Intermittent fasting (see “The Art of Starving Yourself”) has been my on and off diet girlfriend for the past 3 years now, with some pretty spectacular results including a deadlift PR and dropping below sub 10% body fat for a period of time. If you are unfamiliar with Intermittent Fasting (IF), and don’t want to read the link above, basically intermittent fasting is the process of fasting in the morning until midday. If you workout during intermittent fasting, it is supposed to be fasted in the morning.
The toughest part of intermittent fasting isn’t telling my fiancée that I can’t eat breakfast with her because I’m on a diet, it’s actually that I can’t workout in the morning. Unless I work out at 4:30am, I most likely can’t hit the gym until the evening.
So what’s the problem with working out in the evening during intermittent fasting?
A key to intermittent fasting is that you do fasted morning workouts, which will help with insulin sensitivity and increases in growth hormones as well as testosterone, the latter being beneficial to men (I will write a blog on the benefits of intermittent fasting for women in the future, I promise!). So how do we practice intermittent fasting if we are only able to workout in the afternoon has been a question spinning in my head for years now.
The clear mechanisms and proven results from fasted workouts during intermittent fasting, however, are just not there. There has been a lot of research regarding hormonal benefits on intermittent fasting and weight training, but only separately. The research has just not cut up yet.
With myself and a couple evening clients as guinea pigs (all male), intermittent fasting with evening workouts has produced some pretty great results including steady gains in strength, drops in body fat, and overall just feeling great during exercise.
If I workout on an empty stomach in the morning, I feel weak and tired. When I workout after my 2pm meal, I feel energized and strong (check out my videos on Instagram @dcfitness_310 where I go up 20 pounds in a week on Gymnast Dips). My clients report feeling very similar effects, with one of them pointing out why this may be. Abel James of The Fat Burning Man Podcast, is a huge fan of 4pm workouts, explaining that at around this hour is when your testosterone peaks. Working out when your testosterone peaks will help you increase your strength gains or burn body fat (note: you cannot burn body fat AND build muscle at the same time unless you are a TOTAL beginner).
Here’s how I’ve structure the intermittent fasting protocol for my evening training sessions:
5:00am – Wake Up. Consume 5g of creatine in water.
11:30am – Coffee. (I don’t drink coffee every day. I like to stay caffeine sensitive for better energy levels, curb physiological brain changes, and appetite suppression.)
2:00pm – First meal. I’m bulking right now so it’s a 1,200 calorie meal with a pretty evenly split carb/protein/fat ratio.
4:30pm – Weight training with steady state cardio or high intensity intervals after.
8:30pm – Second meal. 1,200 calories in a 40/30/30 split ratio.
The research hasn’t caught up yet, but here are some key points about the differences in morning and evening workouts while intermittent fasting:
– The hormonal cascade of insulin sensitivity, growth hormone, and testosterone are from intermittent fasting AND from working out. There is no evidence to say whether having these hormones boosted once a day is better than having it boosted twice a day.
– Evening workouts during intermittent fasting may be better because your testosterone levels are peaking.
– Energy levels increase intensity, and if you feel like crap as I do during fasted workouts, you will get better workouts in during the evening. This means more strength gains, better fat loss, and better performance.