Fasted Vs. Fed Training: What’s the Difference?

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For many, the main issue is finding the time; those who can fit in a protein-laden meal before a 7 am workout are getting more out of their day than the rest of us.

For some, it would be absolutely revolting to think of taking a bite of anything before opening up the inbox and having to read a deluge of emails. It could be as distasteful as doing burpees when hungover. Anybody going to the gym for the purpose of burning fat can take comfort in the fact that nothing burns calories more effectively than a workout done on an empty stomach. Or does it?

If the latest findings are correct, you might not be getting the metabolic advantage you think you are by skipping that pre-workout piece of toast. Results from an investigation this year discovered that inspiration and vitality were lower when participants carried out an exercise session on an empty stomach, and people who exercised without food before felt worse and disliked doing it more than those who had a meal prior.

This new research is yet another confirmation of the long-held notion that working out when hungry is not actually beneficial; scholars have been arguing against this notion for many years. So where should you land on the fasted/fed debate?

This post is to provide you with the key facts regarding fasted and fed training, including meanings, positives, and negatives, and how to decide which one to go for with your customers. This will help you to be able to offer the best advice when it comes to your client’s aim of losing weight.

What Is Fasted Training? What about Fed Training?

First things first. Let’s understand the differences between “fasted” and “fed” training:

Exercising without eating beforehand, also known as fasting training, is when a person works out on an empty stomach. But what’s an empty stomach? Research has indicated that for optimal benefits, your client should abstain from eating for 4-6 hours leading up to their workout.

This type of training is referred to as “fed training” which means that the client works out shortly (usually within four hours) after eating a meal.

Fasted Training Does Not Burn More Fat

Taking this into account, it is not unreasonable to assume that your client’s idea that training on an empty stomach will result in greater weight reduction is plausible.

When someone you are working with is in a fed state, their blood sugar level will be high – so their body will use glucose to power them when they are being active. But when they’re in a fasted state? Since blood glucose has very precise control, training on an empty stomach essentially demands your customer’s body to utilize fat so as to keep up muscle and liver glycogen levels.

Wait a minute. Does that mean your client was right? In other terms: Is it likely that exercising while fasting would stimulate fat-burning, thus potentially accelerating weight loss?

Here’s the fun part: Only half of the statement is true.

Fasted training helps to maximize fat burning by the body, as this is the primary source available to use when glucose, the body’s preferred energy source, is not present. But that doesn’t mean anything for fat loss.

Eventually, the number of calories a person takes in versus the number of calories they burn will decide whether the customer will shed or gain weight. It is not necessarily true that a person is in a calorie deficit because they burn more fat for fuel.

Research agrees.

Research has consistently demonstrated that energy balance is the chief factor in the determination of a person’s weight. For example, there was a meta-analysis from 2017 published in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology.

By evaluating five different investigations that compared fasted and fed training, it has been determined that it is more likely to lose weight and fat from exercise if a significant calorie deficit is maintained over an extended period of time rather than exercising on an empty or full stomach.

Bottom line?

No matter how often your client practices fasted training to temporarily increase the burning of fat, they will not be able to slim down if they continue to consume more calories than they use.

That Said, Fasted Training Isn’t Harmful

Working out on an empty stomach would not help your client shed pounds faster compared to getting them to consume something prior to physical activity. That much is clear now.

What would happen if the client wanted to exercise while they were fasting? What if they have an extremely restricted timetable and are unable to fit in time to eat anything before they go to the gym?

Would this have a detrimental effect on their physical fitness and muscle development? Thankfully, it doesn’t appear to. Let’s explore in greater detail.

Exercise Performance

Let’s look into how performing fasted training affects both aerobic and anaerobic exercises in terms of their respective impacts on both cardio and strength training performance.

So, first up: cardio. This one’s going to be pretty straightforward.

A 2018 meta-analysis that studied 23 investigations of aerobics practiced when nourished compared with when fasted found that there is no discrepancy in workout results if it lasts less than 60 minutes.

Advise your client that, although it is uncommon, if they are doing cardiovascular activities longer than an hour, they should refuel before the session in order to accomplish their best results. It might be possible to grab something quickly, like a shake packed with protein or an energy bar.

Next, strength training.

A 2013 study by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition provides strong evidence that fasted training does not interfere with resistance training exercise.

Scientists examined the consequences of weightlifting while either fasted or fed during Ramadan (when Muslim recreational bodybuilders abstain from food and drink for fifteen to sixteen hours). The findings?

The participants in both groups maintained equal exercise quantity, and both said they felt similarly challenged.

In order to further effectively persuade your customer: Various other explorations have discovered that multiple strength training performances can still be maintained even when levels of muscle glycogen are diminished.

Muscle Loss

Would fasted training hurt your client’s muscle gains? The answer is no.

It has already been demonstrated that fasted training does not appear to impact the amount of exercise performed. Using that as a starting point, it is clear that the amount of training is the most important factor in causing muscle growth.

Hence, it can be said conclusively (in accordance with the relevant scientific research) that someone wouldn’t be losing muscle mass by working out on an empty stomach.

In 2012, researchers observed that individuals who went through a period of fasting before doing cardio workouts did not experience any losses of muscle mass during the study.

Educate Your Client on What to Prioritize for Weight Loss Instead

Putting this all together, you have to make the following two points exceedingly clear for your client when explaining the differences between fasted vs. fed training:

  • Fasted training doesn’t lead to better weight loss results.
  • That said, fasted training doesn’t appear to hurt either exercise performance or muscle growth.

Meaning? It is ultimately their choice if they would prefer to train in a fasted or fed state.

You can also use this as an opportunity to teach your client about the basics of losing weight.

This is an opportunity to inform them that better weight loss results can be accomplished by making sustainable lifestyle adjustments that permit them to adhere to a calorie shortage instead of worrying over whether they should practice fasting or eating before working out.

Nutrient Cycling

If you are still skeptical of the idea of foregoing the workout fast, let’s discuss what effect it could have on your menstrual cycle. Doing a workout on an empty stomach occasionally isn’t likely to have any noticeable impact on your menstrual cycle. However, if it’s something you do regularly, then your cycle might start to change.

There is a correlation between females not consuming enough carbohydrates and a decrease in the production of thyroid hormone T3. The presence of excessive amounts of cortisol serves as a warning to the hypothalamus, the hormone control center in the brain that the body is in an unhealthy state of stress which causes many non-essential systems, like the reproductive system and menstrual cycle, to become inactive.

Missing a menstrual period (amenorrhea) is a possible result of too much exercise without eating, and this could be more frequent than you think. The consequences of this can have serious effects on your well-being. McGregor warns that Amenorra can damage your bone strength, impair your thinking and balance, reduce your athletic performance, and stop you from adding muscle mass.

It isn’t just cortisol that’s affected, either. Research published in PLOS One concluded that not eating can lead to a reduction in the production of kisspeptin. Dr Stacey Sims, an expert in female physiology, describes this as a neuropeptide that is responsible for the production of sex hormones, in addition to endocrine and reproductive functions.

Kisspeptin has an important influence on preserving normal glucose levels, controlling hunger, and controlling body composition. However, if its impact is affected, the production of the two primary female reproductive hormones, estrogen, and progesterone, could be hindered.

Dr. Sims states that women have twice the quantity of kisspeptin in their brains compared to men, which explains why women can detect alterations in their internal energy state more intelligently. Doing cardio when fasting disturbs the energy equilibrium since your brain feels that it is lacking in necessary nutrients.

Including physical activity in your plan will just make your hormone levels more uneven, according to Sims. Clearly, it’s a vicious cycle, but here’s the irony. If you’re doing fasted workouts in order to try to lose fat, your outcomes may be impeded because when the thyroid is not working properly and the cortisol is high, it has been observed that the body tends to store excess fat in the abdominal region, explains Sims.

Fed Up

Let’s assume that by now, you are a full supporter of the Fed group. How can you boost your gym routine?

Research has found that snacking prior to exercise can increase stamina, especially if exercising for more than one hour. What matters more than what you eat, however, is the intensity of your exercise, according to Brodell. At less strenuous intensities, the order of consuming food is not as essential since your body likely has an adequate amount of fat stored to sustain the activity. Eating the right foods prior to a workout can help you perform your best while restoring muscle tissues after your routine is finished.

If the idea of doing egg burps on your Peloton makes you nauseous, we understand. Consuming an excessive amount of food might lead to feeling ill whilst exercising due to the fact that while working out, your body changes the flow of your circulatory system away from your digestion system, halting the digestion of food through your intestines so as to provide oxygenated blood to the muscles you’re exercising.

Properly fueling before your workouts don’t have to be unappetizing. Brodall emphasizes that, when exercising intensely, carbohydrates are the primary energy source of the body, and therefore recommends having simple, carbohydrate-rich foods such as toast or a banana prior to training as they are quickly digested.

Still can’t stomach a pre-sesh snack? Start small, says McGregor. You can teach your stomach to tolerate food in the morning and before exercising. Begin consuming small quantities of food and gradually increase the amount.

McGregor suggests that individuals should consume between 0.5g and 1g of carbohydrates per kilogram of their body weight, either up to three hours before their workout or at least a half hour prior. For a 70 kilograms weight woman, it appears that the recommended amount of carbohydrates intake before a marathon, a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine or a strenuous strength-based day is somewhere between 35 to 70 grams.

Sims suggests incorporating 15g of protein into your snack just before working out. It is better to select low-fat products such as yogurt, protein powder, or a cup of soy milk.

Still Team Fasted? You do you. There is no definitive way of when and how to consume food, exercise, and daily calories; it will all depend on your metabolism, activity, and pressures. Fasting training will depend on how well you adjust to these factors.

McGregor says if you consume enough food for the remainder of the day to nourish yourself adequately, it’s all good, yet he does include a word of warning. Do not attempt to do more than two fasting sorties each week in order to prevent prolonged, day-to-day stress hormone production. The amount of time should be less than an hour and done at a steady speed – like yoga or a slow jog, for instance.

Are you feeling stressed, dealing with fatigue, or experiencing hormone dysregulation? You’re better off leaving fasted training at the door. If you’re looking to partake in a strenuous activity early in the day, consuming a meal containing plenty of carbohydrates can be beneficial to both your workout and your overall hormonal health. McGregor states that having a properly nourished body is essential for good health.

If eating PB&J rice cakes can make a person feel less stressed and happier, go ahead and enjoy them!

Fasted vs. Fed Training: Let Your Client Choose

The notion of burning more fat is an attractive one; however, your customer’s misconception that whether they opt for fasted or fed training is of vital importance is incorrect. You could tell them about the realities of weight loss and concentrate on establishing permanent life habit changes.


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