Presse Santé

Exercising on an empty stomach: a good idea?

If you’re one of the many people who occasionally abstain from food for religious or health reasons, you’ll also need to adjust your workout regimen, experts say.

Exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity can help you control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and strengthen your muscles and bones. Sometimes, however, it is best to approach exercise with caution. Abstaining from eating and drinking for a set period of time, a practice known as fasting, is one such case.

Is it safe to exercise on an empty stomach?

In most cases, it’s okay to exercise while fasting, especially if you’re already healthy.

However, some populations should be careful.

People with coronary artery disease (a condition in which the arteries have difficulty supplying blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart), as well as those taking medication for hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes are the main groups that need to be careful. People with coronary heart disease should be careful when exercising in general, and especially when overdoing it. These people are more likely to have cardiac events when their heart rate increases, and they need to monitor exercise intensity closely. Fasting is a behavior that can make physical activity feel more intense, increasing the risk of complications for people with this type of condition compared to those who don’t fast.

People with type 2 diabetes who take medications to increase insulin sensitivity or lower blood sugar levels, or people with type 1 diabetes who take insulin, are at risk of see their blood sugar levels drop too low if they go for long periods of time without eating.

This is called hypoglycemia, the symptoms of which are: shaking, sweating, confusion, rapid heartbeat, nausea and headache. Exercising on an empty stomach can cause or worsen hypoglycemia in people with diabetes.

Also, people who take blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers, may have trouble getting their heart rate up, regardless of exercise intensity. They may be more prone to feeling dizzy, especially if they don’t drink enough water. If you have any of these conditions, it’s important to ask your doctor about how to exercise safely if you’re fasting (for dietary or religious reasons) and whether it’s safe to do so. Also, for anyone fasting and planning to exercise, it’s important to keep in mind that low-intensity, short-duration workouts are better options than longer workouts. long or high intensity.

You can use the Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE) to help you gauge your intensity. The RPE scale ranges from 0 to 10, where 0 is the effort required to sit in a chair (none), and 10 is the effort required to perform a stress test or other difficult activity (very heavy). Try to aim for an effort level of 4 (fairly heavy) or less while fasting. Activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, and Pilates are all great options. It is possible to train in both heat and cold while fasting, but precautions should be taken to ensure safety. Be sure to properly fuel your body before you start fasting and limit the intensity of your exercises (again, do not exceed 4 on the RPE scale). You should also ensure that you are properly hydrated and getting enough sleep. Both are important for safe training and recovery,” especially in intense heat or cold.

It is important to follow a balanced diet once the fast is over. This means getting enough calories to meet your needs, along with a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Your daily diet should include complete proteins such as meat, eggs, and milk, or quinoa, chia seeds, and soy if you are on a plant-based diet, as well as fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates . Carbs should make up about 40-60% of your overall calorie intake, protein 20-30%, and healthy fats (avocado, oily fish, nuts) the remaining 10-15%.

Does the type of fasting affect the ability to exercise safely?

Fasts vary; some only last a few hours, others several weeks. Dietary practices, such as intermittent fasting, are practiced for health or weight loss reasons. Some of these types of fasting may not be compatible with exercise. In particular, fasts that span 24 hours or more, fasts where you restrict calories and nutrients (such as a juice cleanse), and fasts where you don’t drink water are typical types. of fasting during which exercise is dangerous. The body has not had the opportunity to ingest new nutrients and replenish its stores. At this point, your body is running on empty. Not only will exercise be difficult, but it can also increase the risk of dizziness, fainting, nausea, and headaches.

Exercising while intermittent fasting is generally safe. Some people choose to limit their eating to a single six to eight hour window per day, and fast for the remaining 16 hours (more or less) of the day. Others prefer to eat normally five days a week and limit themselves to one 500-600 calorie meal the other two days. It’s usually okay to exercise while fasting before a medical procedure, as long as you talk to the doctor performing the procedure.

Tips for exercising if you’re fasting

Even if you take precautions, exercising while fasting can be risky. If you are taking medication, have any of the health conditions listed above, or have any other health condition that may interfere with your ability to exercise safely (or fast safely), talk to your healthcare provider before exercising and fasting simultaneously, says Dixon.

If you want to exercise while fasting, follow these tips for a safer, and more importantly, more comfortable experience.

– Watch your intensity. In order to conserve your energy for the rest of the day, favor low-intensity workouts during the fast, especially if you are exercising at the beginning or middle of the fast. Aim for an exertion level no higher than 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is rest and 10 is maximum intensity. That said, you can probably increase your intensity if the workout is short. If you only have 20 minutes to exercise, you can probably do a more intense workout and get the same benefits as a longer, less intense workout.

– Be brief. Doing a low-intensity activity for a long enough period can result in a higher-intensity workout. This means that taking a three-hour walk while fasting isn’t necessarily a good idea, even if that walk is low-intensity. If you normally train for 30 minutes or an hour at a time, stick to the lower end of that duration if you train while fasting.

– Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water while fasting and check your urine to gauge how hydrated (or not): The darker the color of your urine, the more dehydrated you are.

– Exercise early on. If your schedule permits, try exercising at the start of your fast. Since you recently ate, your body still has plenty of stored nutrients to fuel the workout. This can make exercise more manageable than trying to exercise towards the end of your fast, when your body is depleted of nutrients.

– Know when your body is telling you that you are doing too much. Pay attention to your body’s cues and stop exercising if you feel nauseous, dizzy, or have a headache. You can also replenish energy with a small snack.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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