One of the most common questions in the fitness industry today is “can you use intermittent fasting for body building?”. The short answer is yes. However, you need to do it properly in order to effectively put on muscle mass. First lets talk about the most widely known way to put on muscle and then lets get into how intermittent fasting can offer an alternative way to put on muscle.
Putting on muscle the old school way
The general consensus that is most accepted in the fitness industry is that you need to eat a huge amount of calories over the course of the day. Typically with the conventional body building diet and routine, you need to consume around 6 meals a day. The theory behind this idea is that by eating 6 meals a day you will keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders and you will be supplying your body with a constant intake of protein. Each and every meal must be spaced out three to five hours apart for the max benefit. Some body builders proclaim that you even should wake up in the middle of the night to drink a protein shake in order to keep your protein intake up.
Problems with the old fashion diet
There are a couple of different problems that arise when you take on this sort of meal plan. Although this sort of routine has been practiced for years, there are some downsides to it.
If you have ever eaten a large meal you may be familiar with the drowsiness that comes soon after. Thanksgiving dinner is always the example I like to give. After a large meal on thanksgiving its pretty common for people to take a little siesta because of the consuming drowsiness.
Ultimately this drowsiness comes on to some degree every time you eat a big meal. It might be subtle at times but it is a natural physiological reaction.
When you eat a meal in the morning following the traditional body building routines you might not feel it because the meal might be small. However after three hours you need to eat another meal. By the third or fourth meal you might get to the point where you cant stomach another meal because you are still full from the previous meals. This is where the fatigue starts to kick in, which can prevent you from going as hard in the gym as you might want to and eating the additional meals there after.
Eating six meals or more everyday puts your digestive system into overdrive. Eating constantly through out the day keeps your digestive system constantly in motion so that the only real break it gets is at night when you are sleeping. This can result in constipation, stomach cramps and other long term digestive problems that can occur down the road.
We were not built for it
Primitive man rarely had the luxury of being able to eat 6 or more balanced meals through out the day. Back at that time when people partook in hunting and gathering primitive man would have instead spent the first chunk of the day scavenging for food and waiting out his prey until he could pounce. By late afternoon and into the evening, the tribe would feast on whatever animal was hunted down.
This is how we have evolved and therefore it is the most natural way to plan you meals. Ultimately we were made for intermittent fasting. This whole six meals per day concept is not what our bodies were structured for
It’s a hassle
Lastly it is a huge burden to plan out 6 meals a day or more, to consume 6 meals a day or more, and to go about catering your lifestyle to those 6 meals or more every day. Living on a schedule like this takes much of the freedom of your life away unfortunately.
Any body builder knows that it is difficult to follow this sort of routine. Keep in mind that it does work however. Time and time again this sort of systematic diet plan has yielded results… but know that there are other ways.
The term intermittent fasting is thrown around a good amount but there are many ways to actually go about doing intermittent fasting. Some people like to go a full 24 hours without eating while some people go for 8 hours or so. However the way you intermittent fast can make the difference between putting on lean muscle mass and losing a decent amount of muscle weight.
For body building purposes it is best if you intermittent fast for 16 hours a day and then eat within an 8 hour window. The trick to putting on muscle with intermittent fasting is to still consume the same amount of calories as you would if you ate 6 meals a day. No matter what, if you eat less then what your body demands to build muscle, you will not gain weight. That is why it is necessary to focus on eating a days worth of food in the 8 hour window.
Fasting for two thirds of the day and then eating for one third of the day is extremely effective because it is possible to still eat all 6 meals that you would eat within 8 hours. It might sound like too much food for a short amount of time but believe me, after not eating anything for 16 hours straight, you will be ready.
This eating pattern is much more effective for body building than some other intermittent fasting methods. If you fast for 24 hours, your body will begin to eat away at your fat reserves (which is a good thing for cutting) but soon after your body will begin to eat away at your muscle. 24 hours is simply too long of a time to not eat if you want to put on size.
16 hours has been a proven amount of time for intermittent fasting while building muscle, however this is by all means not a magic number. If you want to fast for half the day (12 hours) that works fine, or if you want to fast for a little longer, that should be fine as well. It really depends on who you are as a person and how you respond to not eating for hours on end.
It is important however, that you have your days planned out in terms of when you eat and what you will eat. Consistency is key here. Don’t plan on fasting for 12 hours straight for one day, kinda fast for a few hours the next day, take a break the next, and then do a 24 hour fast the next. This sort of routine will never allow for your body to adjust to what you throw at it and as a result you likely wont be able to gain all that much muscle.