If you’re one of the many people who occasionally abstain from food for religious or health reasons, you’ll also need to adjust your exercise regimen, experts say.
Exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity can help you control your weight, lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and strengthen your muscles and bones. Sometimes, though, it’s best to approach exercise with caution. Refraining from eating and drinking for a set period of time, a practice known as fasting, is one such case.
Is it safe to exercise on an empty stomach?
In most cases, it’s okay to exercise on an empty stomach, especially if you’re already healthy.
However, some populations need to be careful.
People with coronary artery disease (a condition in which the arteries have difficulty delivering blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the heart), as well as those taking medications for hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes are the main groups they should be careful. People with coronary heart disease should be careful about exercising in general, and especially when exercising excessively. These people are more likely to have cardiac events when their heart rate increases and they need to closely monitor exercise intensity. Fasting is a behavior that can make physical activity feel more intense, increasing the risk of complications for people with this type of condition compared to those who don’t fast.
People with type 2 diabetes who take medications to increase insulin sensitivity or lower blood sugar levels, or people with type 1 diabetes who take insulin, are at risk of low blood sugar levels. too much if they go a long time without eating.
This is called hypoglycemia, the symptoms of which are: shakiness, sweating, confusion, rapid heartbeat, nausea and headache. Exercising on an empty stomach can cause or worsen hypoglycemia in people with diabetes.
Also, people who take blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers, may have trouble getting their heart rate up, regardless of the intensity of the exercise. They may be more likely to feel dizzy, especially if they don’t drink enough water. If you have any of these conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor about how to safely exercise on an empty stomach (for dietary or religious reasons) and if it’s safe to do so. Also, for anyone fasting and planning to exercise, it’s important to note that short, low-intensity workouts are better options than longer or high-intensity workouts.
You can use the Scale of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to help you gauge your intensity. The RPE scale runs from 0 to 10, where 0 is the effort required to sit in a chair (none) and 10 is the effort required to perform a stress test or other difficult (very heavy) activity. Try to aim for an effort level of 4 (fairly heavy) or less while fasting. Activities like walking, biking, swimming, yoga, and pilates are great options. It is possible to train in both hot and cold fasted, but precautions must be taken to ensure safety. Be sure to properly fuel your body before you start fasting and limit the intensity of your exercises (again, don’t exceed 4 on the RPE scale). You should also make sure you are well hydrated and getting enough sleep. Both are important for safe training and recovery,” especially in intense hot or cold conditions.
It is important to follow a balanced diet after fasting. This means getting enough calories to meet your needs, along with a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Your daily diet should include complete proteins like meat, eggs, and milk, or quinoa, chia seeds, and soy if you eat a plant-based diet, in addition to fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates should make up around 40-60% of your total calorie intake, protein 20-30%, and healthy fats (avocado, oily fish, nuts) the remaining 10-15%.
Does the type of fasting affect the ability to exercise safely?
Fasts vary; some only last a few hours, others several weeks. Dietary practices, such as intermittent fasting, are practiced for health or weight loss reasons. Some of these types of fasts may not be compatible with exercise. In particular, fasts that last 24 hours or longer, fasts in which calories and nutrients are restricted (such as a juice cleanse), and fasts in which no water is drunk are typical types of fasts during which the exercise is dangerous. The body has not had a chance to take in new nutrients and replenish its stores. At this point, your body is running out of energy. Not only will exercise be difficult, it can also increase your risk of dizziness, fainting, nausea, and headaches.
Exercising while intermittent fasting is generally safe. Some people choose to limit their eating to a single six to eight hour period per day and fast for the remaining 16 hours (give or take) of the day. Others prefer to eat normally five days a week and limit themselves to a 500-600 calorie meal the other two days. It’s usually okay to exercise on an empty stomach before a medical procedure, as long as you talk to the doctor performing the procedure.
Tips for exercising while fasting
Even if you take precautions, exercising on an empty stomach can be risky. If you are taking medications, have any of the health conditions listed above, or have any other health conditions that may interfere with your ability to exercise safely (or fast safely), talk to your health care provider before exercise and fast simultaneously, says Dixon.
If you want to exercise while fasting, follow these tips for a safer, and more importantly, more comfortable experience.
– Watch your intensity. To conserve your energy for the rest of the day, favor low-intensity workouts during your fast, especially if you’re exercising early or in the middle of your fast. Aim for an effort level no higher than 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is rest and 10 is maximum intensity. That said, you can probably increase your intensity if the workout is short. If you only have 20 minutes to exercise, you can probably do a more intense workout and get the same benefits as a longer, less intense workout.
– Be brief. Doing a low intensity activity for a long enough period can result in a higher intensity workout. This means that walking for three hours on an empty stomach is not necessarily a good idea, even if the walk is of low intensity. If you normally train for 30 minutes or an hour at a time, stick to the lower end of that duration if you train fasted.
– Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water while fasting and monitor your urine to gauge how hydrated (or not) – the darker the color of your urine, the more dehydrated you are.
– Exercise from the start. If your schedule allows, try to exercise at the beginning of your fast. Since you recently ate, your body still has plenty of stored nutrients to fuel the workout. This can make exercise more manageable than trying to exercise toward the end of your fast, when your body has run out of nutrients.
– Know when your body is telling you that you are doing too much. Pay attention to your body’s signals and stop exercising if you feel nauseated, dizzy or have a headache. You can also replenish energy with a small snack.
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