Get Fitter Fasted

Everything is Energy. Albert Einstein summed up life, earth, the universe and beyond so succinctly. Without energy, there is no existence. So, it makes sense that how we manage our personal energy is the key to our wellbeing.

We work round the globe with businesses helping them embed a human, energetic and creative working culture. Our training programmes, events and workshops are designed to boost people’s awareness, creativity and collaboration, as well as equip them with the tools to keep their internal fire burning bright.

Over the years, we have learnt a lot. However, we wanted to live energy every day. We decided to go on a year- long journey to explore how it affects us physically, mentally and spiritually with the help of monthly experiments set by experts. We wanted to get the low down from the people who live and breathe energy from every angle. By trying out their methods we are hoping to establish a bespoke plan of how we can get the most out of our personal energy for life.

Our third stop on the energy journey was exploring Fasted Fitness with the super knowledgeable James Parkes, a Strength and Rehabilitation Coach for the South West’s premier rugby team. James has used the technique with clients and has seen great success, with targeted players gaining a significant improvement in body composition and energy levels.

Exercising when we are in a fasted state has been proven to be significantly more effective, 20–30%, in oxidising (burning) fat than exercising in a fed state. If you exercise in order to stay trim, fasted exercise may well be able to help in your pursuit of improved body composition. It might feel harder to start, but your body will adapt over time to become a lean, mean, exercising machine.

The fed state lasts for about 4–6 hours after your last meal. This gives time for your body to absorb all the good stuff. Glucose is transported to the muscles to be used as energy (glycogen). It keeps you alive and kicking. After 6 hours, you enter the fasted state. Glucagon is released to keep your blood sugar at normal levels. Your body starts to break down fat tissue into free fatty acids, which are converted into a form of energy known as ketone (complexity). In layman’s terms, ‘burning fat’.

It’s a set-up we have inherited from evolution. Wooly mammoths weren’t on the shelves of caveman land that often, so holding onto stored body fat was crucial for survival.

Like our brains, our bodies are physiologically pretty much the same as they were tens of thousands of years ago. However, we aren’t spending hours hunting that elusive mammoth, all we have to do is lift one arm and a snack is at hand.

So, to maximise our fat burning potential and boost our fitness and energy levels we introduced a bout of fasted exercise every morning for 4 weeks. The experiment was adapted to suit all types:

Level 1
If you never normally do any exercise during the course of the week. 
 Wake up 20 minutes earlier than normal and get out of the house no matter the weather and go for a brisk walk for 10–20 minutes, 6 days a week.
 Level 2

 If you are a weekend warrior and maybe put together one exercise bout during the working week alongside your weekend efforts. 
 On the days you do not exercise, wake up 20 minutes earlier than normal and get out of the house no matter the weather and go for a brisk walk for 10–20 minutes, 6 days a week.
 Level 3
 If you are fully committed to your health and fitness regime and can’t fit anymore in. 
 Wake up 20 minutes early every day and add in some specific mobility work to enhance your recovery and optimise your workouts. 6 Days a week for a month will see your body appreciate the TLC.

Our learnings from the month were fairly consistent across group:

- Most people exercised before breakfast and this commitment meant people were more dedicated to sticking to the experiment.

- The energetic hit felt much greater in the morning than exercising at any other time of the day.

- Feeling hungry helped people tune into their bodies.

- People needed less coffee and ate a healthier diet.

- Their day was much more productive, creative and focused.

- Sleep improved.

The only glitch was looking after small children which made the regime of pre-breakfast workouts harder to achieve.

Key Takeaway:

Overall this experiment helped people get more out of their day and gave them a great sense of achievement which carried them through to bedtime. Studies show that what you do with the first few hours of your day has a profound impact on the energy and productivity of the rest of your day. We can achieve more first thing in the morning as our willpower is at its highest, we are more focused and less likely to be interrupted.

Author Aubrey Marcus succinctly sums it up “Own your day, Own your life’.

*Note, if you are running a race or a particularly strenuous workout then carb-periodisation beforehand is still key to prevent potential dizziness and nausea and meet your optimal performance. If you have diabetes, any blood sugar or other medical conditions do consult your GP or the NHS helpline before starting the experiment. And remember, water and or electrolyte solutions are key, so make sure you drink before, during and after a workout.

Jim Lusty, trainer, speaker and partner @JimLusty

Previously published at Minutehack