Study weighs impact of feeding, fasting on athletic performance

Should athletes load up on carbs before a workout or a big game or take a break from eating if they want to achieve peak performance?

Research presented recently by Grove City College Exercise Science faculty at the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s conference offers some insight on that question. Department Chair Dr. Philip Prins and Assistant Professor Dr. Jeff Buxton discussed a study conducted at the College that looked at the performance of NCAA Division III football players in fed or fasted states.

The research can provide coaches, athletic trainers and players with a better understanding of exercising in a fasted state and anaerobic power, Prins said.

“Recently, intermittent fasting – usually for 12 to 16 hours – has garnered interest as an alternative dietary strategy for improving metabolic and training performance in athletes. To the best of our knowledge, this the first study to compare effects of different fasting periods to a fed state on markers of anaerobic performance through very high intensity short duration exercise,” he said.

Fifteen subjects, all members of the College’s Wolverines football team, underwent three anaerobic power tests: the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and the Wingate anaerobic cycling test. Players were tested three times: within two hours of eating a carbohydrate-rich meal and after they fasted for 12 and then 16 hours. The research was conducted in 2019 by students supervised by Prins and Buxton.

The study suggested that intermittent fasting has no adverse effects on general anaerobic power, though there was some reduction in vertical jump performance for those who had fasted for 12 hours but not those who fasted for 16 hours. The longer fast did not impair anaerobic power performance in any of the tests compared to those who had eaten.

“Many athletes wonder whether food needs to be ingested before exercise to enhance their performance,” Prins said. “Our data show performing exercise in the fed state and 16-hour fasted state have analogous effects on anaerobic power, which suggests there’s little benefit in eating a carbohydrate rich meal a few hours before this type of exercise.”

Grove City College is one of only a few institutions in Pennsylvania that offers an Exercise Science program accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. The program provides a high-caliber curriculum and advanced opportunities for research, internships and career preparation that gives students a strong advantage in graduate school and the workplace.

Study weighs impact of feeding, fasting on athletic performance

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