Muscle Hooligan: Intermittent Fasting

DISCLAIMER: I am not a certified nutritionist nor am I licensed to give meal plans for clinical fitness reasons or medically sound diet advice. Everything written below is based on experience and research that can totally be done on one’s own. Below is an account of my own dieting experiment; attempt at your own risk.

It is now 4:31pm and I have eaten my first meal of the day a little over an hour ago. I will continue to eat until 10pm at which time I will stop consuming any calories for the day. I will not consume anymore until tomorrow afternoon around 1pm. As of today, I have followed this dieting plan for one whole week. This method is called Intermittent Fasting.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a method of dieting using caloric timing restriction. The idea is to “trick” your body into running off of its fat stores, burning fat for most of the day as opposed to the foods you may eat for your morning or evening meals. This has several health benefits including lowered blood insulin levels, lowered blood pressure, lowered inflammation, increased fatty oxidation and one unintentional side effect is increased energy levels and sense of alertness. In conjunction with a regular exercise routine, this method of dieting can be a way to shock your body into burning fat and gaining muscle at the same time. But like with any method of calorie restriction, it does present its own challenges. Personally, I haven’t found it to be too difficult pushing my eating window back several hours after I wake and am active for the day. I’m used to skipping breakfast anyway and my working schedule makes lunch time elusive, to say the least. What is and has always been difficult is getting all of my calories in, not just because of the shortened eating window but in general this has always been a problem.

At the end of your fasting period, you eat for the remaining hours of the day making sure to eat as many calories as needed per your situation, whether you’re working out for the day or resting and only need enough calories for your fitness goals. (In my next article, I’ll go into how one can figure out how many calories are needed for any particular situation.) So for me, my goal is around 2800 calories on training days (currently bulking) and around 2300 calories on rest days. Now in a regular bulking situation, you’d eat a certain number of calories in order to prevent your body from using your muscle as fuel. In that aspect, IF almost seems counter productive but there are ways to prevent protein breakdown and save muscle mass even while using IF as a calorie control method. Check out the end of this article for a method using certain supplements to keep as much muscle as possible during your training days.

A word on training days…
You may want to time your workouts to just before or one hour after you break your fast for the day. If you plan on fasting for 16+ hours each day, plan on taking some kind of pre-workout supplement or drink before working out. At least for me, fasting for a longer period of time than I was used to and then trying to work out was a mistake. I figured out quickly that I did not have enough energy to get through my workout. (Granted my workout was this behemoth routine… I’m probably just out of shape even without fasting!)

There are many different versions of this style of diet which can be found here so if you’d like to try one of these, do your research and listen to your body. IF isn’t for everyone but if you do try it, you may find a few health benefits and it may be a way to kick start your weight loss goals.