Health / Expert Advice

Should You Exercise While on a Cleanse or Fasting?

Going on a cleanse might mean changing up your workout routine.

Cleanses have been popping up left and right. If you’ve considered doing one, you may have wondered whether you’ll be able to keep up with your regular workout routines. Check out the Aaptiv app if you need workout variations.

Almost every doctor or nutritionist will tell you that cleansing isn’t necessary—or safe. However, people go on cleanses or cleanse-like dietary styles for a number of reasons.

For some, it may be intermittent fasting or following a lower-calorie diet for a short period for health reasons. Cleansing and working out is a delicate combo. If you are doing a restrictive diet, you’ll want to proceed with caution before diving in headfirst at the gym.

“It’s not safe to be working out if you are following any eating pattern that encourage[s] very low to no intake of energy,” says Mandy Unanski Enright, MS, RDN, RYT.

“Calories provide us energy. If we are working on negative energy, it promotes the breakdown of muscle to obtain energy from other sources. This in turn makes the workout counterproductive. In addition, working out on an empty stomach can lead to low blood sugar, lightheadedness, and risk for fainting.”

If you do find yourself in a situation where you’re eating fewer calories than your standard diet, here are the things to consider before you work out.

Don’t work out if you’re not getting enough calories.

According to the National Institute of Health, in order to keep your body nourished, you should not go lower than 1,000 calories per day. If you are consuming fewer calories than that on any given day, you’re better off skipping your workout.

“On a very low-calorie diet or on most cleanses that severely limit food groups, you will not have the energy for an intensive workout,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of Smart Meal Prep for Beginners: Recipes and Weekly Plans for Healthy, Ready-to-Go Meals. “If you do work out, you’re not allowing the body to repair itself properly.” So, skip it until you’re back to your regularly scheduled eating plan.

Low-intensity workouts are best.

Any time that you’re eating less than usual, you’ll want to keep your workout light. Go for workouts such as light stretching, pilates, yin or restorative yoga, and walking. “This promotes the use of muscle tissue without over-exerting the rest of the body,” says Enright. With these, you can strengthen and tone without using too much energy.

Aaptiv has low intensity workouts we’re releasing on a weekly basis. Download the app today to learn more.

Avoid HIIT workouts.

When it comes to cleansing and working out, you’ll want to avoid any high-intensity cardio or strength training workouts. “Trying to do a high-intensity workout or a strong run when you haven’t eaten is not ideal, because you simply won’t have enough energy to execute the workout correctly,” says Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Personal Trainer Lyuda Bouzinova. “The point of HIIT is giving 100 percent. But if you’re fasting it’s unlikely [that] you have 100 percent to give.”

Morning is ideal.

If you are cleansing and working out, try to schedule your workout for the morning, as you might have more energy. It’s great to work out on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, assuming [that] you’ve had a filling dinner the night before that will carry you through,” advises Bouzinova.

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Try to eat some carbs beforehand.

If you’re not on a juice cleanse, try to include some carbs before hitting up the gym. “Eat a carb source an hour prior to working out to give yourself energy that will be readily available to perform the movement,” says Enright. “This can be something simple, such as a bowl of cereal, yogurt, a piece of fruit, or even a glass of milk to fuel up.”

Stay hydrated.

When cleansing and working out, it’s important to stay hydrated before, during, and after your workout. “Water is definitely important to maintain hydration levels,” says Enright. “However, keep in mind [that] water does not have calories and therefore won’t provide energy for the workout.”

It’s advised to make sure that you’re getting enough calories. However, if you are on a restrictive diet, follow these tips to make sure that you stay safe when cleansing and working out. And, always listen to your body. If it feels like too much, don’t do it.

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