Fasted Cardio & Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Okay this is going to be a long one so bare with me. I get asked a lot about fasting and I have a lot to say on the subject. Apologizing in advance for spelling or grammatical errors as I tend to just type my thoughts out quickly/free write and dont proof read enough lol. Here are my current thoughts on the subject of fasting:
For starters, I want to make it clear that there is not one way for everyone and there are lots of methods that work for lots of people. So always find what works for you before trying to copy what anyone else is doing. Second thing is I want to put a disclaimer on this as I am a very knowledgable and experienced athlete, I feel I know my body well enough to know what is healthy in terms of extreme dieting and what is not and I dont want anyone putting themself in an unhealthy position as fasting can be very risky while cutting if not careful.
Okay so now that I got that out of the way.. I have been wanting to write on this topic for a while. However, I am still playing with the concept as I believe you can read information on every opinion out there- wether its backed by science or not- it seems anything and everything can be justified on the internet and sometimes I even find myself more confused on the subject after researching it. Anyone else ever feel this way? So in my opinion the best way of figuring things out is to test them on yourself and find what works for you.
I have to state that I have had many preps over the last four years which were all very different. I have had two different coaches and then coached myself with accountability check ins from my brother last year so I have experienced many different opinions and methods to prep. I have had preps where I never did fasted cardio, I have had preps where I did fasted cardio a few times a week, I have had preps where I utilized IF (intermittent fasting) one day a week, and last year I never fasted at all throughout my entire prep and had one of the most succesful years of my competiting career.
The first time I used IF it was extremely hard for me. The concept of not eating for a 16 hour window (basically from 10pm to 2pm the next day) was extremely hard for me. I would sleep in as late as I could on those days so I made sure to pick a weekend where that was possible. I would still drink coffee and water and take bcaas while I was fasting but my first meal wouldnt be until 2pm. Looking back- I think this was so hard on me for a few reasons. It was my third year of competing and I had developed this idea in my head that I NEEDED to eat every three hours or I was dying lol. The second reason was I had someone else telling me I HAD to fast and I have never been good at taking orders from someone else lol.. probably why I am my own coach and my own boss now, ha. So that being said, my mindset around IF at that time was negative. I didnt like it and I didnt like fasting. However, I did notice that the next day I would feel full easier and also my weight would typically drop.
When it came to fasted cardio in the past, again I have seen great results with it and I have seen great results without it. My mindset on fasted cardio previously has been this- If you are someone who feels naesous or sick if you dont eat in the morning and fasting previous to training (cardio) will affect your performance, then the benefit will not be there anyways and you should train in the state that you can expend the most effort. However, if doing cardio in the fasted state is something that doesnt bother you- meaning you feel no different than if you would have eaten and can still performe with some intensity than yes you can see benefit in fasted cardio. I have almost always been the person who feels sick if I dont eat first thing while in prep, which is why last year I never performed fasted cardio.
Now with all that being said, knowing that the body and brain changes with each prep and that many factors should be taken into account- I began to implement some fasting into my routine with my last prep and I continue to utilize it now. Let me address the idea of muscle loss really quickly here as well. Some people are so scared of burning muscle that they steer clear of fasted cardio all together. Why this doesnt bother me has to do with a few reasons. First, I always drink my BCAAs (Branch chain amino acids) along with some glutamine during fasted cardio. Second, I have a LOT of muscle for a bikini competitor and honestly wouldnt mind losing some lower body muscle (I know, I know- my gains). I develop lower body mass fairly easily and the problem with that is my legs become over developed and on my off season when I put on any fat mass, I feel bigger in that area which is not my cup of tea. Stretchy pants for life is fun and all but I dont need bodybuilder thunder thighs lol. The other reason I am okay doing fasted cardio is my carb intake is much higher than it was in my preps last year and I feel I have plenty of glycogen in my system to support my excercise even while fasting.
The other thing I have started to do is play with the concept of IF more. Now you may wonder why when I talked about my horrible experience with it previously. The reason why is this- I am starting to think long term about my brain and the way I view food. The concept of eating all the time has become so instilled in my head that post show or post diet I struggle hard because I feel the need to eat ALL the time and have had leptin issues which have made it very hard to feel full (I wrote about this in depth in my article published on Official Cut and Jacked if anyone is curious to read it the link is here- http://www.cutandjacked.com/Competition-pre-vs-post-show-finding-balance ) I want to be in control of those feelings when I am done this time around and IF has given me a feeling of control over my body. I control when I eat – IF proves this to myself as I can set a window for fasting and a window for eating that allows me to still get proper nutrients in but allows more control over the concept of not having to eat ALL the time. Plus like I mentioned- when I do eat again I feel fuller quicker than I did- most likely due to my stomach physically shrinking. I also am much more experienced with IIFYM and how to utilize that for reverse dieting than I was in the past, so that is also part of my current method but something I wont get in to here.
Again, this is what is currently working for me, my diet, my mindset and the way things in my life are currently set up. I dont expect anyone to be just like me or to implement the same thing as I do as everyone is different and you have to find what works for you and your current lifestyle.