Lifting Weights While Fasting

Attractive athletic woman using a bench press
A woman is strength training at a gym. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Whether or not you continue to lift weights during a fast will depend on the type of fast you are doing, your reasons for doing it and your current fitness level. Don’t start a new weightlifting program during a fast — both your diet and your new physical activity level will strain your system.

Types

There are three main reasons why people choose to fast: cleansing, weight loss and spirituality. Fasting for religious reasons is thought to help people focus on the divine. Detox proponents argue that fasting allows your body time to clean house. Fasting to lose weight may provide rapid short-term weight loss.

Differences

Each type of fast has different rules about what you can’t eat and for how long. Some fasts last only a day. Ramadan, on the other hand, lasts a whole month, although it is not a complete fast. It requires individuals to refrain from eating or drinking nutrients during daylight hours. Detox fasts may require you to eat and drink nothing at all for a few days, or you might be able to drink enough fruit and vegetable juice to add up to 2,000 calories.

Nutrition

If you are able to consume any calories during a fast, they will usually be mainly carbohydrates. Consuming some carbohydrates — like juice, rice and potatoes — helps you manage the demands of exercise better than a water-only fast. Proteins and fats are generally limited. A fast that doesn’t even allow water is an extreme strain on the body. If you choose a no-water fast, do so with great caution and stop exercising until you resume your normal eating pattern.

Effects

After a few days of fasting, your metabolism slows down. The body will also begin to use body fat, muscle and bone to get the nutrients it needs to keep you moving. The more you lift weights, the more stress you put on your muscles. Without enough carbohydrate and protein in your diet, it is difficult to replace glycogen, and even harder to build new muscle.

Risks

Fasting for a day or two usually doesn’t harm a healthy person, but when a fast lasts for several weeks, it can have an impact on athletic performance. A 2007 study in the “British Journal of Sports Medicine” shows that after a month of Ramadan fasting, professional soccer players experienced significant decreases in athletic performance. The effects lasted even after the fast ended. A fast can make you irritable and tired and can also affect blood sugar levels, which might make you dizzy or weaker than normal — so be sure to have a spotter if lifting free-weights during a long fast.

Recommendations

If you want to keep up your workout routine during a fast, then consider using lower weights and working at a lower intensity to put less strain on your body. Don’t try to focus on building muscle at this time. If your fasting plan allows you to consume juices, then drink them. If you can also add protein powder to one of your drinks, this may help avoid lean muscle mass — but this could also defeat the purpose of your fast.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Load comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.