Fasting induces short-term physiological adaptations which spare the body's remaining carbohydrate stores and mobilize lipid stores to provide a substitute fuel for many tissues and organs, especially skeletal muscle. Rodent studies show that regular occurrence of fasting then refeeding, stimulates adaptations in muscle which make the animal better placed to withstand a further period of fasting by possessing a better ability to oxidise lipid.
This review explores the research describing these adaptations, with an emphasis on Ramadan, a human model of repeated fasting/refeeding. Separately, a single bout of endurance exercise places similar metabolic stress on the body as fasting since the exercising muscle must reduce its use of carbohydrate and utilize lipid more readily as exercise progresses. Not surprisingly therefore, adaptations in muscle to repeated bouts of endurance exercise (endurance training) are similar to those seen with repeated fasting/refeeding. Superimposing the stressors of repeated fasting/refeeding and exercise training, and subsequent adaptations to the muscle and exercise response, are examined by describing the published research which has investigated the situation where athletes continue their training whilst participating in Ramadan.
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