Is Intermittent Fasting Good For Runners?
Updated: Sep 11, 2020
I once read that intermittent fasting is just a millennial's way of saying that they skipped breakfast 🍳🥓😆
In all seriousness though, should runner's try intermittent fasting (IF)?
First let's break down what it is. There are lots of ways of doing IF, but basically it is a time period where you are allowed to eat and a time period where you are not. Some people break this up into a daily pattern, say 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating. Other people may eat normally 5 days a week and really restrict their food intake the other 2 days.
When it comes down to it, there really isn't anything magical about IF. The reason it works is because you're limited in the hours that you can eat. Naturally this limits the amount of calories you can take in during a day, so your overall calorie intake is likely going to be lower overall if you are IF. So IF = less time to eat => less calories => possible weight loss.
So is IF good for runners? This is going to depend on several factors.
🍽 Is your goal to lose 10 pounds or is your goal to run a PR on your next marathon?
🔷 If your goal is to lose 10 pounds and you really don't care about racing or running faster, then IF might work for you. If your goal is to run a PR on your next marathon, it probably isn't a great strategy.
🍽 Would IF prevent you from having a recovery meal or snack within 30-60 minutes?
🔷 If it is, then you're not going to recovery as well or as efficiently. This is going to set you up for more sluggish runs later and could leave you feeling more hungry and having more cravings later in the day.
🍽 Are you hungry? Like, physically hungry?
🔷 Then, for goodness' sakes, eat something. Denying yourself now will only lead to more problems later, I promise.
🍽 Are you running 2-a-days?
🔷 IF will really cut down on your eating time which will cut down on your recovery time. Nutrition is always important but is extra important if you are running twice daily. You've got to be eating right, and eating at the right times, to recover well enough to complete your training runs well.
🍽 Do you feel better if you eat every 2 hours throughout the day or a few bigger meals?
🔷 If you're someone who feels better by eating every ~2 hours, then IF probably isn't going to leave you feeling very good because there will be several hours where you're not eating.
🍽 Are you someone who is really busy and doesn't really have a consistent eating schedule?
🔷 This could really impact whether you're able to implement IF successfully or not. For example, if you're a nurse who works 12+ hour shifts, and you're only "allowed" to eat from 12-8pm, you might not get to eat nearly anything that day if your work shift is busy and you don't get home til 9pm. No good!!
🍽 Are you someone who has a condition that may require you to eat regularly, such as diabetes?
🔷 If so, IF might not be good for you.
If you want to run well, you have to fuel well.
That means fueling often. That means getting in a recovery meal (or at least a snack) within 30-60 minutes of your run -- NOT waiting 6 more hours for the clock to finally turn to noon. It means being consistent. It means honoring your body and your hunger.
Can runners do all that and still do intermittent fasting? Maybe. But it isn't right for everyone. Nothing is right for everyone. I can help you figure out what works for you so that you reach your running performance and body composition goals.