Bodybuilding and Intermittent Fasting: A Winning Combination?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) has surprisingly gained a lot of momentum and interest within the bodybuilding & fitness community over the last couple of years.
Bodybuilders and other types of athletes -male and female- are practicing intermittent fasting as a way to lose weight more efficiently.
It's no secret that bodybuilders have been using outdated dieting techniques for decades that are both boring and excruciatingly painful – fasting is looking to change that.
But, could IF really be the ultimate dieting solution for bodybuilders, or is it nothing more than a trend?
Although there's plenty of information on fasting for weight loss; little of it is written from a bodybuilding perspective.
That's why we decided to write a detailed article that covers everything that you could ever want to know about intermittent fasting.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
As the name states, intermittent fasting is a type of diet that requires you to fast for a specific time period. The (most) traditional way to do this is by skipping breakfast.
For years we were taught that the first meal of the day is the most important meal of the day, but, did experts get it wrong?
Traditional IF requires that you fast for an average of 16 hours. It seems like a lot, right? Well… not really.
The clock starts ticking as soon as you finish your last meal of the day. So, for example, if on a Sunday your last meal was at 7 pm, it means that on Monday you can have your first meal after 11 am.
After the fasting period is finalized, you can then go ahead and eat like you normally would.
If we look at it from one perspective, this type of fasting consists of eating an early dinner (the day prior) a late breakfast the following day.
Some people like to kick things up a notch and will fast for up to 24 hours; believing that they will lose more weight.
This doesn't always hold true and can actually be counterproductive. We will go into detail in just a little bit.
There are several scientific papers out there that have studied the different benefits of IF through both human and animal testing.
This means that -unlike most bro diets- IF can actually back up a few of its claimed benefits with solid data.
For the purpose of this article, I decided to share the findings of three scientific papers that analyzed Intermittent Fasting – using crucial information obtained from several scientific studies.
A study written by Roger Collier and published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) tackles the pros and cons of fasting.
Out of the three studies, this one is -by far- the easiest one to digest and understand.
Collier arguments that a balanced caloric restriction has been shown to improve weight loss, insulin sensitivity, and other crucial blood markers.
It's also suggested that fasting for a prolonged period of time (10+ hours) can help the body utilize its fat stores as energy.
With that being said, restricting calories for a prolonged time period can also potentially cause the individual to overeat; which would do more harm than good.
That's why the study suggests that a caloric reduction -in general- is a lot more important than the timing in which these (calories) are consumed.
Ruth Patterson and Dorothy Sears published an interesting paper on the metabolic effects of intermittent fasting.
In the paper, it's suggested that fasting for a prolonged period of time (8+ hours) reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cancer in animals.
With that being said, these benefits don't necessarily translate to humans. Even if they did, there isn't sufficient data to back up these claims.
On the bright side, it's a given that fasting will inevitably lead to some form of weight loss. In an experiment, eleven out of sixteen people lost weight after being subjected to IF.
Patterson and Sears also suggest that there isn't enough data to assess the impact of IF on energy levels, sleep, and mental behavior.
Thie means that the only claim that holds any type of weight -regarding its benefits- is that IF can lead to weight loss.
The last study that I want to talk about was written by Michelle Harvie and Anthony Howell. Just like Collier's, it was also published on the National Center for Biotechnology.
Harvie and Howell didn't limit themselves by focusing on just the benefits of fasting because the paper also talks quite a bit about the negative aspects.
This paper is quite long, scientific, and hard to digest at moments. But, in short, they didn't discover anything groundbreaking that we didn't already know.
In short, eating an unhealthy amount of calories can be potentially damaging to our health while eating an appropriate amount can do the opposite.
Fasting can lead to weight loss because the body is receiving fewer calories than it normally would. Although, there's always a risk of overheating.
Lastly, there isn't significant evidence to conclude that intermittent fasting is any better (or worse) than lowering our overall daily caloric intake.
Intermittent fasting can be a beneficial tool for those who want to lose weight quickly.
For the longest time, society has been taught to eat breakfast in the morning, lunch midday, and dinner in the evening.
Eating has slowly gone from a necessity to a habit, or even worse – a hobby.
Bodybuilders and athletes kick it up a notch and believe that they should be eating six to eight meals a day which is absolutely insane.
IF teaches us that our body doesn’t need to be filled with food every second of the day to function properly.
Some people -who live and breathe broscience- claim that fasting improves the body’s HGH production, insulin sensitivity, and cellular repair.
Intermittent Fasting is also believed to reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular health, and combat the effects of with aging.
It's important to remember that there isn't any actual science from human testing to back up these claims.
Intermittent Fasting vs. Traditional Bodybuilding Diets
Intermittent Fasting (IF) goes against everything that traditional bodybuilding diets stand for.
If you follow the sport, you’ve probably seen hundreds -if not thousands- of athletes sharing their life on social media.
Most of them tend to carry their meals in plastic containers all over the place so they can “keep their body fed” and their “metabolism running”.
Some of these guys and gals are eating more than six meals a day. That's crazy!
I honestly can’t blame them for doing it because it's part of their life and they're technically following a longstanding bodybuilding tradition.
With that being said, can you imagine eating more than three times a day? I've tried it before and it's extremely annoying with little benefits.
For a professional athlete that makes a living, eating every two hours may seem like the only way to go. But, for someone who just wants to look and feel good – there are better ways to diet.
If you're an active individual that's looking to try something a little different regarding dieting – you should definitely give IF a try.
I would especially consider it when cutting because it will make losing weight that much easier. Plus, your physique will transform a lot quicker.
At first, you may notice a drop in strength and bodyweight, but if you play it right – you will be able to adjust your caloric intake and jumpstart your physique transformation.
Remember that there isn’t a perfect diet out there. All of them have their fair share of risks and advantages.