Monday, September 19, 2011

Fasted Training

As I laced up my running shoes (first time since buying my VFF's) for a 5k on the gravel road, the lightning struck and the rain started falling. So I've been pacing around the crew trailer waiting for it to stop. There are squall lines in every direction today, so I was hoping to get my run in before it started storming again. I wanted to post a link to a guest post by Jason Fitzgerald this morning on Naturally Engineered I've been following David Csonka for a while now, and his blog is a great resource to all things Paleo and Fitness as well as a great place to start if you are just getting into all of this. Strength Running, likewise has been extremely helpful to me in improving my running ability. Both these guys know their stuff, and are talented bloggers who can really convey the information in a concise, understandable way.

Perfecting the Art of Fasting Before Running
The article deals with fasted-state running, and actively challenges the old adage that you need to carb load prior and during a run to perform well. If you are training for a race or race season Intermittent Fasting lets you work in a way to train your body to metabolize and store glucose in your muscles more efficiently. This definitely a must-read article.

In my own experience, I have switched almost entirely to fasted runs. I have not been putting in as many miles as a competitive runner, but rather supplementing my training, and maximizing the mind-clearing benefits of runs. I was starting to ratchet up my mileage before I started running in VFF's, but dialed it back down when I was breaking them in. I made up for the shorter distances with more frequent runs. It is very cathartic to just float along nearly barefoot, and I have to say it is mildly addictive when you are already into fitness. My already minimal (9mm heel drop) NB100's feel like cowboy boots compared to the KSO's. The only reason I am putting them on is I want to run on a gravel road, and gravel has been my arch nemesis lately. I really just want to run my old 5k on gravel just to get away.
I have not eaten a traditional breakfast in nearly a year, and now if I run with anything more than half a banana in my stomach I feel nauseated the entire run. Running with the fuel low light on has been nothing but a blessing to my runs. I get a nice little pulse of energy after the first mile that catapults me through the rest of the run. The only exception being on very high heat and humidity days where I'm just getting beat down by the elements. Most of the time fasting helps cool your body down as well, so the summers are a lot more bearable here in the deep south.
I have also completed many military fitness tests while fasted with my Navy PRT scores getting better, and my Search and Rescue Fitness Tests and Evals getting better. Swimming with anything in my stomach has generally been a bad idea anyway, due to the nausea and cramping associated. The Conventional Wisdom would be that an individual needs a large number of calories before during and after to fuel these workouts, but the opposite is true. I now perform better on an empty stomach than I do with even a light breakfast. Light breakfast being a powerbar or a piece of fruit. Now I fuel myself with a good cup (usually more) of French Pressed coffee, and at most a tiny piece of very dark chocolate to counteract the acid. Coffee and Chicory seems to provide the best results, as the chicory takes away the acid, and is high in magnesium.

The added benefits of increased insulin sensitivity, lower caloric load over time, and better fat metabolism, have all helped push me through plateaus in fitness and weight loss; and the "second wind" sometimes achieved gives the benefit of pushing through some grueling workouts leading to my better over-all conditioning. I am unsure as to this effect is from the release of liver glucose after gluconeogenesis from the previous night's protein, or if it is simply keto adaptation and the point at which the mitochondria switch over to burning ketone bodies (fat) as fuel. Either way, it has been intuitive to me to eat and work this way, so I will not be switching back.

If you are interested in learning more about Intermittent Fasting as a method, here are some very helpful links that I still follow on a regular basis:
Martin Berkhan at Lean Gains
Johnny at The Lean Saloon
Brad Pillon at Eat Stop Eat
Mike O'Donell at The IF Life
The Fast-5 Corporation

***I do want to state, that unless you have your diet really dialed in, and all the crap removed this will be a very difficult transition if this is something you are wanting to try out. A lifetime of poor dietary choices perpetuated by our consumerist society will not provide enough of the necessary nutrients for your body to run efficiently. Start with making REAL FOOD your primary source of fuel, so the need to snack on junk all day is eliminated. This is imperative. Fasting is intuitive once you can eat well enough to be able to skip a meal. Garbage in Garbage out. If you get light headed by dinner time after snacking all day, then it's time to reevaluate your food choices.


  1. Good points, good post. I've experienced a very similar effect on my own fasted runs. I definitely feel better working out on an empty stomach. Anything more than a handful of berries just sits like lead in my gut. I don't even like to drink anything within 30 minutes of beginning my run. I'll often down a liter of water when I first wake, then wait at least 45 minutes to let it absorb before beginning my training.

  2. The LeanGains website is a great resource. I'm currently trying out Martin's protocol and am finding it to be very effective.

  3. David, what are your thoughts on BCAA's?

  4. When I worked out in the mornings, I never ate beforehand. I would generally just drink a few sips of water and then get started (and I'd keep the water with me as I ran or worked out). My wife, on the other hand, couldn't go more than 10-15 minutes without feeling drained if she didn't eat a bite of something before working out.

    I really need to get back on a morning-workout schedule. Working out after work is just a drag, usually.

  5. what is neurofeedback
    - is an Industry Leader in Healthy Brain Workout, Fitness Program, Neurofeedback for ADHD, Brain Exercises, Neurocare, PTSD Disorder and Biofeedback Systems."/>


Let Me Know What YOU Think.