As a runner, trying intermittent fasting for the first time can be quite intimidating.
But fret no more.
Today, I’m going to share with you all you need to know about this practice along with a few practical diet and training tips to help proceed with this method without fail.
So are you excited?
Then here we go…
Note: As you already know, running is hard. Add to that daunting nature of fasting then you got yourself a dangerous recipe—one that might spell disaster on your health if you are not careful enough.
So, please consult with your physician before you attempt any extreme change to your current diet/training plan.
You have been warned. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
How To Start Intermittent Fasting As a Runner
Intermittent Fasting – The Definition
IF is, basically, about abstaining from food for a set period of time, ranging from as little as 12 hours to one full day, or even longer, followed by a period of healthy eating, known as the feeding window.
Personally, I have gone on a few fasts myself, and it’s something that has become part and parcel of my lifestyle.
In fact, I have been training—mostly running and weight lifting—for a quite some time while also practicing various forms of IF.
And I assure you, it can be done—as long as you are doing it right and use common sense.
Therefore, here a few tips to help you make the most out of intermittent fasting as a runner:
Don’t Eat Crap
The bad news is, and according to my own experience, many people have ruined IF by going for all sorts of bad food.
In fact, in my experience, people who fast are much more likely to opt for bad food choices and reach for high-calorie foods when they eat again.
So please, whatever you do, DO NOT eat high-sugar highly processed and fast foods. This will only undermine your performance and health (and don’t get me started on the weight gain).
Fasting is all good and awesome but if you are eating crappy food during the feeding window, then don’t bother with it.
Break The Fast Right
Once it’s time to break the fast, make sure to go for a meal that includes plenty of complex carbs and proteins.
In other words, stick to healthy food choices. Or it’s a no deal.
Supplement Just In Case
During intense training days—if you have any speedwork or long run scheduled—take a supplement, such as BCAA.
Here a few recommended dosages:
5 g of BCAAs before your run
5 to 10 g of BCAAs during long running sessions, and
10 to 15 of BCAAs immediately following a hard run.
Start the Fast
There are many ways to approach intermittent fasting.
The method you are going to choose depends, mostly, on your fitness goals, workout schedule, physiology, personal preference, lifestyle conditions and other factors.
Therefore, if you’re serious about giving IF a try and go, here are some plans to help you proceed.
1. The Periodic Fast
If you’ve never tried fasting before, then the periodic fast should be your trial fast—Your opportunity to take IF for a test drive first before you commit to anything serious or long term.
Also, if it’s your first time doing it, be sure also to write down your thoughts and note then use it as a reference for future practice.
This method entails a fast for 24 hours, starting at any time of the day, preferably on a Sunday.
You can start at a specific time, on Saturday at 11 pm, for instance, drink plenty of water, then break your fast on Sunday night.
For the most part, you should not do this method more than one or two times a week.
2. The Warrior Diet
The Warrior Diet method consists of 20 hours of fasting, then a four-hour feeding period, consuming one healthy meal a day.
This method can help you boost energy levels, shed weight, increase muscle mass and save you money.
During the feeding window, usually dinner time, go for one large meal, aiming for roughly 2000 calories (or more, depending on your needs) in one sitting.
For the best results, put the feeding window at the end of the day, as it’s more suitable for family dinners and post-run sessions.
If you have a run or workout on schedule, then plan it at the end of the fast.
The Leangains method was made famous by author Martin Berkham, and it consists of a 16-hour fast (from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. the next day for instance), followed by an 8-hour eating window.
This method is great if you’re looking to increase muscle gains while shedding fat.
To make the most out of Leangains, skip breakfast on a daily basis, then break your fast roughly eight hours after waking up.
During the leangains approach, make sure the bulk of your calories during the post- run window, following a diet that’s high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and some of the healthy fats, like olive oil and avocados.
For example, on this plan, you’d fast from 9 pm on Monday night until 1 pm Tuesday afternoon. If you were planning to run, you’d do it on Tuesday afternoon.
4. Alternate-Day Fasting
This is a similar approach to the last method but involves eating within a 24-hour window followed by 24 hours of true fasting every two-day cycle.
In other words, with this method, you simply eat every other day.
The Alternate-Day Fasting approach promotes weight loss and decreases the risks of coronary artery diseases, according to research by the University of Illinois at Chicago.
During the feeding period, you’re allowed to eat what you want, aim for a broad range of healthy food choices—especially if the 24-hour fast is a bit too much.
This is really simple. All you have to do here is to fast on one day, and then eat healthy the next day.
Listen to your body
In the end, you are the boss, and you get to decide which approach works the best for you.
With that said, to do that, you need to keep in mind that it’s of paramount importance to listen to your body’s signal of pain and discomfort—mainly your hunger signals.