Intermittent fasting diet plans are getting more and more popular among athletes. Can you build muscle and lose fat without eating every few hours? Most athletes associate fasting with muscle loss or catabolism. Regular people think of fasting as a way to get rid of toxins and improve their health. So how does intermittent fasting work? Is this eating pattern suitable for bodybuilders?
Let’s start with some quick facts. A study conducted by the University of Rochester has shown that metabolic rate increases after 36-48 hours of fasting, and declines after 60 hours without food. Additionally, the body enters into starvation mode after three days (72 hours of fasting). This is when muscle loss occurs. Since most people won’t skip food for more than 36 hours, intermittent fasting is safe and doesn’t cause catabolism.
What Is the Intermittent Fasting Diet?
Contrary to the popular belief, intermittent fasting is not actually a diet, but an eating pattern. The ability to go without food for a long period of time is inherited from our ancestors. Recent studies suggest that intermittent fasting diet plans improve health and body composition, causing a slight increase in metabolic rate. It may also increase insulin sensitivity and help dieters maintain a leaner, more muscular physique with less body fat.
In general, intermittent fasting diet plans alternate between periods of extreme caloric restriction (fasting) and typical meals. Those who support this theory claim that intermittent fasting promotes lean muscle gains and fat loss. Metabolism increases during fasting. You basically alternate a fasting period with a feeding window.
Bodybuilding is based on the idea of small, frequent meals. Having multiple small meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism high and prevents muscle loss. The foods you eat provide your body with essential nutrients that supports muscle growth and repair. This approach boosts your energy and doesn’t overload the digestive system. So what’s the point of intermittent fasting?
How Does the Intermittent Fasting Diet Work?
A typical intermittent fasting diet could look like this: fast for 16 hours, eat regular meals during the next 8 hours, and then fast again. The number of meals is irrelevant. Fasting can last 16 to 36 hours. Intermittent fasting diet plans come in all shapes and sizes, so you’ll need to experiment and see what works best for you.
Research indicates that intermittent fasting takes your body “off the track” for a while and helps reduce body fat while preserving your strength and lean muscle.
Sounds crazy, isn’t it? Still, many bodybuilders and health conscious individuals support the intermittent fasting diet. It seems that working out in a fasted state gives them explosive energy and strength. Others claim that people who experience hypoglycemic symptoms might not respond well to this approach.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the most popular intermittent fasting diet plans as well as the best fasting/feeding interval. This eating pattern is ideal for those who don’t have time to plan their meals and keep track of the food consumed.
Potential health benefits of intermittent fasting diet include:
• Keeps the metabolism strong and healthy
• Increases fatty acid oxidation
• Reduces blood glucose levels
• Increases growth hormone levels
• Improves insulin sensitivity
• Helps build muscle and lose fat
• Removes toxins from the body
• Improves brain health
• Enhances physical performance
• Improves body composition
• Reduces the risk of cancer
• Increases fat burning
• Lowers blood pressure
• Improves appetite control
• Promotes cardiovascular health
• Stimulates cellular turnover and repair
• Reduces inflammation biomarkers
• Slows down the aging process
Intermittent fasting may seem complicated, but it’s actually quite easy. If you typically have dinner by 7 PM and breakfast at 7 AM the next day, you’re fasting for 12 hours. This could be an example of intermittent fasting. It’s something that you’re already doing – not daily, but quite often. To reap the benefits of intermittent fasting, stop eating after 6 PM and have breakfast at 10 AM the next day. That’s 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating.
To prevent muscle loss, beginners should start with a trial fast by going for 24 hours without food. They are allowed to drink water. Some people also drink tea, fruit/vegetable smoothies, coffee, and glutamine. Intermittent fasting diet plans are quite controversial. This approach makes it easier to hit your daily macros and maintain or build muscle. Anyone looking to shed some fat or spend less time in the kitchen should try this eating plan.
Resources – Examples of intermittent fasting diets: