Mar 07

Intermittent Fasting And Running - 

what you need to know

Intermittent fasting and running; does it really work? 

Losing weight has long been one of the primary reasons people run.

Even the most competitive runners often look for ways in which they can drop a pound or two.  This may be one of the reasons many have come to experiment with long distance running while fasting. Intermittent fasting and running may seem like a quick way to lose some weight, but there are many risks that, in our opinion, outweigh the potential rewards.

Benefits of Running While Fasting

Intermittent fasting and endurance running have been shown to help some runners lose weight. A number of runners do this for religious reasons, such as Muslims during Ramadan fasting, but there are benefits that draw others to intermittent fasting and running as well.

Many studies have shown that reducing one’s caloric intake can increase longevity, increase your body’s efficiency with oxygen use, burning fat, and building muscle.  However, it is important to note that many of the studies that people cite to support intermittent fasting have used animal subjects. Therefore, the results of these studies may not be relevant to humans.

Dangers of Running After A Fast

Despite these benefits, intermittent fasting and running for weight loss has many risks as well.

Running is vigorous exercise and your body requires fuel to accomplish it.  Attempting to run after a fast means that your body has been depleted of many crucial nutrients it needs to exercise.

This can lead to numerous dangerous symptoms: excessive sweating, muscle control issues, severe fatigue, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and trouble breathing.  If you experience any of these symptoms, stop running immediately.

What to do after Running?

After finishing a run, regardless of whether or not you have been fasting, your body needs to refuel the nutrients it has used while running. This requires a snack with complex carbohydrates and proteins within thirty minutes of running. You also need a full meal within two hours of running.  This kick starts your metabolism and gives your tired muscles the fuel they need to repair themselves.

Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

The short answer is yes, but the long answer is more complicated.  While fasting and running for weight loss works for some people, there are other things to consider.

Because running after a fast has a lot of risks and the rewards are slim, we do not recommend it. If you are attempting to try it, we recommend easing into the strategy, not jumping in cold turkey.

If you plan on experimenting with intermittent fasting, do it first before your short and easy days. Do not start intermittent fasting for the first time before you attempt to run a long hard workout or you increase your risk.

Individual Differences

Different strategies work for different people. That much has been shown throughout many studies with human subjects involving everything from shoes to mileage to nutrition needs. It will likely take some time for you to figure out what rhythm will work for you.

For instance, I either eat a light carb bar or some peanut butter crackers before every run, one of my training partners will only eat a half of a blueberry bagel, and another will put down a full meal of oatmeal, eggs, and fruit within thirty minutes of a run.

Weight Loss

While intermittent fasting may help you lose weight, there are much safer ways to do so. If you engage in regular exercise and eat a healthy and well balanced diet, you will likely find yourself at a healthy weight or on the way to it after a few months of consistent training. If you do not, consult a medical professional and seek their advice before trying something that may put you at risk.

Final Thoughts On Intermittent Fasting And Running

Intermittent fasting while running isn't easy while running is rarely an easy activity. That is something all runners can agree on.  Our philosophy then, is that there is no reason to make running any harder than it needs to be. Therefore, we recommend following standard recommendations.

If you are an evening runner, eat a solid meal around 3 hours before your run. If you are a morning runner, get a light snack with complex carbs before your run. After your run, regardless of evening or morning, get a healthy snack in your system within thirty minutes and a full meal within two hours. Also, make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

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About the Author

Hayden Cox is a former NCAA DI athlete in Cross Country and Track. He has had the opportunity to work with 2x U.S. Olympian, Robert Gary, and a host of elite athletes at the collegiate and professional level. Hayden's ideal day consists of an early morning long run on a mountain trail followed by a giant bowl of pasta and a chocolate milkshake (just don't tell anyone about the milkshake!)

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