I got an email from Don with a question that ties into my ice cream post on the topic of post workout fasting.
I am wondering what you think of the “no fructose (or any carbs, really) for about 4 hours after a fasted work out” so as not to suppress the natural growth hormone spike that occurs after this type of work out (and how ice cream cold fit into that)? I am a 50 yr old guy who is looking to add muscle and natural growth hormone release seems to be a great idea for me and I don’t want to suppress it. I am going to be going on a bit of a bulking cycle and I was thinking of going the ice cream route. Do you think eating ice cream right after my workouts will be more beneficial for me (as far as gaining muscle) than the HGH release or, should I continue with the no carb post work out window and then fill up on ice cream? Thanks!
I’ll start by saying that I am not an expert in hormones and that even the experts have disagreed on this point. I do have personal experience both fasting and not fasting post workout. My opinion has the context that I am an ectomorph at a healthy ideal weight.
When I fasted for a few hours post workout, I lost strength. It was fatiguing to my body. I covered this in the 2011 post Intermittent Fasting – Mistakes I’ve Made:
This may just apply to ectomorphs, but I what I discovered in 2009 was that fasted weight training not only resulted in fat loss, but without a post-workout meal I started to lose strength.
From a paleo perspective this makes sense. I was hungry and went on a hunt. At the hunt I engaged in a battle. For me that was lifting weights at the gym. A successful hunt would have resulted in a kill and a meal. After a few months, I kept returning from the hunt in a hungry state. From the standpoint of nature, I was being every bit as energy foolish as the cardio junkies. That behavior gets punished if it happens repeatedly.
Assuming one exercises safely, the limiting factors for gaining muscle are calorie surplus and reducing stress. Reducing stress increases recoverability. I believe that reducing post workout stress is even more critical for ectomorphs, because we have less glycogen stores.
By denying yourself food after an intense workout, you might have higher GH, but your body is also in a high stress mode. As a side note, there are concerns that growth hormone might be stressful for its own reasons. See the article Growth hormone: Hormone of Stress, Aging, & Death by Dr. Ray Peat. Matt Stone also has a good article on the topic titled Low-Intensity Exercise Part III – Lactic Acid and Growth Hormone.
I think that ending the post workout stress by restoring glycogen levels should be your primary goal. When glycogen levels are depleted or run low, the stress hormone adrenaline is released. That could impact your sleep, especially if your workout was in the afternoon. Poor sleep is no friend to muscle growth.
For reasons I’ve already covered, I think ice cream is the perfect food to eat post workout. If you can’t handle dairy, make it coconut milk ice cream. Regular milk or dairy kefir with fruit work as well.
When I stopped post workout fasting, my strength returned. I was able to gain muscle. I had better sleep and I recovered from workouts faster. I’d love to hear from others on their experiences post workout fasting in the comments.