I received this email from a reader the other day and I wanted to share my response publicly since I think most people can benefit from the questions on pre workout and intermittent fasting.
“I’ve been intermittent fasting on and off for a few months now and I enjoy it but feel like I don’t have enough energy to workout on some days. Is there anything that I can take pre workout while I fast?”
I have to admit, initially I was worried about your question as the internet nutrition world will often combine approaches to find the “best”. Paleo-keto, keto-fasting, fasting-carb cycling. As if managing one diet wasn’t hard enough!
The term “pre workout” is pretty liberal as it can mean a supplement or a meal. I’m going to assume the reader meant a supplement or powder as a pre workout since a meal for intermittent fasting would be interesting.
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There’s not many zero calories pre workout supplements available as any little bit of calories will knock you out of your fast. We can debate the practicality and facts behind that (I don’t think it truly matters for 90% of the people who fast) but I’m going to assume you want to stick as close to the rules as possible.
You can surely use BCAAS with intermittent fasting, I don't see them to be as big of an issue.
What I suggest as the best pre workout for intermittent fasting is the following.
Caffeine from black coffee. Let’s start out by liberating some stored fatty acids. Caffeine is proven to do that. I don’t want you getting all jittery. Just have a good workout.
B12: there shouldn’t be any breaking of your fast as B12 is largely neurological in its benefits but cellularly it does help with red blood cell creation which increases oxygen delivery to working muscle.
Berberine: This is a surprising add on. Found in the plant oregon grape, berberine is frequently touted for its ability to manipulate blood glucose (even beating out the prescription drug metaformin in clinical trials). When taken during a fast, there is early evidence that berberine may help mange blood sugar levels that creep up during times of stress.
Pink Himalayan sea salt. While not a pre workout supplement per say, pink Himalaya sea salt will deliver quality minerals that you’ll love while fasting.
Magnesium Glycinate Another electrolyte that is readily lost during intense activity, magnesium glycinate acts primarily on skeletal muscle.
I tend to think that most people overthink their supplementation. Use the proven nutrients above to boost your fasted workout.