Intermittent fasting and sports do not have to be mutually exclusive. On the contrary, fasting can even lead to better training results. The prerequisite for this is the right training.
Intermittent fasting is still a huge thing
Of course, the method helps you lose weight, stay slim and feel fitter. The most popular variant is the 16:8 method: fasting for 16 hours and eating in a time window of 8 hours.
In combination with exercise, interval fasting is even more effective in losing weight. The key to success, however, is how you exercise – and when.
Health & Performance coach Ozan Tas is an expert when it comes to fasting. His specialties include hormone management, gut health, and functional strength training.
In his studio Super Saya Gym in Cologne, he developed the ideal training for all fasting followers to achieve the best weight loss results.
Cardio vs. strength training: Which training for fasting?
Whether cardio or strength training plays a crucial role in fasting. When you fast, reserve fat is attacked and burned because the body has no other energy source available. This means: The glucose stores are almost empty when fasting shortly before breaking the fast – for example after 16 hours of the fasting phase.
If intensive endurance training is performed in this state, the body begins to draw energy not only from fat but also from the muscles. Basically, cardio training triggers more stress. As a result, muscle mass is lost and performance decreases.
There is a risk of losing weight but still have a high body fat percentage: “If you practice intensive cardio training during intermittent fasting, you quickly get what is called skinny fat.”
Stress can exacerbate this effect. “The body stores more water. This means weight gain or stagnation,” says expert Ozan Tas.
So the biggest mistake in fasting is to rely only on cardio-vascular training and not strength training.
Fasting and strength training: how important are the hormones involved?
Intermittent fasting is not just a healthy way to lose weight. It’s a real workout booster and even helps build muscle. The reason for this is our hormones. In a state of starvation, the body produces more growth hormones than when it receives regular nutrients.
In interaction with testosterone, these promote muscle growth. “The human organism works economically and always tries to save energy or even compensate for it on occasion. It approximately shuts down various functions as soon as they are not called upon, such as when taking hormones like the pill,” he adds.
Growth hormones are also released during high-intensity strength training – even more so in the low repetition range than in the high repetition range.
Coach Oz explains, “For more strength gains, intense training with few repetitions is optimal to avoid producing too much stress. It also boosts growth hormone production – which largely enables muscle mass maintenance.”
Interval fasting: here’s what the perfect workout looks like
Targeted workouts are key: “Short and intense,” says Ozan Tas. “A split workout is strategically better than a full-body workout.”
The right workout when fasting lasts an average of 45 minutes to a maximum of one hour, including breaks. The formula for success is many sets and lots of weight – but few repetitions. “Of course, always in conjunction with the right technique and quality,” adds Tas.
How many different exercises a workout contains depends on the level of the trainee: There should be a maximum of five different exercises per workout. For beginners, even just four.
What exercises make up a workout?
A workout always consists of at least one basic exercise or multi-joint exercise – i.e. movements in which several components are trained. In contrast to isolated exercises, they have the advantage that they support muscle development and also have a greater hormonal benefit.
What equipment do I need?
The workout should be heavy, just like the weights.
Success can be achieved without heavy weights, but it is more strenuous in terms of training volume than training with weights. “You have to do much more strenuous exercises to get the same effect,” says Tas. So for those who have limited time and want to get the most out of it, training with weights is more efficient.
Very importantly, “You want to burn fat and maintain muscle when you’re fasting in terms of fitness. If you go into higher reps and use little weight, you’ll burn out your muscles and get into catabolic metabolism. That means you’ll break down muscle. That’s why I recommend heavy weights.”
Don’t be afraid of heavy weights!
So that’s why: weight training. By the way, women need not be inhibited and need not fear that weightlifting will give them muscles à la Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Because strength training is not the same as bodybuilding: “You don’t get wide from strength training, you get strong,” says Ozan Tas. “Bodybuilding is training for shape and aesthetics. You can only get wider by eating more than you need to eat.”
Fasting makes it easy: The stomach wall retracts a few centimeters, and the appetite-regulating hormone ghrelin is also inhibited. As a result, you automatically eat less.
“This effect causes you to lose weight. So you can’t get wider or gain weight at all.”
When is the right time to work out?
Whether you work out in the morning or evening makes a big difference when it comes to fasting.
If your focus is on burning fat, you should work out on an empty stomach. Since the body is in ketogenic metabolism, it draws energy for training from fat reserves.
Another option: train after your first meal. But then this should not contain carbohydrates, but consist of fat and protein. “Then the body stays in the fat-burning metabolism,” explains coach Ozan Tas.
How often do you train?
In general, fasting does not limit one in training frequency. How often one can train depends on the individual’s daily routine and training condition. Coach Oz recommends training well, i.e. effectively, three times a week rather than poorly five times a week.
In other words, perform exercises correctly and get the most out of each workout. “Quality is more important than frequency when it comes to workouts,” he says. This benefits anyone who doesn’t have much time for exercise due to a job, family, and stressful daily life.
Are other sports allowed in addition to strength training?
To ensure that training does not become too monotonous, other sports can be practiced in addition to weight training. For more mobility, Ozan Tas recommends yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi. Swimming is also super suitable: “If you have the opportunity, also go swimming directly after strength training.”
In addition, challenging bodyweight exercises like push-ups or pull-ups can add variety to your workout routine. They also release growth hormones.
Working out during interval fasting: are there risks?
There is no specific risk when training during fasting.
The only risk: are circulatory problems. “Because there is virtually no sugar in the blood in the fasting state, many struggle with dizziness during endurance training,” explains the expert. “Who becomes black before eyes, should interrupt the training.”
The reason you feel tired and listless during workouts could be your diet. “Poor carbohydrate management during the eating window can be the reason for fatigue,” explains Ozan Tas.
Those who feel by chamfering in addition is “permanently tired” and torments itself formally by the day, should reconsider whether the chamfering method is the correct for it.
To avoid injuries during training, expert Tas has the following tips:
- Warm-up: Before going into the training sets, warm up well. “It’s important that the work sets are really hard,” explains the expert. Without a warm-up, it can quickly lead to injury – regardless of fasting.
- Promote mobility: Yoga, for example, gently stretches muscle areas and helps make strength training more manageable. Coach Oz’s mantra: “Mobility brings more strength.”
- Increase workout intensity slowly: Increase weights one step at a time and don’t go straight from 50 kilograms to 100 kilograms.
- Always log workouts: Whether you’re a beginner or advanced exerciser, make a note of your workout exercises, the number of reps, and weight, for example. Then you know where you stand and can slowly increase.
For maximum success: proper nutrition after the workout
During the workout shortly before breaking the fast, the glycogen stores are additionally tapped.
After the workout, the almost empty stores should therefore be replenished quickly.
Which carbohydrates after the workout?
Simple carbohydrates are important so that muscle building becomes more effective due to the insulin effect. That is why Coach Oz recommends a Whey protein shake because with this insulin release is the greatest among all shakes.
For vegans and those who want to avoid it, maltodextrin is suitable as a carbohydrate source directly after training. “The carbohydrate mixture cannot be converted into fat after the workout because it goes directly into the glycogen stores,” Tas explains.
What’s important here is the amount. How big the serving of your shake should depend on your body fat percentage. Meaning, “A woman who has under 16 percent body fat can drink up to 70 or 80 grams of protein powder and up to 60 grams of maltodextrin.”
For those just starting fasting, don’t overdo it with the shakes and start with 30 grams of protein powder in the shake.
In general, the following applies: rely more on protein-containing foods, as they saturate well and for a long time.
Do not demonize fat, as fats are the main source of energy and are also key for sex hormones.
And lastly, good news for all carb lovers: carbohydrates in the evening are perfectly okay. “If you eat carbohydrates in the evening, you sleep better and deeper,” says the expert.
And that means The next morning we are top fit for the next interval workout!