yohimbine HCL, l-tyrosine, and caffeine stack has proven to be effective when the body is in a fasted state.
The Final Word
Is fasted training right for you? It could be, however, if your current pre-workout nutrition protocol is already working for you, there’s no need to take unnecessary risks on fasted training.