Media as well as scientific experiments yield a plethora of contradicting and confusing information on pre-workout nutrition. Some claim fasting techniques are better, while some insist that you need to be carb-loaded before an intense workout for best results. So what holds true?
Here is the answer: METABOLIC ADAPTABILITY or METABOLIC FLEXIBILITY.
Metabolic flexibility implies – YOU TRAIN YOUR BODY TO EFFECTIVELY UTILIZE BOTH FAT & CARBS.
Nature endorses adaptation. Human beings earlier had to sometimes hunt for food on an empty stomach (and hunting involves functional fitness – running, leaping, bounding, climbing, throwing or carrying loads, crawling, stretching etc.), and sometimes, they had enough leftover from the previous day to have a full breakfast and THEN go hunting/gathering. So the body was engineered to PERFORM EFFICIENTLY IN BOTH SCENARIOS – with and without food.
Focusing on one, while ignoring the other – does NOT maximize health and fitness. So what we need is a well-rounded approach that incorporates both.
PRO’S OF FASTED WORKOUTS
The first go-to energy source for the body is glucose in the bloodstream from your previous meal, followed by the carb(glycogen) stores from the liver. When you train on an empty stomach, your body first exhausts the carbohydrate sources, and then turns to fat for fuel. Obviously, this happens much faster on an empty stomach than when you’ve just eaten. Thus, fasted workouts are shown to burn at least 30% more fat than working out after a meal. Besides, over-dependence on carbs can lead to insulin resistance over time (risk of diabetes). Exercising on an empty stomach also improves your oxidation capacity, builds endurance and improves metabolism.
PROS’ OF NON-FASTED WORKOUTS
For particularly high-intensity workouts, especially if your fitness levels are not above average, working out on an empty stomach can cause fatigue, nausea, low blood pressure etc. Eating a carb-rich meal 2-3 hours prior to working out can give you more energy to perform better.
SOLUTION: INTEGRATE THE TWO REGIMENS
The healthiest and most result-oriented plan is to integrate both fasted and non-fasted workouts into your fitness program – for METABOLIC FLEXIBILITY AND EFFECTIVENESS. You can start your fasted workouts with easier activities like running, jogging and cycling… and gradually incorporate strength training and interval training. Always have a sports drink with glucose and electrolytes at hand, or at least a fruit like banana for quick aid if necessary. Your body will adapt quite quickly to burning fat for fuel.
Also build in non-fasted workouts in your week. This is particularly useful on your high-intensity days.
It is important that you plan your pre-workout nutrition and post-
workout nutrition based on your overall nutrition plan. If you are already on a low-carb diet, and you include too many fasted workouts, cortisol and adrenal imbalances lead to deterioration of health and fitness. It is recommended that you maintain sufficient good quality carbs and fats in your daily nutrition plan, to make the most of fasted and non-fasted workouts.