Intermittent Fasting for Bodybuilders? Explanation + Ultimate Muscle Growth

Intermittent fasting, or periodic fasting, is the name for an eating pattern that is aimed at fasting at intervals.
It means you fast for 16 hours a day or fast for 24 hours, one or two days a week.
In fact, it is one of the simplest and best methods for losing weight and maintaining your muscle mass.

intermittent fasting for bodybuilders

Intermittent fasting is not about what you can eat, but when you should eat.
Therefore it should not be seen as a diet, but you should see it as a healthy diet that helps you maintain your goal weight.

Learn all about intermittent fasting for bodybuilders here.
What you will learn in this blog include:

  • How you can lose weight drastically and maintain your muscle mass with the help of intermittent fasting
  • What we can learn from our ancestors when it comes to fasting and eating food
  • The 2 best intermittent fasting methods to achieve results quickly
  • What you can and cannot eat and drink during the fast
  • The answer to the question whether periodic fasting influences your built-up muscle mass
  • And much, much more.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Periodic fasting is not at all as unnatural as you would initially think.
What we do today could be labeled as unhealthy.
Just think about it, is it normal and healthy that we constantly stuff ourselves with food when we don't need it at all?

Because we are constantly eating, we never get the chance to burn all those stored calories.

  • Recent research shows that we are in the 'fed state' for no less than 20 hours a day ( source ).
That way, the body never gets the chance to periodically fast and burn fat.
Has this always been the case?
Luckily not!

We have been fasting since humanity exists.
Sometimes this was done because food was simply not available or for religious reasons (fasting in Christianity or Islam).

A hunter who lived two thousand years ago could not go to the McDrive to hand in his discount coupons. No, he was dependent on what was available in nature.
Life was ruthless at that time. If a hunter had caught an animal, he would be lucky. As soon as the meat was finished, people were again dependent on picking berries.
That meant that there were days in between when they received little to no kilocalories.

The people back then had no choice but to keep looking for food. There was no question of living in abundance as we know it today.
Our ancestors were constantly busy with periodic fasting. How is it possible that our lifestyle has changed completely today?

The answer must be sought in commerce.

It is the influence of the food industry that has cultivated our ideas about eating less.
The concept of fasting for weight loss goes against the principles of business. They want to sell as many food products as possible and of course that will not work if people are willing to eat less.

Why Intermittent Fasting is healthy

As I wrote before, people have been fasting for thousands of years.

It is therefore not a new concept that has been put on the market purely for sale.
People and animals instinctively fast when they are sick. Our body is then in a state of fasting.

There is nothing unnatural about not eating certain periods.

In fact, you are crazy if you do not start periodic fasting. The health benefits of intermittent fasting are innumerable.
All kinds of processes in the body change if we don't eat for a while. This has to do with hormones and important cellular repair processes ( source ).
As soon as we fast for a few hours our blood sugar levels and insulin levels go down. There is also a dramatic increase in human growth hormone ( source ).
The growth hormone stimulates the growth of bones and muscles, which is ideal for bodybuilding and strength training ( source ).

Many people practice fasting on a regular basis because they want to lose weight.

  • I dare to say that fasting is the most effective and simple method for calorie restriction and fat burning ( source ).
Stop hours of boring cardio sessions, because fasting at intervals for weight loss works much better ( source ).
Can it be even better? Hell yes!

Indeed, there is also scientific evidence that intermittent fasting can dramatically extend your life.

In rodents, a link was found between fasting and extending the lifespan ( source ).
Other research suggests that periodic fasting can help protect against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's disease ( source , source )

Intermittent fasting helps you not only with weight loss but also with creating a healthy lifestyle.
As a strength athlete, do you want to let your life be dominated by food? Periodic fasting helps you get overweight and eating problems under control.

How to start periodic fasting

Have you now become enthusiastic about starting regular fasting?

Let me now explain to you how you can best start intermittent fasting.

There are several popular fasting methods used by bodybuilders to lose fat and maintain muscle mass.
With each method you will have to completely abstain from foods and drinks that contain kilocalories for a few periods of the week.
The most popular intermittent fasting methods are:
  • 16 hours of fasting daily: you limit yourself to 8 hours of food per day, the other 16 hours do not get in. So for example you can eat from noon to 8 p.m., then no more.
  • Fasting 24 hours a week: This means that you will not eat anything for 24 hours during 1 or 2 days a week. For example, you will not eat anything from 8 p.m. until 8 p.m. the next day.
The purpose of this is that you lose weight and start burning fat because your body ends up in a 'fasting state' .
Of course you should not compensate for this by completely filling yourself up with food in the periods that you are allowed to eat.
After that fast period you pretend that nothing is wrong and you just live as you normally would.
So suppose you have fasted until 8 pm, then you are not going to work inside a hot meal, because you wouldn't do that on a normal day either.
I personally tried both fasting methods and I came to the conclusion that the 16/8 method is the easiest to maintain.

Intermittent Fasting: what you can and cannot eat

When I tell people enthusiastically about fasting, I often get the question if people really are not allowed to eat or drink anything during the period that they do fasting.
Whether you can eat and drink during the fast?
No you are not allowed to eat anything and take calories during the hours that you fast.
What is allowed?
  • Water
  • Sparkling water
  • Black coffee (without milk and sugar!)
  • Green tea
  • Black tea
  • Light energy drink (without calories)
  • Sugar-free chewing gum (your breath will smell if you eat nothing)
And what about light soft drinks (artificial sweeteners)? Opinions are divided on this.
  • There is some evidence that some artificial sweeteners in light soft drinks cause an insulin response. This would completely destroy your fasting state and stop the fat burning.
  • So if you want to play it safe, it is advisable not to drink light soda during fasting.


Intermittent Fasting has no influence on your muscle mass

As you can see, periodic fasting only has health benefits.
But there are different horror stories about intermittent fasting when it comes to losing muscle mass.
According to critics (supplement industry) you would lose muscle mass if you fast.
I can be brief about this: based on available research, this is completely incorrect.
But for the supplement industry, however, it is important to link intermittent fasting to all kinds of negative health disadvantages.
Because it is their bread!
They earn billions with protein products and protein shakes.
Because if athletes start to fast for certain periods, it means that they will consume fewer supplements.
And then the supplement industry would miss out on a lot of money.
  •  how you can achieve the fastest muscle growth and how many grams of protein you really need as a strength athlete every day.
Fortunately, you don't have to worry that you lose muscle mass when you fast. Fasting does not lead to a delay in your metabolism (so-called 'starvation mode') and it will not lead to losing your hard-earned muscle mass.
Bodybuilders often don't eat breakfast, they only do that after exercising in the afternoon.

  • There is only one important rule that you should always observe when fasting: make sure you do strength training.

By that I don't mean that you have to lift weights when you fast, but you have to do strength training every week.
This physical resistance ensures that your body will retain your muscle mass.
I will explain why:

If you don't move for weeks, it will inevitably lead to muscle loss. Just look at hospital patients who can't get out of bed for weeks or maybe months.
The muscles become limp and smaller because they serve no purpose at all. They are no longer stimulated to grow.

You can easily prevent this by going to power sports at least three times a week. This appears to be very effective for maintaining your muscle mass during the fast.
  • A study published  shows that both men and women were able to maintain their muscle mass as long as they trained at least three times a week ( source ).
The subjects were given a diet for 12 weeks during which a maximum of 800 kilocalories and 80 grams of protein were allowed to be eaten.

In another  study, the daily calorie intake of overweight men was limited to 1,000 fewer calories per day. They participated in a strength training program where they had to train three times a week.
What turned out after the experiment?
  • The male test subjects were able to maintain their muscle mass at the end of the ride, while losing no less than 9 kilos of body fat ( source )!
In summary, periodic fasting does NOT cause you to lose muscle mass.
In fact, intermittent fasting combined with strength training prevents muscle breakdown.
  • As long as you keep training your muscles, you don't have to worry about losing your muscle mass during short periods of fasting. Research has even shown that fasting for up to 72 hours (regardless of whether you train or not) will not lead to muscle loss ( source ).
I have more good news for you, because your training sessions don't have to be long at all to maintain your muscle mass. 
In a  study, more than 40 overweight women were subjected to a strength training schedule, while on a low-calorie diet. They had to train three times a week for 20 weeks for 30 minutes.
  • Afterwards the women had lost an average of 5% body fat while retaining their lean body mass ( source ).
 I can tell you that bodybuilders who compete dramatically limit their calories to three months in order to prepare for a bodybuilding competition while maintaining their muscle mass.

Easy Lose weight with periodic fasting

Losing weight is the most common reason that people start intermittent fasting ( source ).
Fasting intervals will lead to an automatic reduction of your calorie intake. In addition, it changes the hormone levels in your body that help you burn fat.
In addition to lower insulin levels and an increase in growth hormone production, the hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline) is also released, which increases fat burning in the body.
These changes, thanks to short-term fasting, ensure that you can speed up your metabolism by up to 14% ( source ).
Various studies show that intermittent fasting is one of the most effective ways to lose weight and abdominal fat.
A recent study from  showed that you can lose up to 8% of your current weight if you fast for 24 weeks ( source ).

To fast 24 hours you can just eat as you normally would until 18:00. Then you don't eat anything until 6 pm the next day. By fasting in this way, you manage to eat every day while you can maintain a 24-hour fast.
Keep in mind that the main reason you lose weight is because you eat fewer calories. If you eat large amounts of food at the moments that you are allowed to eat, the waste effect will be much less spectacular.
By the way, you can just be flexible with fasting. If it doesn't suit one day, you move the fast to the next day.

What is much more important is that you break the bad habit of eating constantly so that your body can never end up in a solid state (with all its health benefits).

Intermittent fasting and strength training

Does intermittent fasting have a negative effect on your performance in the gym?
Before I answer that question, you first want to tell how exactly your muscle cells work.
Your muscle cells have the ability to store sugar in a modified form that we call glycogen.
The interesting thing about this process is that your muscles are unable to transport these stored sugars to your bloodstream.
In other words, once a certain muscle has stored glycogen, it can only be burned by that muscle and not sent to other parts of your body.
However, the liver works differently.
Your liver specifically stores glycogen to feed the organs, brain, and muscles when needed.
During a period of fasting, your body focuses on stored fat and the sugars stored in your liver.
Your muscles, however, still have their own sugar supply, from which they can draw energy if you do exercise.
This means that you have enough energy to continue your strength training, even if you do fasting on a regular basis.
  • A  study also shows that periodic fasting does not affect the performance of athletes. Participants had to do cardio for at least 90 minutes after a fast of 18 hours. Their performance was no less than the people who had recently eaten before.
In short, short-term fasting has no negative influence on your weightlifting, nor does it have a negative effect on normal cardio training.

Why I recommend Intermittent Fasting to everyone

Intermittent fasting is a handy method with which you can lose weight quickly and maintain your muscle mass.
It is a lifestyle with which you can drastically improve your health.
Eating healthy food, a good night's rest and weekly training are just as important.

If you are tired of those long cardio sessions to burn fat or are looking for ways to lose weight quickly without losing muscle, periodic fasting may be something for you.
The only way to find out if it works for you is to try it out for yourself.
Good luck with intermittent fasting and let me know in a reaction below how periodic fasting works!


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