Fasted State Vs Fed State
While conducting a peak performance camp, I did a study to understand the impact of fed and fasted states on physical performance. The purpose of the study was to evaluate if food/energy is important before any sporting activity for energy purposes and whether it makes any difference if we are not fed on certain days.
2 groups were formed – Fast bowlers were trained in a fasted state for 20 days, while batsmen were trained in a fed state for the same period. The study aimed to investigate the impact of the two states on fat oxidation, physical performance, and weight loss.
The results were surprising. There was no significant difference in the physical performance of the two groups. Both groups showed tremendous improvement in fitness, regardless of their dietary state. Moreover, the fasted players never felt a lack of energy during training compared to the fed players. The players’ fatigue levels were the same, and those who needed to lose weight lost weight regardless of their group.
The study suggests that our body has a mechanism to use both glucose and fat as fuel. In the morning, we are on fat metabolism inadvertently, meaning our body is burning fat. If we do not feed ourselves, our body continues to burn fat until the point where we force the body to shift to glucose. We have a mechanism in our body to convert fat to glucose. Therefore, even in a fasted state, we can use glucose as a fuel.
The point at which we shift from fat to glucose depends on our mitochondrial health, i.e., our efficiency to use fat/fat oxidation. For some people, climbing up the stairs is enough to shift their engine from fat to glucose, while many can stay on fat oxidation during the climb. It is like saying, for how long can you sustain to run your car in 2nd gear! You can read more on the subject in my article on fat oxidation.
It is important to note that the players’ platters were more or less the same as they would have generally. The food was organized and timed in a way that supported their requirements in the camp. Moreover, everybody was asked to eat ad libitum until they were full. The study suggests that we do not need to stress about pre-workout meals. We can perform well without eating, provided we are trained to do so. The hunger we feel is often a mental feeling, and it does not necessarily translate to a lack of energy in our bodies. Our mind is mysterious in many ways, even scientifically.
In conclusion, the study shows that both fed and fasted states have little impact on physical performance and weight loss. Our body has a mechanism to use both glucose and fat as fuel, and our efficiency to use fat/fat oxidation depends on our mitochondrial health. We can perform well without eating before a workout, provided we are trained to do so.