Guide to Building Muscle while Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has quickly gained popularity as a weight-loss technique but also can help you build muscle as well. Read on to learn how to body build while intermittent fasting.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a type of diet that helps reduce weight and so much more. It is very a popular diet, focusing on fasting periods, not food restrictions.  Intermittent fasting is about when you eat not what you eat.

You still want to eat healthy foods, but the intermittent fasting diet does not have guidelines or rules for eating or avoiding certain meals. Instead, it has feeding windows or times when you are allowed to eat. Outside of those times, you are not supposed to eat any food, although you may consume water or beverages with no calories in them, such as unsweetened tea or zero-calorie soda.

Types of Intermittent Fasting

There are multiple different ways to intermittent fast. The three main methods to intermittent fasting are:

16/8 method

The 16/8 method is a method of intermittent fasting where you fast for 16 hours, and eat during the remaining 8. Whether your feeding window is from 12-8 or 10-6, you only want to eat in that 8-hour window. Many people find this method the easiest to maintain because they are really only skipping breakfast, and sleeping for most of the 16 hour fasting period.

5-2 method

This method of intermittent fasting allows you to eat as you normally would during 5 days of the week, but the other two (and they can be whatever two days work for you but try to make them non-consecutive) you only consume 500-600 calories.

Eat-Stop-Eat method

On the Eat-Stop-Eat method of intermittent fasting, you would eat normally for most of your week, but have two 24 hour fasts in the week. You can start your 24 hour period at any time, just make sure not to snack during the 24 hour periods.

You can also do an alternate day fast, where you eat only every other day or a “one meal a day” method, or you can work with a doctor to find the right type of intermittent fasting for you.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting and Bodybuilding:

Not only does intermittent fasting help with weight loss, but it can also help you gain muscle and so much more.

  1. Growth Hormone and Muscle Building:  The human growth hormone affects your body’s ability to grow, repair cells, boost muscle strength, and recover after being sick. A high HGH is really important to building muscle and to your overall health. Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight and increase your levels of HGH. Intermittent fasting also drops insulin levels which will help lose fat.
  2. Weight Loss — Getting Cut: Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight. Doing intermittent fasting during your cutting phase can help you maintain muscle mass but get rid of unwanted fat.
  3. Autophagy: Another great benefit of intermittent fasting is autophagy, which means “self-eating.” It is your body’s process of getting rid of old or damaged cells and using them for energy. It’s a way your cells can recycle themselves. It helps your body get rid of toxins, or other harmful things. Autophagy is a process that occurs in your body naturally, but you can speed up the process through intermittent fasting. When you go without food, your cells need to work harder to be as effective as they are on a normal eating schedule, which will induce them to start the autophagy process.
  4. Muscle Retention: You can gain muscle while intermittent fasting. Even though you are limiting the hours you eat, you aren’t limiting the amount you can eat to build muscle. Exercising while intermittent fasting can be harder to do, and you might feel like you have less energy, so working out during your feeding period can help.
  5. Metabolism Boost: While you are fasting your body will lower its metabolic rate to help it save energy and adapt to the diet. Intermittent fasting can boost your metabolism, and increase your energy. However, if you do too long of a fast, it can slow down your energy. That is why you shouldn’t do two consecutive fasting days in a row, and you should eat enough food in your 8 hour period.

Things You Should Be Aware of When Intermittent Fasting and Bodybuilding:

  • You Are NOT cutting calories. Gaining muscle is harder to do while intermittent fasting, not because of the fast necessarily, but because people tend to eat less during the feeding period. You still need to be getting 2,000 calories a day whether you eat that amount in 12 hours, or 8 hours. One of the hardest parts to gaining muscle while intermittent fasting comes because people struggle to eat all the food their body needs within that 8-hour feeding block. If you eat the required amount of calories you should be fine at gaining muscle as well. Having a timer can help you know when to eat so that you consume all the required calories within the feeding window.
  • Eating Enough Protein. Protein is invaluable during intermittent fasting. Protein supplies you with a slower releasing energy, which will keep you energized even after the 8-hour feeding period is over.  Make sure you eat enough protein. It should be the same amount during intermittent fasting, as you eat when you aren’t fasting. Aim for 46-56 grams of protein a day from plant or animal proteins. Check out myplate.gov for the guidelines for a daily amount of protein, (and other foods.)
  • You can combine keto and intermittent fasting.  Many people do keto and intermittent fasting together, as it can help you reach ketosis faster. Keto is a very high-fat diet that will help you not be so hungry during the fasting period. Here is more information on keto and muscle building.
  • Exercise. It is very important to keep up the exercise/working out during intermittent fasting to keep up the muscle gain. Because you aren’t eating as often, you can feel more groggy/ less motivated to exercise. Just remember to eat meals close to your exercise, still consume the number of calories you need each day,  stay hydrated, and keep your electrolytes up, and you will be fine.