QT: Is Intermittent Fasting Ok for Distance Runners

I’ve talked about intermittent fasting here and there over the past few years, but I’ve not done a post specific to the topic until today.

A friend on IG reached out the other day, asking about my experience with intermittent fasting and distance running, so I thought it might be worth exploring a bit today.

To be clear, I’m not going to get too deep into the science of intermittent fasting today.

I’ve done enough research to be dangerous, but not certainly not enough to be an expert on the topic.

Instead, I’m mostly just going to focus on my experience with the practice and why I see no reason to change my way of eating anytime soon.

Intermittent Fasting: Brief Overview

If you’ve never heard of intermittent fasting, let’s take a quick moment to get on the same page.

The idea of intermittent fasting is simple: don’t eat for a certain amount of time.

There is no concrete definition of how long you have to fast, but most experts say that the benefits of intermittent fasting start to show up with fasts of at least 12-14 hours.

Are there more benefits if you fast for 16 hours? 18 hours? 20 hours? 24+ hours?

Some say yes. Some say not much.

I say let’s not get too caught up in specific rules, eh?

Why I Started Intermittent Fasting

I initially dabbled in intermittent fasting back in 2013, after reading the 8 Hour Diet, as one of my “famed” monthly missions.

The reason had nothing to do with running performance and everything to do with a purported link between fasting and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

After watching two grandparents lose their minds, literally, due to Alzheimer’s disease as a kid, I’ll do anything to reduce the risks of me going down a similar route and having to subject Beks, Adi, and any future kids/grandkids to watching my memory disappear day by day.

Anyway, since I jumped into the intermittent fasting world 5+ years ago, I’ve ebbed and flowed with my diligence to adhere to my fasts.

In the past year, I’ve been a fair bit more diligent with my fasts.

But initially, my fasting had nothing to do with my running.

At this point, though, I think that intermittent fasting has helped me become a better distance runner.

Running on Empty

These days, I do pretty much all of my runs in a fasted state.

And I’m a stronger runner than I have ever been.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that I’m a stronger runner because I don’t eat before I run.

I think that is a part of the puzzle, as it’s helped me become fat-adapted as I’ve gone down the path of switching over to a low-carb diet and diving into HR training.

As I’ve become more efficient as a runner and better equipped to burn fat for fuel, the need for taking in extra fuel during a run/race has decreased.

And while most runners just assume that having to fuel during a long race is par for the course, I’ve come to appreciate having one less thing to worry about derailing my race.

Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?

I Don't Know

If you want to, go for it! If you don’t want to, don’t!

My experience with intermittent fasting has been mostly positive.

But just because it works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you!

(And ladies, fasting can mess with your cycle/hormones, so make sure you do some research and adjust accordingly.)

Just like there are no one-size-fits-all training plans, I don’t think there are any one-size-fits-all diet solutions.

If you’re at least intrigued, you may find intermittent fasting may be easier to dabble with than you think.

You don’t have to go all in on intermittent fasting to reap the benefits. I mean, just the word intermittent should tell you as much!

Simply start out with fasting on the days that you don’t run. Or on days where you’re just doing a short/easy recovery run.

And on the days of your long runs, grab a little bite before you head out the door.

But if you don’t eat anything after dinner and skip breakfast a few times each week, when you sit down for lunch you’ll be at 12-14 hours for your fast right there.

And that is enough to help you get started, if that’s something you want to do.

Does intermittent fasting work for distance runners? #runchat Share on X

Have You Ever Tried Intermittent Fasting?

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2 replies
  1. Matthew Ricardo
    Matthew Ricardo says:

    I really enjoy running my runs in a fasted state, if I do have to run in the afternoon or evening I find my HR higher and body just feels more fatigue. Thanks for the advice and awesome show.


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