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Fasting isn’t new – it’s been used for cleansing and spiritual reasons for centuries. The concept of using intermittent fasting for weight control and other health reasons is somewhat newer though. But what about using intermittent fasting to benefit your bodybuilding journey?
There are several types of intermittent fasting, and it might take some testing to work out which one suits you best – preferably in consultation with your health or medical professional.
Most popular types of intermittent fasting:
Eat, Stop, Eat: one full 24-hour fast each week.
16:8: 16 hours of fasting every day, usually from 9pm-1pm, with an 8-hour ‘feeding window’.
The 5:2 Diet: you eat normally 5 days a week, but only consume ~500 calories on two non-consecutive days.
Then there’s the big one: the 48-hour fast. Two full days of fasting every week. This is the toughest kind of fasting by far, but because of the boost to HGH that it gives you, its fans think it’s all worth it.
Fasting and bodybuilding
Before we get started – nutrition, like bodybuilding, doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. There is no single ‘right’ way of fasting. It’s all about what works best for you, so a certain amount of trial and error will likely be necessary.
Pros of intermittent fasting for bodybuilders
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Increase in HGH
- Fat loss
- Cell repair
- Depending on which one you choose, it’s relatively easy to stick to
While all types of fasting will deliver some of these benefits, it’s the 48-hour fast that yields the largest result in terms of HGH. This kind of intense fasting can instigate a 500% increase in HGH during the fasting period. Levels return to normal once the fast ends, but still, the benefits of such a huge jump in HGH for two days are clear. Make no mistake though, this is the hardest type of fasting to maintain and shouldn’t be done without research and advice.
Cons of intermittent fasting for bodybuilders
- It makes bulking harder
- Working out without breaking your fast can be tough
- Takes some discipline to stick to a rigid fasting routine
How to build bulk while intermittent fasting
The most sustainable and most effective kind of intermittent fasting for bulking is likely to be 16:8: there’s just no way you’re going to be able to maintain your caloric needs for bulking using any of the other methods. The trick is getting all of your calories into the 8-hour window you have for eating. If you’re bulking really hard and have a huge caloric need, even this kind of fasting is going to be tough so you’re going to need to make sure you’re eating good quality, calorie-rich foods. If you can find this balance, you’ll be able to benefit from the advantages of intermittent fasting AND build bulk. But to do this, it’s critical that you don’t undereat during your feeding window. Adding some quality natural protein shakes and some good fats (avocado, nuts and oily fish, like salmon) will help to boost your calorie intake while helping to make up those vital macros as well.
But isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Yes – it is. But it doesn’t have to be eaten right after you get up in the morning. The meal you choose to break your fast with should be low-carb, high protein if you want to make the most of the fasting and bodybuilding benefits.
One key area where intermittent fasting for bodybuilders is clearly beneficial is if you want to shred. The fat loss boost from the fasting combined with the faster cell repair mean you should be able to drop fat and build lean muscle mass fast. Of course, we always recommend getting advice from a trainer or nutritionist to make sure that your diet and activity are optimised to get the best results.
In short,intermittent fasting and bodybuilding can go hand in handbut you need to make sure that you get some good advice and follow a plan to get the results you want.