Fasted Training


One of the most common questions I get asked is “What should I eat before I workout to get the most fat burning-ness?”


When I suggest to train fasted, they’re in shock.


What about breakfast, don’t I need it?

Won’t I enter starvation mode and lose muscle?

Won’t I be weaker?


The short answer to all of those questions is no.


The problem is that if you hear something repeated frequently enough, you begin to believe it.


Such As

Myth: Breakfast is king —-> Truth: Eat breakfast if you want to, but it’s not the Holy Grail it was once said it was. There may in fact be benefits to skipping breakfast.


Myth: Eat every 3 hours —-> Truth: Eat 6 times per day if you enjoy it. But there are no benefits to eating 6 meals instead of 1, 2 or 3 meals in terms of increasing your metabolism.


Myth: Steak is bad and will give you cancer —-> Truth: If you don’t enjoy a medium-rare eye fillet from time to time, we simply cannot be friends.


Myth: Always eat before a workout —-> Truth: Let’s cover this one in detail.


Here’s the thing with pre workout meals…


I’m a vomiter.


I always have been when it comes to exercise. Some people are, other aren’t. If I eat before a workout, it has a habit of coming back up the same way it went in.


(No – this is not from training after a big night of scotch. But that has happened before.)


Eating within 3-4 hours of a workout is a recipe for disaster for me. So fasted training works best.


I feel better, I have more mental clarity and I experience more intense workouts when I’m fasted.


I would generally train around midday, and make my first meal of the day post-workout at 1-2pm. And I know plenty of others that do something similar if they train in the morning.


People always have doubts when I advocate fasted training. These people generally fall into one of two categories


Those who have bought into the “starvation mode” theory, or

Those that believe they will have more energy after breakfast or a pre workout meal.


I’m always the first to suggest that you need to find your own plan. Find what works for you, experiment with everything, and stick with what works.


Try IIFYM. Try Paleo. Try 6 meals per day. Try vegetarianism did I say that? I meant: try a steak-only diet.


My point is to experiment with your body.


Of course I’ll suggest what works best for me and the many clients I train, plus what the latest science says. But at the end of the day, YOU are the best science experiment.


In saying that, there are some strong reasons to train fasted. So let’s clear up these two misconceptions.


Truth #1: Starvation mode is bullshit.

This one is all about money.


It makes commercial sense for food and supplement companies to convince you to eat more frequently. They advocate 5-7 small meals every day, to “stoke the fire” and to keep your metabolism ticking over.


People cannot be bothered to cook 5 to 6 meals per day, so they opt for shakes or meal replacement bars. By recommending more frequent meals, the companies can move more products. Genius.


If drinking shakes between meals were the secret to losing fat, then literally every gym-goer would be ripped.


It doesn’t work that way.


There’s obviously no money in it for supplement companies to tell people to eat 2 or 3 meals each day. So they lead us to believe that the “secret” is eating regular meals each day.


You see, it was discovered that the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) would help you burn fat. And whilst that is true in theory, here’s how it really works.


Let’s imagine we’re doing an experiment with 3 Catholic nuns, all of which are eating 2,000 calories over a 24-hour period.


And we’re going to place the three sisters on different meal frequencies – the first 2 meals per day, the second on six meals, and the third on 9 meals. Here’s what we would discover:


No difference.


TEF is calculated on the total caloric intake, and it works as a percentage of total calories.


So our nuns would experience zero difference over the 24-hour period. TEF is not affected by meal frequency; it is directly proportional to the calories consumed in each meal.


People then assume that if you don’t eat 6 meals to “stoke the fire”, then your body will begin to break down your metabolism by eating away at muscle. You’ll enter the forbidden ‘Starvation Zone’ where your body literally eats its own muscle cells to provide energy.


Starvation means exactly that – you are starving.


As in, you’ve gone several days without food. Not 3 hours without food, or even 24 hours without food.


The longest I’ve gone is about 40-hours, and I still managed to train effectively in the middle of that fast. I managed to do it without self-combusting into a pile of ash from entering the starvation zone.


Our bodies are incredibly effective at lowering our metabolic rate. In prehistoric times, this allowed us to live long enough to find some T-Rex to hunt down.


Studies have shown that your metabolic rate will be lowered after 60 hours of fasting. Others show that metabolic rate is not impacted until 75-96 hours. And there are also studies linking short-term fasting can actually increase metabolic rate.


When training fasted, be smart about it by staying hydrated. Also supplement with 10g BCAA’s prior to your session. This will delay the breakdown of protein during the session without technically breaking the fast.


Truth #2: Breakfast is overrated

Certain basics appear in most diets: eat frequently, eat a range of fruit and vegetables, and ensure you eat breakfast.


And all of this was considered diet gospel until IF entered the diet scene. IF encouraged more flexibility with nutrition. If you want to eat breakfast, go for it. Want to fast until lunchtime? I’m cool with that.


Eating 6 meals per day and eating breakfast CAN work. There are plenty of people who have seen incredible results with this model. But there are alternatives that will produce the same if not more results.


The bottom line is this – find what works for you. For me, its using IF and training fasted. Find your ideal plan, and never stop learning. Just because you have done things a certain way for ever, doesn’t necessarily make them right or the most effective way. And don’t make you decisions out of fear – fear of the starvation zone, or fear of missing out on breakfast.