Most humans observe an overnight fast on a daily basis, and the human body copes well with short duration fasting. Periodic fasting is widely practised for cultural, religious or health reasons. Fasting may take many different forms. Prolonged restriction of food and fluid is harmful to health and performance, and it is often automatically assumed that intermittent fasting will lead to decrements in exercise performance. Athletes who choose to fast during training or competitions may therefore be at a disadvantage. The available evidence does not entirely support this view, but there is little or no information on the effects on elite athletes competing in challenging environments. Prolonged periods of training in the fasted state may not allow optimum adaptation of muscles and other tissues. Further research on a wide range of athletes with special nutrition needs is urgently required. In events where performance might be affected, other strategies to eliminate or minimise any effects must be sought.
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.