THERE’S a good chance you’ve either tried, or know someone that’s trying, the 5:2 diet. It’s relatively simple, doesn’t involve cutting out a bunch of your favourite foods, and is extremely effective as far as weight loss is concerned.
But where and how does exercise fit in? Is it okay to work out on fasting days? And if so, what type of exercise should you be doing?
With a few exceptions, you can exercise on fasting days. But the type of exercise you do will depend largely on the time of day.
Let me explain. If you train first thing in the morning on your fasting days, then you can do much the same type of exercise you normally would; run, cycle, lift weights, whatever you enjoy. But it’s a different story if you want to train in the late afternoon or evening. In this case, you’re better off doing something relatively low on the intensity scale.
Exercise that’s particularly demanding in terms of effort or technique, such as interval training, CrossFit or lifting heavy weights, isn’t a great idea after a full day of fasting. Your muscles will fatigue a lot quicker than usual. And this fatigue makes it more likely that your technique will break down, exposing you to an increased risk of injury.
That’s not to say that you should avoid such activities completely, but save them for the days when you’re in a fed, rather than a fasted, state.
If you go to the gym in the evening of your fast day, my advice is to choose something low in intensity that doesn’t involve a great deal of thinking. Some kind of steady-state cardiovascular exercise, such as sitting on a bike for 45 minutes, will do the job just fine.
The same thing applies the morning after your fast day; chances are that your energy levels are going to be a little on the low side. So here’s what I suggest you do.
Set your alarm clock so that you get up 30 minutes earlier than normal. Get out of bed, get dressed and put on a pair of walking shoes. Look at your watch and note the time. Now, open the front door and start walking. Keeping walking as fast as you can. After 15 minutes, turn around and walk back home.
A brisk walk in the morning is a great way to start the day, especially when it’s one of those “cold and crisp” mornings when the sky is blue and there’s a sprinkling of frost on the ground.
Even before most people have dragged themselves out of bed, you’ve already ticked off the first item on your “to do” list. That’s a great way to set yourself up for the day.
For people with a few stone to lose, steady-state cardio such as walking is a great form of exercise, and burns a lot more calories than you might think. It’s the equivalent of someone with a “normal” weight carrying a 40-pound rucksack strapped to their back.