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How To Combine Strength Training and Intermittent Fasting

How To Combine Strength Training and Intermittent Fasting

Strength training and intermittent fasting can help burn fat, enhance insulin sensitivity, maintain muscle mass, and balance hormones. This guide explores how combining workouts with fasting times can really boost your health and gives easy advice for anyone wanting to try out this dynamic duo.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting means following a diet schedule that rotates between periods of voluntary fasting or lessened calorie intake and periods of eating generally within a specific time duration.

Five popular eating routines that incorporate intermittent fasting into your diet include:

  • Time-restricted eating: This involves fasting for 12 hours or more each day and consuming meals during the remaining hours. An example is the 15/9 intermittent fasting, with a 15-hour daily fast and an 9-hour eating window for 2, 3, or more meals.
  • The 5:2 diet: This plan consists of eating normally for 5 days of the week and slowing calorie intake to 500–600 on the remaining 2 days.
  • Eat Stop Eat: This method includes a 24-hour fast once or twice weekly.
  • Alternate-day fasting: The aim is to fast every other day.
  • The Warrior Diet: This strategy involves consuming small portions of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and having one large meal at night.

What is Strength Training?

Let's first explore the idea of incorporating strength training and intermittent fasting. As such, physical activities intended to increase strength and endurance are known as strength training.

Although it's frequently associated with weightlifting, it also includes bodyweight workouts, isometrics, and plyometrics. In particular, seven different types of strength training modalities include:

  • Agile strength: This strength type means the ability to change directions quickly and powerfully and the ability to decelerate, control, and generate muscle force in a multiplanar environment.
  • Endurance strength: Put simply, endurance strength training involves many repetitions with light weights rather than lifting heavy weights, with an intensity of about 50 percent of your maximum capability.
  • Explosive strength: It involves lifting heavy weights with fast, short movements for a few repetitions and long rest periods. Examples include jumping as high as possible in one go or performing a single powerful lift.
  • Maximum strength: This type is a muscle's maximum force in a single, all-out effort. It is used in activities such as weightlifting.
  • Speed strength: The ability to quickly produce a strong impulse is called speed strength. It is calculated as force multiplied by distance and then divided by time (power).
  • Starting strength: The method involves choosing strengthening exercises and planning them for progress. It is widely known as the most effective method for making progress in beginning strength training.
  • Relative strength: Relative strength considers an athlete's body weight when assessing their strength. This means it compares the force produced to the athlete's body weight to determine pound-for-pound strength.

Tips and Strategies to Combine Strength Training and Intermittent Fasting

Tips and Strategies to Combine Strength Training and Intermittent FastingNow that we have covered the fundamentals, let's delve into some of the most effective tips and strategies to integrate intermittent fasting and strength training for optimal results seamlessly:

  • Choose appropriate types of IF and exercise:
    • For rapid weight loss, consider a more restrictive IF approach, such as alternate-day fasting or the 5:2 method, coupled with intense anaerobic or strength training exercises.

    • If improving health and longevity is your priority, a moderate IF plan like 16/8 or 14/10 and a balanced routine involving aerobic and flexibility exercises may be suitable.

    • A flexible IF schedule like 12/12 or 10/14, combined with specific exercises like strength training or balance exercises, could be beneficial to enhance performance and build muscle mass.

  • Time your eating during workout:
    • If exercising in the morning, break your fast with a protein-rich meal or snack after your workout to replenish glycogen stores, stimulate protein synthesis, and prevent muscle breakdown.

    • For afternoon or evening workouts, consume a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack beforehand to provide energy, prevent hypoglycemia, and enhance performance.

    • Regardless of the workout, consider a balanced meal or snack containing protein, carbohydrates, and fats after your workout to aid in recovery, muscle repair, and hormonal balance.

  • Understand your body:
    • Listen to your body's signals and adjust to avoid overtraining, under-eating, or jeopardizing your health.

    • Monitor for signs such as fatigue, intense hunger, decreased performance, delayed recovery, or health issues, and modify your IF and exercise routine as needed.

    • Consult with a medical professional if you encounter any persistent health concerns while combining IF and strength training.

  • Take supplements while intermittent fasting:
It's ideal to compensate for losing vitamins and minerals by consuming a nutrient-rich diet. Occasionally, it may be necessary to use supplements (such as magnesium, Vitamin D, omega-3, or Iron) to address potential nutrient deficiencies.
These water-soluble and calorie-free supplements will not disrupt your fast but can help address any possible nutrient deficiencies that may arise from strength training and intermittent fasting.
  • Set a schedule and be consistent:
The correct balance of intermittent fasting and strength training can safely and effectively deliver optimal results for health and fitness objectives. Selecting the appropriate fasting-to-weightlifting ratio assures that individuals take the necessary steps to achieve their desired outcomes efficiently.

    What are Benefits of Combining Strength Training and IF?

    Intermittent fasting and weight training can boost strength and muscle mass while promoting fat loss. Since weight training depletes glycogen stores, intermittent fasting can improve the body's capacity to burn fat for energy during exercise.

    Improved Insulin Sensitivity

    Strength training and intermittent fasting work together to increase the body's sensitivity to insulin, which is needed to control blood sugar levels. According to research by Dr. Michael J. Hirshman and colleagues, strength training improves insulin action in skeletal muscle, which is the main location of glucose absorption.

    Fasting can accelerate autophagy, which eliminates waste products from cells and may enhance insulin sensitivity, as suggested by Rupa Health. It may be possible to control blood sugar levels and support general metabolic health by combining these two tactics strength training to increase insulin action and intermittent fasting to improve insulin receptor function.

    Muscle Mass Preservation

    A modified intermittent fasting protocol, namely time-restricted eating (TRF), may be practical for strength athletes without adversely compromising strength and muscle mass, according to the current study by Moro et al. (2016). It's interesting to note that, despite TRF's reduction of testosterone concentrations, there was no discernible change in muscle mass across the groups. This implies that TRF can be applied in resistance-trained individuals without sacrificing muscular mass and strength.

    Hormonal Balance

    Two powerful tools - strength training and intermittent fasting - can also effectively support hormonal balance. Studies by researcher Krista Teta have shown that strength training can independently stimulate and rebalance sex hormones in both men and women, offering a natural alternative to medication. Intermittent fasting has also been linked to increased testosterone levels in men, as highlighted in research by the Vitality HRT team.

    Brain Health Support

    Regarding supporting brain health and promoting sharper mental focus, both strength training and intermittent fasting offer compelling benefits. As described by Aurum Fit, strength training acts like a brain gym, triggering the release of IGF-1, BDNF, and irisin. These chemicals act like fertilizer for your brain cells, nurturing the growth of new ones, strengthening existing connections, and enhancing your brain's plasticity and ability to learn and adapt.

    According to research by BSW Health, intermittent fasting can further contribute to this process by potentially increasing BDNF levels. Since BDNF is a protein crucial for memory and cognitive function, this translates to sharper mental focus and improved overall brain health.

    What are Benefits of Combining Strength Training and IF?

    What Should You Avoid When Doing Intense Workout During IF?

    Keep an eye out for the following factors that could disrupt your intense strength training and intermittent fasting (IF) routine:

    • Inadequate nutrition: When combining IF with intense workouts, consuming enough calories and nutrients will support your body's demands and aid recovery.
    • Overtraining: Without adequate rest and recovery, combining IF and intense workouts can lead to overtraining and potential injury.
    • Adjusting workout intensity: IF can impact your energy levels and muscle recovery, so it's essential to adjust the intensity of your workouts accordingly.
    • Neglecting cardio: Although weight training is crucial for muscle building, incorporating cardio is vital for overall fitness and well-being.
    • Monitoring progress: Tracking your progress is essential to assessing the effectiveness of your IF and intense workout regimen.
    • Seeking professional advice: It's always advisable to consult a physician or certified personal trainer before embarking on a new exercise routine, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions.
    What Should You Avoid When Doing Intense Workout During IF?

    Image Source: Unsplash

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    1. What is the best time to workout during intermittent fasting?

    The optimal time to exercise while intermittent fasting is usually in the morning or soon after waking up. Exercise should be saved for the next day because studies have shown that eating or exercising too close to bedtime might disturb deep, REM sleep.

    2. Should you exercise on an empty stomach?

    It's not the ideal long-term option to exercise while empty-handed, but it may help burn fat rapidly. Remember to consume a little snack or meal before and after your workout to keep your body adequately fed so you can give it your all in the gym and recover swiftly.

    3. What supplements should I not take during intermittent fasting?

    Several studies have shown that you might want to avoid using the following kinds of supplements while you're doing your intermittent fasting and strength training process:

    • Gelatinous multivitamins: These can interfere with your fasting because they frequently contain trace amounts of sugar, protein, and occasionally fat.
    • Branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs): BCAAs cause an insulin response that prevents autophagy. 
    • Protein supplement: Protein powder signals your body that you are not fasting by producing an insulin response and containing calories.
    • Those containing specific components: Supplements such as pectin, cane sugar, maltodextrin, or fruit juice concentrate contain calories and sugar that may interfere with fasting.
    4. Should you do strength training or cardio while fasting?

    It depends on your training goals to build muscle or do cardio while fasting. For cardio, steady-state exercise once or twice a week for no more than 30 minutes is a good option and won't cause muscle loss. If your main goal is weight loss and you're not concerned about losing muscle (for non-lifters), you can do cardio seven days a week.

    5. Can you still build muscle while intermittent fasting?

    Yes. You can build strength training and intermittent fasting routines simultaneously, but it may only suit some. You must continue training and consuming calories as usual while adjusting your eating schedule.

    6. Can I workout during my fasting period?

    YES. It is fine to exercise while fasting because weight loss and muscle gain depend not only on calories and exercise but also on hormone optimization. Studies show great benefits of intermittent fasting alone, and combining fasting with sprint training takes these benefits to a new level.

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