Intermittent Fasting for Runners – The Complete Guide

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Running and intermittent fasting can mesh well if you do it right.

Today, I will share with you all you need to know about this practice, along with a few practical diet and training tips to help you proceed with this method without fail.

In this article, I’ll dive into the following:

  • What is intermittent fasting
  • The benefits of intermittent fasting for runners
  • The dangers and limits of intermittent fasting for runners
  • Can you run while intermittent fasting
  • And so much more

Let’s get in.

Intermittent Fasting – The Definition

Intermittent fasting consists of fasting and eating over a defined period.  It’s an eating method that cycles between fasting—calorie restriction—and normal eating during a specific period.

Intermittent fasting limits how much food eats for a given period, followed by an interval of normal eating known as the feeding window.

You’ll be fasting –not eating—for a period ranging from 16, 20, to even 36 hours, depending on your chosen IF method.

Intermittent fasting is not new. It has been practiced for millennia and used by many religions—mainly Judaism and Islam— for healing and spiritual enlightenment.

These belief doctrines regard fasting as a powerful healing method that allows the human body to take time out from the food toxins present in our bodies and as a means for reaching higher spiritual existence.

Intermittent Fasting and Running  – How To get Started

Now that you know a thing or two about intermittent fasting and how it can help (or hurt) your running performance, let’s dive into how to make the most out of it.

Sounds great

Let’s get started.

Don’t Eat Crap

Just because you are fasting doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want during the feeding window.

That’s a common mistake.

People who fast are much more likely to binge and reach for high-calorie foods when they eat again.

There are many various ways to start intermittent fasting.

The method may differ in the number of fast times and calorie allowances.

People have different needs; therefore, different styles will suit them and help them get the most out of practice.

There are many ways to start intermittent fasting.

Just like any other health program, how you get started hinges on your fitness goals, workout routine, physiology, genes, and lifestyle—to name a few.

Break The Fast Right

Once it’s time to break the fast, go for a meal with plenty of complex carbs and proteins.

In other words, stick to healthy food choices.

Or it’s a no-deal.

Low Intensity

If this is your first time doing intermittent fasting, keep your runs at an easy pace, around 3 to 5 out of 10. When you stick to this pace, you’re mainly burning off fat as energy instead of glycogen will be depleted in a fasted state.

I’d recommend the Maffetone method (which also works great if you’re in the base building phase of a training cycle).

You might risk hitting the wall if you try to push the pace. You should never try your run your hardest while starving your body of energy. You won’t get that far.

Run Short

Another thing you can do is limit your training duration. For example, you don’t want to run for over 90 minutes in a fasted state.

As a rule, increase your running duration as you get more comfortable training in a fasted state. This, believe me, doesn’t happen overnight.

Feeling weak or dizzy in the middle of a run? Then either slow down or refuel with carbs and protein to give your body the energy boost it needs. A snack should help.

Choose The Right Time

I’d also recommend that you schedule your runs and workouts while fueling.

Running first thing in the morning in a fasted state? Then refuel the moment you’re done running. Refueling immediately helps you avoid muscle waste and speeds up recovery. That’s a good thing if you ask me.

Supplement Just In Case

During intense training days—if you have any speedwork or long run scheduled—take a supplement, such as BCAA.

Here are 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.

Fasting Protocols For Runners

There are many ways to approach intermittent fasting.

Your chosen method depends mostly on your fitness goals, workout schedule, physiology, personal preference, lifestyle conditions, and other factors.

Here are the main protocols.

  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 before committing to anything serious or long-term.

Also, if it’s your first time doing it, write down your thoughts and notes, then use them as a reference for future practice.

The How

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 once or twice a week.

  1. The Warrior Diet

The Warrior Diet consists of 20 hours of fasting, then a four-hour feeding period, and consuming one healthy meal daily.

This method can help you boost energy levels, shed weight, increase muscle mass, and save money.

The How

During the feeding window, usually, during 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 the schedule,  plan it at the end of the fast.

  1. Leangains

The Leangains method was made famous by author Martin Berkham, consisting 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 to increase muscle gains while shedding fat.

To make the most out of Leangains, skip breakfast daily, then break your fast roughly eight hours after waking up.

During the leangains approach, ensure the bulk of your calories during the post-run window, following a diet high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and some healthy fats, like olive oil and avocados.

The How

For example, on this plan, you’d fast from 9 pm Monday until 1 pm Tuesday.

If you were planning to run, you’d do it on Tuesday afternoon.

  1. Alternate-Day Fasting

This is similar 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, you simply eat every other day with this method.

According to research by the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Alternate-Day Fasting approach promotes weight loss and decreases the risks of coronary artery diseases.

During the feeding period, you can eat what you want and aim for a broad range of healthy food choices—especially if the 24-hour fast is too much.

The How

This is simple.

All you have to do here is fast one day and eat healthy the next day.

Listen to your body

Ultimately, you are the boss and can decide which approach works 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 signals of pain and discomfort—mainly your hunger signals.

Intermittent Fasting For Runners  – The Conclusion

There you have it! If you ever wanted to try intermittent fasting while running, then today’s post should get you started on the right foot. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime thank you for dropping by.

Keep training strong.

David D.

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