Does Intermittent Fasting Allow For Leaner Muscle Growth
So does intermittent fasting allow you to make leaner gains while bulking? No. If youre trying to build muscle quickly, youll likely make leaner gains with regular calorie cycling instead of intermittent fasting. However, it wont impact your gains that much either way , and the difference may not even be noticeable, so you should also factor in your personal preferences.
Okay, now that weve seen what intermittent fasting can and cannot do, lets see what frequent eating has to offer.
Study On Intermittent Fasting For Muscle Gain
A new study by Tinsley et al. looked into the results of using intermittent fasting for muscle gain. They compared muscle growth between different groups of women, some of whom were eating steadily throughout the day, others who were intermittent fasting . Whats interesting is that these women were bulking on a modest calorie surplus of around 200 extra calories per day, and there were no differences in muscle growth between the groups. This seems to show that, at least with slower rates of weight gain, intermittent fasting doesnt reduce our ability to build muscle while bulking.
I reached out to Eric Trexler, PhD, for his thoughts on what to make of this for guys doing a bonafide bulk . He told me the following:
As far as my own take on this, I think I might need to adjust my graphs to show a larger boost in muscle-protein synthesis from lifting weights and a smaller boost in muscle growth from individual meals. I think thats going to give us a clearer visual representation of how intermittent fasting affects muscle growth while bulking.
Ill keep my eye on the research to see what else happens. Intermittent fasting remains popular, so I think were going to have plenty of new studies coming out, hopefully with some of them conducted on men who are bulking up more quickly.
Doesnt Intermittent Fasting Cause Muscle Loss
A common misconception about fasting is that if you fast for an extended period of time, you might as well kiss your gains goodbye. However, that is not necessarily true. In fact, there are numerous studies to prove otherwise.
Among the medical community, there might not be a ton of research on the topic of fasting for healths sake. However, there is a good pile of research on the topic of the bodys response to starvation. These studies give us great insight into how the body reacts during periods of little to no food consumption. Essentially, a fasted state.
Take this graph from the Comparative Physiology of Fasting, Starvation, and Food Limitation done by Dr. Kevin Hall from the NIH for example.
This is a graph showing where the energy to power or body comes from. At the very beginning of the graph, you can see there is a mix of energy sources. The body is using a little bit of protein, a little bit of fat, but is mostly running on carbs.
Within the first day or so of fasting, the body initially continues burning stored carbs for energy. Though, youll notice that shortly after the body burns through those stored carbs it beings burning fat. This fat burning state is what drives diets like the Ketogenic diet. Meaning that in the absence of carbs your body has turned to a sort of backup generator for energy, which is stored fat.
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Fasting Increases Your Metabolic Rate
The metabolic rate stands for the number of calories you burn, so the higher the metabolic rate, the more calories you will burn. This means it will be easier for you to lose weight and to keep it off.
One study found that 2-day fast can increase resting metabolic rate for 3.6%, while another found an increase in metabolic rate for 11% after a 3-day fast. This means you will be burning more calories in your resting state than you did before, therefore increasing your total energy expenditure .
Often you will find information that prolonged fasting slows down your metabolism, and this is true. However, intermittent fasting is not the same as prolonged fasting, and it wont bring your body to starvation mode. Therefore, it wont slow down your metabolism if conducted the right way.
Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan For Muscle Gains
Are you hungry now? I am! So lets talk about meal planning.
Many make the mistake of thinking that they can eat whatever they want during that 8-10 hour window. And that may work for some, but for building muscle, you have to up your game.
Your body needs certain macro and micronutrients to have the two things we discussed earlier:
So its important that you stick to your regular bodybuilding meals while intermittent fasting. And Im going to give you two meal plans below, both based on the eating schedules we you just read about.
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Can I Exercise On An Empty Stomach
Not only is it OK to exercise on an empty stomach, but it actually increases the benefits of exercise and of fasting. This is considered a multi-therapeutic approach, where the synergy of two things that are individually health promoting actually boosts each others benefits to a level that surpasses the level of each combined.
One of the best ways to take advantage of these benefits is to work out in the morning before breakfast.
How Long Should I Fast
This is the most common question bodybuilders have in regard to intermittent fasting. The answer is that it depends on the individuals goals more than anything.
For example, it wouldnt be the best idea for someone to be doing a 36 hour fast if their goal was to pack on as much size as humanly possible within the next year.
Theres just not enough calories in there, your cortisol levels will be too high, and protein synthesis will be non-existent. This strategy might work for some guy who is obese though.
Similarly, it might not be the best route to hitting 8% body fat if youre eating from 8 am 12 am . You may need a wider fasting window and some appetite control mechanisms in there so that you get shredded with minimal hunger, stress, and fatigue.
Some other intermittent fasting protocols that may interest you:
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Longer Studies On Protein Intake
We have additional data to help us answer the more clinically relevant questions: does eating more protein help us preserve muscle over the long term, and can we get this benefit by consuming all that protein in just one or two meals during periods of intermittent fasting?
One study reported that older women retained their muscle mass when eating 80% of their daily protein at lunch and the remaining 20% spread over breakfast and dinner. However, those who ate equal amounts of protein over all three meals lost muscle mass.24
Looking more specifically at intermittent fasting, one eight-week trial studied subjects doing time-restricted feeding four days per week and compared them to subjects eating a normal diet. All subjects did resistance training three days per week. Despite eating 650 fewer calories per day, the time-restricted feeding group did not show a significant loss of lean mass.25
A similar eight-week study looked at time-restricted feeding compared to a normal diet in resistance-trained males, but this time the groups were matched for calories and macronutrient intake. The time-restricted feeding group lost more fat and showed no difference in lean body mass compared to the normal-diet group.26
Fasting Activates Human Growth Hormone Needed For Muscle Building
Human growth hormone is essential for both fat loss and muscle building. HGH deficiency in adults leads to a higher level of body fat and a lower level of muscle mass. If you are trying to lose fat and gain muscle, you will want to keep your levels of HGH high.
There is a lack of research on how intermittent fasting effects muscle gain, but there is clear evidence that shows it causes an HGH increase, as up as five-fold. The elevated HGH stimulated by fasting should increase muscle mass and make a recovery from a workout easier and faster.
This brings to the conclusion that, if you follow the right diet and exercise regime during intermittent fasting, you should achieve muscle growth, which brings us to the last point of the article.
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Intermittent Fasting And Exercise
Fasting and exercise help with muscle building, and body weight loss, and affect hormones in your body. It increases HGH and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
During a fasting period, glucose is depleted from your muscles. So when you exercise, your performance depends on how efficiently your body burns fat for energy .
When your muscle cells have improved insulin sensitivity, the pancreas produces less insulin. Lower insulin levels make our bodies more prone to burn fat as fue and store glucose as muscle glycogen.
So if you are doing a heavy weight lifting session and do not eat enough calories, your body will use your muscle cells to break down amino acids for fuel instead.
Intermittent Fasting Doesnt Cause Muscle Loss
As long as you eat a diet with adequate or high protein, you likely dont need to be concerned about losing muscle with short-term intermittent fasting. Further, eating plenty of protein and adding resistance training to intermittent fasting seems to help preserve muscle.
However, we acknowledge that long-term data in this area are sparse. We also have concerns about whether doing intermittent fasting too often could ultimately lead to muscle loss, given that longer duration and higher frequency fasting have similarities to chronic calorie restriction.
And, because the weight loss with chronic caloric restriction tends to be one-quarter to one-third muscle, it is reasonable to question whether intermittent fasting, done for too long or done too often, could have this effect as well.
Moderation is wise: if practicing intermittent fasting for less than 24 hours several times per week, youre likely to experience a favorable effect on body composition without significant loss of muscle mass.
The weaknesses in the intermittent fasting literature are:
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Focus On Resistance Training
If you have a fasting regime and a goal of attaining heavy muscles, you need to focus on High-Intensity Interval Training and Resistance Training. Both of these have proven to provide remarkable benefits when it comes to muscle gain.
As per a group of US researchers, resistance training includes weight lifting, squats, lunges, dips, presses, pushups, etc., along with 8-12 hours of eating window can enhance muscle strength and endurance.
If you are worried about fat loss, a study shows that a 16:8 diet can lead to greater fat loss while not affecting muscle mass or muscle strength.
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Is it okay not to exercise while intermittent fasting? Can I Exercise While Fasting? Yes, it is OK to work out while fasting because the key to weight loss and muscle gain is not just calories and exercise, but hormone optimization.
How much exercise is needed with intermittent fasting? If you decide to try out fasted cardio, follow a few rules to stay safe: Dont exceed 60 minutes of cardio without eating. Choose moderate- to low-intensity workouts.
How much weight can you lose in a month with intermittent fasting without exercise? According to a 2014 review, intermittent fasting reduced body weight by 38% over a period of 324 weeks . When examining the rate of weight loss, intermittent fasting may produce weight loss at a rate of approximately 0.55 to 1.65 pounds per week .
How much weight can you lose in a month with intermittent fasting? Like many diets, you need to remain consistent and make lifestyle changes to get results. It might take a few weeks for you to drop your first pound from intermittent fasting. However, once you start, you can expect to lose about a pound each week. Some people can lose up to 10 pounds each month.
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Exercise In The Morning
If you want to gain or maintain muscle, you have to find the best time to train. The optimal time for exercise is probably shortly after waking up in the morning or at least four hours before bedtime.
Studies show that exercising too close to bedtime can affect our levels of deep sleep and REM sleep. So if you want to sleep better, let your body recuperate and support muscle recovery, do not exercise too close to bedtime.
You might not want to eat straight after exercising either. Studies also show that waiting a few hours to eat after a workout increases the hormone, human growth hormone in our bodies, which helps to burn fat.
Schedule Your Exercise Plan Strategically
Scheduling your exercise plan to support intermittent fasting and bodybuilding is not rocket science. For the best fat burn, exercise 2 hours before your eating window.
If you want to feel more energetic, exercise during your fasting window. It is important to experiment and choose what suits your body and your goals the best. Or opt to choose 5:2 fasting and exercise on the feeding days and rest on the fasting days, simple as that.
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If It Doesnt Fit Your Lifestyle It Wont Work
Think about your work/life schedule: can you time your training to capitalize on your eating window while working a full 9 to 5 at the office, squeeze in the post-workout protein you need to consolidate gains, and make time for dinner with your partner? That kind of precision is tough to maintain even when youre not restricted to a small window of time.
you dont eat your first meal until noon, you wont be feeding yourself for optimal recovery. You could even lose muscle mass.
The key is finding the calorie intake that supports your fitness goals and eating in a way that suits your lifestyle, Lisa says. If you train best first thing in the morning, but you dont eat your first meal until noon, you wont be feeding yourself for optimal recovery. You could even lose muscle mass.
In Summary: How To Gain Muscle While Intermittent Fasting
In simple words, we can say keep your eating window in the early part of the day, exercise well, and maintain quality sleep to gain muscles.
As far as nutrition goes you only need to eat as much as maintenance or a little above to build muscle. You dont need to overfeed, contrary to what many people believe. Too many calories in your meals will offset the benefits of intermittent fasting as you gain excess fat.
To build muscle, all you need to do is heavy resistance training two to three times a week and have enough protein . Make sure to keep a 48-hour gap between exercises for the same muscle group.
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Intermittent Fasting For Building Muscle: The Complete Guide
Intermittent fasting, if done properly, has the ability to improve your health. However, there is a point where one can take this approach a bit too far. For building muscle and staying lean, it appears that alternate-day fasting is not the way to go.
However, smaller phases of fasting do have their benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity, blood glucose regulation, and increased growth hormone production. Extreme periods of fasting may actually have the inverse effect.
Its important to note that alternate-day fasting diets work for weight loss mainly because they reduce total calorie intake.
Intermittent Fasting For Bulking Summary
Overall, fasting and bulking can be combined successfully. In fact, compared to standard bulking approaches, intermittent fasting and bulking is healthier, more effective, and produces less body fat.
With intermittent fasting and bulking, you will also experience healthier cells, improved muscle maintenance, higher quality muscle growth, and increased human growth hormone.
In order to maximize your results, remember to focus calorie consumption during your natural anabolic windows.
For most people, that means in the beginning of the day when you first break your fast, and right after your evening workout.
More on intermittent fasting:
Written by Stephen Anton PhD on July, 1st 2021
Can you bulk up while practicing intermittent fasting? That is an interesting question, and one that many body builders and fitness enthusiasts have been asking as the popularity of intermittent fasting continues to increase.
The good news is the answer is 100% YES. That is, if the right stimulus is given to the body at the right times of the day.
Before discussing the intermittent fasting bulk plan, lets first review what is typically recommended to someone who desires to bulk up.
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Intermittent Fasting Is Extreme Calorie Cycling
Intermittent fasting doubles down on calorie cycling. During the feeding windows, you have more than enough calories to build muscle at full speed, and during fasting periods, youll actually dip into a calorie deficit, losing fat. This creates the misconception that you can lose fat even while youre bulking up.
The misconception comes from the fact that in order to gain weight you need to be in an overall calorie surplus, and that means that during your feeding periods, you need to make up for all the calories you missed while fasting. This means eating so many damn calories that theres no way to invest all of them into muscle growth, causing the extra calories to spill over into fat storage. So what happens is that you lose a bit of fat while fasting, then gain a bunch of fat during the feeding window, like so: