A relatively new, popular workout strategy is being adopted by those interested in getting more for their workout buck and it is busting tired, old, worn-out beliefs.
In the past, most of us were taught that eating many smaller meals daily would work to speed up our metabolism, but current research proves otherwise. The reality is, eating many small meals throughout the day is not going to speed up our metabolism nor will skipping meals cause weight gain.
In fact, not eating before exercising is empowered to boost our strength and our level of fitness not decrease it.
After we've finished a meal, it takes about six hours for our body to enter a fasting state, which is when
it burns off stored sugar and then begins breaking down fat and converting it into ketone bodies for fuel. In other words, the body starts burning fat rather than sugar for energy.
When there is no food in your stomach, it produces a wealth of hormonal changes conducive to building muscle and burning fat and recent published studies found that participants who exercised while they fasted burned nearly 20 per cent more fat than those who ate before working out.
Male volunteers in another study were asked to focus on eating junk food daily. Some of the participants fasted before exercising and starting their day or enjoyed a big breakfast first and then worked out, and others didn't exercise at all while stuffing themselves.
The results were not all surprising. Those who did not exercise one bit, got the biggest overall, those eating breakfast first before exercising also experienced weight gain although only about one-half what the control group gained. But the sweet surprise was that the exercisers who fasted did not gain any weight even though they indulged the same unhealthy diet.
Additionally, the control group and those who did not fast, showed signs of insulin resistance, which leads to higher insulin levels, after their junk food overload, and the fasting exercisers showed no signs of insulin resistance despite their terrible diet.
Insulin is one of the body's most important hormones. However, excess insulin is not healthy. It packs fat on the body and puts us at a dangerous risk for diabetes. Fasting or exercise helps to drive down high insulin levels. Pair them up and the result is magic.
Another study had participants exercise in a fasted state three times a week for 12 weeks. They
lost on average of nearly 1/4 of their baseline fat mass while their fasting insulin levels dropped by a massive 25 per cent!
Although most people carry around a huge deposit of energy in the form of fat, this energy cannot be accessed easily because the body naturally burns sugar - not fat.
And, that's where exercising in a fasted state comes in. It instructs the body on how to quickly and easily tap into fat stores for energy. Doing this makes us metabolically flexible - the ability to make use of the fuels that are more readily available in our diet.
It matches fuel availability with fuel oxidation and with the ability to flip between burning fats or carbs. People who never seem to gain weight no matter what they eat most likely enjoy excellent metabolic flexibility. If they eat carbs, they burn carbs. If they eat fat, they burn fat.
When we are metabolically flexible, we can effectively use a broad array of nutrients and our body easily switches to burning stored fat once it uses up the sugar from the meals we eat.
This produces a virtually unlimited supply of energy. Conversely,
metabolic inflexibility creates a situation where the body cannot react appropriately to changes in diet and reduces our ability to create energy at all.
After we begin doing fasted exercise, it takes a couple of weeks for our body to master the art of burning fat for fuel. Eventually, with patience, our investment pays off big-time as pounds begin melting off, insulin levels drop, and we begin feeling amazing.
Fasted training works magic with our bodies. It makes sure that the proteins, carbs and fats we consume end up in the right places in the body and get stored minimally as body fat.
Think you can't handle challenging exercise without any food in your stomach? Try using plain tea, black coffee and any type of drink or supplement that is calorie-free to help quell cravings.
The bottom line
Exercising on an empty stomach is great for fat loss. Because fat-oxidising enzymes increase when exercising, those who exercise while fasted allow their bodies to naturally become better and better at burning fat at higher levels of intensity.
If you are serious about your health and fitness and want to achieve and maintain great results, pair intense exercise (compound movements such as deadlifts and squats - the kind that uses a lot of muscles and causes a big surge in youth hormones), with fasting.
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.