Intermittent Fasting – Hype or Worth Talking About?
In general, prolonged restriction of food and beverages is harmful to health and negatively affects exercise performance. One would suspect that intermittent fasting would lead to the same conclusion, but this is not always the case in elite athletes and is still a matter of debate. A limited number of studies have investigated the impact of athletic performance on elite athletes who observe fasting for religious purposes, such as Ramadan where one requires a total abstention of food and drink from sunrise to sunset. The results are inconclusive as to whether there is an impact on physical performance and how this could affect the outcome of the competition. Much of this may depend on the individual and their ability to adapt. In addition, athletes who maintain their total caloric and nutrient intake during non-fasting periods, training regimen, body composition and sleep schedule are less likely to suffer from a negative impact on performance. Regardless, coordination of exercise and training with the coach, athletic trainer, and registered dietitian is critical for competitive athletes.
For the everyday active individual, intermittent fasting may present some challenges and may not be the best approach. Work-outs may suffer and one may even feel light-headed, dizzy, tired, and nauseated. A low caloric intake will not help to sustain a hard work-out. Staying well fueled with a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean protein can optimize your performance when exercising. Making lifelong, well-balanced dietary choices can assist in achieving a healthy weight, optimizing nutritional status, and enhancing one’s exercise plan. Meeting with a registered dietitian can assist in developing a personalized, dietary approach to keep you healthy and active.