Ease into it
The first thing to consider when starting with intermittent fasting is that going longer without food can feel hard, especially when you add exercise into the mix. Easing into it will give your body time to adjust. If you suspect that you won’t do well without food, start by a 12/12 protocol. When you get comfortable with avoiding food for 12 hours, you can push it to the popular 16/8 and later even experiment with whole-day fasts.
Stay with it
Most studies looking at intermittent fasting report that participants have the hardest time sticking to the dietary protocol in the first two weeks. Things become more tolerable and closer to normal about 4 weeks in. Commit to completing at least a full month to really see if this way of eating is for you. If the feelings of hunger and discomfort don’t improve by then, you can reevaluate. But giving up too early is one of the most common pitfalls.
Match food intake to your training
Training and nutrition should always be connected and this is especially important to pay attention to when intermittent fasting. When you only have a limited window of time to eat, you have to make sure, you are fuelling key training sessions properly. For interval training and hard sessions overall, you want to start well-fuelled and have the capacity to keep eating throughout the ride. Plan these kinds of sessions and races inside your eating window.
When it comes to low-intensity sessions or active recovery, you can do that type of training on an empty stomach. Plan you easy spins on recovery days inside of your fasting window. As you get better and more used to fasted exercise, you can try doing longer endurance rides. Doing low-intensity steady work without carbohydrates will enhance endurance adaptations.
It might sound elementary but it’s important to say that fasting doesn’t prevent you from drinking water. You should keep drinking regularly during both eating and fasting windows to stay hydrated to perform well on the bike. You can even add a bit of salt to your beverages during long fasted time periods to reduce feelings of hunger and balance electrolytes if you do fasted rides.
Eat like an athlete
Even though intermittent fasting can bring a lot of benefits regardless of what you eat, you should keep in mind that you have to still eat like an athlete. What does that mean? As an athlete, you have higher calorie needs and you need more essential nutrients too. So, when your eating window comes, make sure to get sufficient protein, carbs, and fats to cover your needs. And keep your diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and minimally processed animal products. That way you will be getting enough minerals, vitamins, fibre, and antioxidants too.
Fasting is something that can disrupt sleep, especially in the beginning when your body isn’t used to it. For example, if you eat late at night because of intermittent fasting, that can be a problem for some. To make sure you don’t lose sleep, try to maintain a routine. Intermittent fasting can help with this. When you take in food in regular intervals, it helps guide your internal clock. Keep your eating and fasting windows fixed to a specific hour. Having a regular internal clock then helps you fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night.
Groups that should not fast
Even with all of these tips, intermittent fasting simply isn’t for everyone. Here are groups of people that should engage with intermittent fasting carefully or even stay away completely.
- If you are underweight
- If you have a hard time gaining weight
- If you have a history of disordered eating
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
- If you have diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, check with your doctor first
For everyone else, use intermittent fasting as the effective dietary tool it can be! But don’t expect miracles, you still have to pay attention to what you eat and how much, if you want long-term success.