If you’ve been following me for a while you know that I love intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting makes being in a calorie deficit required to lose body fat feel, basically effortless.
It also help most individuals stay lean easier when bulking to build muscle.
Now, one question I get all the time surrounding IF is this:
“Where should I place my workouts when I’m using intermittent fasting?”
This is a good question, since where you place your training can have an impact on your results.
So, let’s discover where to best place your workouts when using intermittent fasting.
When To Work Out When Doing Intermittent Fasting
The short answer to this question would be to workout somewhere in your “feeding window” or immediately before it.
Recent research has shown that nutrient/protein timing around your workouts isn’t that important for muscle growth as we previously thought. Hitting your calories and macros for the day is way more important than when you eat.
With that said though, to maximize your results it is recommended that you’re not delaying your post-workout meal more than 2 hours if you didn’t have a large pre-workout meal that day.
When using intermittent fasting you can train anytime you want after your first meal. You can even train after your last meal if you so like, because you would have all the nutrient (amino acids) in your body ready to maximize your muscle building process. This is because, if you had a large dinner before working out your food wouldn’t be digested and absorbed yet.
But if you’re training early in the morning, it would not be ideal to postpone your first meal until lunch.
During this scenario, you would still make gains since muscle protein synthesis starts to climb 3-4 hours after training, peaks at the 24 hour mark and then decreases until it’s back to baseline 36-48 hours after the training was completed. But, if you’re an intermediate to advanced trainee, delaying your post workout meal when you’re also fasted, may compromise the rate of muscle growth a bit.
If you must train early in the morning, then I recommend that you have a protein shake or another lean source of protein after your workout. You wouldn’t be fasting anymore, but you would still save most of your calories for later in the day/evening, which is the biggest benefit of intermittent fasting.
Should You Workout Fasted or Fed?
Here’s the deal:
Whether you train fasted or fed doesn’t matter that much unless you’re doing tons of training volume, or are doing endurance training.
If you’re using more of a minimalist training system, like the one I outline in this guide, then you don’t have to worry much whether you’re training fasted or fed.
I’m training both fasted and fed, depending on my daily schedule. And I’ve hit strength PR’s in both conditions.
I would say that whether you should train fasted or fed is totally up to you. If you feel good training fasted, then do that, if you feel good training fed, then do that.
Strategically Place Your Training to Take Advantage of Nutrient Partitioning
Okay, so I want to shine some light on why I recommend that you place your training either right before your first meal, or somewhere within your “feeding window”.
Some interesting research shows that intermittent fasting can cause better nutrient partitioning in the body if it’s combined with resistance training. Improved nutrient partitioning means that more nutrients will be used for replenishing glycogen and to repair and build muscle, as opposed to getting stored as body fat.
This happens because of two things called; catabolism and anabolism:
As you can see, when you’re using intermittent fasting you first create a large catabolic environment in your body during your fasted window (the red area). Then once you start eating, you create a large anabolic environment instead (the green area).
After your body’s been in a prolonged period of catabolism, i.e fasting, the sensitivity of different hormones gets upregulated in your muscles. In other words, your muscles get extremely hungry, which is natural since you haven’t eaten anything for a long time.
And here’s where it gets interesting:
If you place your training either right before your feeding window or somewhere in it, more of the nutrients you eat during your feeding window will go towards muscle growth.
By doing this you provide your body with nutrients only during times when your muscle building process is mostly activated.
This means that the majority of nutrients you eat will go towards repairing and building new muscle tissue instead of being stored as body fat!
Now, I’m not saying that all your calories will go towards muscle growth, but a larger portion of it might.
I’m emphasizing might because research isn’t completely clear if this really is the case. More data must be available before making any definite assumptions.
However, it’s still a cool benefit and even if the partitioning effects are small, it might still make a significant difference seen over years of training.
Where you should place your workouts when using intermittent fasting isn’t that important. Our muscle protein synthesis peaks 3-4 hours post workout and steadily declines over the next 36-48 hours.
However, to maximize results you should place your workout either right before your first meal or somewhere in your “feeding window”, as this will maximize the anabolic environment for growth created by the training.
Furthermore, if you have to workout far from your feeding window, such as early in the morning, then I recommend having a protein shake post workout. You won’t be fasted anymore, but you will still save up on a large budget of calories for later in the day, which is the main purpose of intermittent fasting anyways.
Finally, it looks like using intermittent fasting can have slight advantages on nutrient partitioning if combined correctly with training. Impoved nutrient partitioning in this case means that more of your nutrients will go towards feeding the muscle building process as opposed to getting stored as fat, making it easier to get, and stay lean.
Okay, so you know where to place your workouts when using intermittent fasting, awesome! Now, the next step would be to set up, what I believe to be the best IF schedule out there, which I call “Flexible Fasting”. You can read more about setting it up here: