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Dear Mark: Post-Workout Fasting

Posted By Mark Sisson On November 17, 2008 @ 9:30 am In Dear Mark,Diet,Fasting,Fitness,Health,How To | 38 Comments

Before I jump into this week’s Dear Mark [7] post I wanted to direct everyone’s attention to Andrew Rubalcava’s site, Go Healthy Go Fit [8]. Andrew just published an interview with me. Here are just a few of the questions I answered:

Who have been your top 3 favorite bloggers over the years?

How did you get involved in physical competition such as your experience as a triathlete?

If you could give a few words of advice for those who are just beginning to enter a world of health and fitness, what would you say?

Check out the interview here [9], and check back on Thursday when I’ll be publishing Andrew’s guest post on how to stay healthy no matter what type of lifestyle you lead.

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For this week’s Dear Mark I thought I’d follow up on the issue of post-workout nutrition from a couple of weeks ago. I mentioned in Dear Mark: Muscle Building and Carbs [10] that I fast once in awhile after a workout. I’ve gotten a lot of comments and messages about this point since that post. So, here’s my take on PWO fasting as promised!

As I mentioned in the earlier Dear Mark, after a workout is prime opportunity for protein synthesis. For that reason I usually do a high protein snack in the first 30-60 minutes to capitalize on that benefit. (Carbs, as you recall, aren’t necessary for the enhanced synthesis, and I don’t recommend them in any form after a workout that’s under an hour’s time.) However, I also occasionally choose to fast after a workout to maximize another physiological benefit – the rise in human growth hormone (HGH), which critically influences everything from bone density to muscle mass and organ reserve to general cell reproduction in the body’s systems.

As I’ve mentioned before in relation to intermittent fasting [11] (IF), fasting is known to significantly increase HGH secretion. (Grok’s survival depended on the ability to hormonally kick start efficiency and preservation modes during the lean days.) Research has also consistently confirmed that intense exercise, particularly resistance training, also triggers a rise in HGH [12]. While I can (and do) take advantage of each individual method, combining the two opportunities can maximize my body’s HGH release.

Furthermore, insulin suppresses HGH. Skipping the carb snack and subsequent insulin upsurge goes a long way post-workout. But skipping anything that might even mildly raise insulin levels (that heightened sensitivity in the muscles, you know!) can be better yet.

And I should add that I do this without worrying about a blow to muscle mass. Fasting occasionally post-workout, provided I maintain a high protein diet the rest of the time, doesn’t negatively impact nitrogen retention and protein synthesis. Just as I mentioned last week that the body won’t suffer if you don’t force reloading of glycogen stores with a shot of glucose after a workout, I’ll go out on a limb and say that you’re unlikely to waste away if you don’t fuel muscles immediately with protein as well. The fact is HGH has its own protein conservation potential [13]. And, while the post-workout period is an optimum opportunity for protein synthesis, it’s not the sole time your body is able to use protein and provide for the muscles’ needs.

While I’m not suggesting fasting after every workout, I think it’s worth doing occasionally. (After all, Grok probably wasn’t successful with every hunt.) In the spirit of IF and recreating patterns of our primal ancestors’ lives, varying your eating/exercising/fasting practices ultimately allows for maximizing the hormonal and upregulating benefits of different physiological scenarios.

Finally, yet another means of naturally encouraging HGH release is getting a good night’s sleep [14]. After a good fast (and a great workout), I find this part comes the easiest. Honestly, it’s the best sleep I get.

As always, thanks for your questions and comments. Keep ‘em coming!

DeathByBokeh [15] Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

The Hype Over Human Growth Hormone [16]

1 Meal vs. 3 Meals [17]

How To: Intermittent Fasting [18]


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[9] here: http://gohealthygofit.com/?p=1641

[10] Dear Mark: Muscle Building and Carbs: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/muscle-building-and-carbs/

[11] intermittent fasting: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fasting/

[12] intense exercise, particularly resistance training, also triggers a rise in HGH: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/human-growth-hormone-2/

[13] HGH has its own protein conservation potential: http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/50/1/96

[14] good night’s sleep: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/sleep-better-tonight/

[15] DeathByBokeh: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sriram/2044967234/

[16] The Hype Over Human Growth Hormone: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/human-growth-hormone/

[17] 1 Meal vs. 3 Meals: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/3-meals-a-day/

[18] How To: Intermittent Fasting: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-intermittent-fasting/

[19] PrimalCon Oxnard 2014: http://www.primalblueprint.com/product/PrimalCon_Oxnard_2014/Events

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