“I Exercise in the Morning, Can I Do Intermittent Fasting?”
In this article I hope to dispel some myths around post workout nutrition and give my top tips on how to incorporate Intermittent Fasting and the 2 Meal Day into your morning training routine.
The Anabolic Window
In order for you to get the most of this article, you will need to understand something known as the “Anabolic Window”.
It refers to a time period after a workout, where your muscles are primed for growth as long as a suitable protein/carbohydrate source is consumed. There has been a big emphasis on this window being as small as thirty minutes with supplement companies promoting the benefits and convenience of their rapidly digested products.
Does the anabolic window exist or is it just an overhyped marketing ploy?
The answer to this question is yes and no…it all depends on your goals, activity levels and training experience levels.
What does this mean for you?
If you are fairly inexperienced, with a few hour-long sessions per week for general fitness and your focus isn’t on performance, then as long as you eat enough quality protein/carbs at some point in the day the timing of when this is unimportant.
Whereas if your sole focus is performance with the aim of competing, you are training 5/6 times per week for 2 hours at a time, then timing of your protein/carbs intake becomes a bit more important.
However, it has been shown that consuming a mix of protein and carbohydrates at either 1 hour or 3 hours post exercise elicits the same response in regard to muscle protein synthesis, completely dispelling the suggestion that there is an anabolic window lasting only 30 minutes.
How to incorporate the 2 Meal Day if you exercise in the morning
As mentioned above your training goals and experience will make a difference here.
If you belong in the less experienced, training for general fitness and weight loss group then you can exercise first thing in the morning and can continue follow your Intermittent Fasting program until your lunch time, as long as you get enough quality food in at your two meals. If you do this, there is no need to worry!
For those that are more experienced and have a big focus on performance (I am in this category), the best way to benefit from both exercising in the morning and following your Intermittent Fasting program is to experiment with your fasting hours and eating window. For example, if you are training first thing in the morning at 7am, aiming to eat about three hours after you finish your workout, you could have your dinner the night before a bit earlier and break your fast around 11am the next day.
This is purely anecdotal and won’t apply to everyone, but I am five weeks in to training for my first ultra-marathon. Everyone knows that an increase in running is meant to decrease muscle mass and strength levels. However, I am following a very specific program that is aimed at retaining muscle mass and strength levels in conjunction with increasing my mileage every week. In those five weeks of training I have actually put on weight, I have continued to follow the 2 Meal Day and three of my 6 weekly exercise sessions are fasted, first thing in the morning and I continue to fast until lunch time.
What does this mean? It means that if you are following the right training program and eating enough nutrient dense foods at some point in the day, you are good to go!
Summary – how should you be exercising in the morning and fasting?
Fundamentally, the answer to this question is going to be different for everyone. You are going to have to work out what your goals are and what you can incorporate into your training regime. Despite claims that immediate post-exercise nutritional intake is essential to maximize muscle gains, evidence-based support for such an “anabolic window of opportunity” is far from definitive. It comes down to self-experimentation and what is realistic for you.