You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting before, it’s become popular in the last few years. And maybe you’ve heard some of the claims associated with it, like it raises GH levels, that it boosts your metabolism and helps you lose fat and gain muscle, that it cleanses your body at the cellular level and even helps you fight cancer. But are these claims really true? I want to answer that question in this article…
First of all, let’s define exactly what we’re taking about when we say “intermittent fasting.” Of course, fasting is when we abstain from food or drinks or both for a set period of time. Traditional fasting is usually for at least one full day or longer, sometimes for several days at a time, even weeks. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you fast for part of a set period of time and eat for the other part, also known as time-restricted eating. The most popular intermittent fasting protocol is called the 16-8 method. This is where you’re fasting 16 hours of every day and eating only during an 8 hour window. There’s also the every other day diet, where you fast a whole day, 24 hours, then you eat normally the next 24 hours. And there’s the 20-4 plan, where you only eat for 4 hours each day. And all kinds of differing protocols in between.
Whatever plan you choose, the time you fast comes with a whole list of proposed benefits, like I mentioned, including increased metabolism and fat loss, increased GH production and muscle gains,, intermittent fasting claims to help cleanse your body at the cellular level and even to help you fight cancer. But, does skipping a few meals really do all these amazing things? Let’s take a closer look:
- Increased fat loss. It’s kind of a no brainer, if you are fasting part of each day and consuming less calories, you will lose weight. Some research claims that intermittent fasting speeds up your metabolism slightly, but honestly probably not enough to make a significant difference. There is, however, solid research showing that growth hormone production goes up, which helps to burn more fat for energy. But at the end of the day, if you consume more calories than you use you gain weight, and if you consume less calories than you use you lose weight, regardless of your growth hormone levels. I believe the reason intermittent fasting is so effective for fat loss is adherence. The best eating plan is the one YOU can follow consistently. And once you train your body to eat only during a certain window of time each day, it’s a pretty easy pattern to adhere to.
- Muscle gains. The claim is that due to increased growth hormone production and insulin sensitivity and other factors, you can actually gain muscle while keeping fat gain at a minimum. I believe this is true, but probably not the optimum situation for max muscle growth. First, it can be difficult to hit your calorie goals in a shorter eating window. Also there’s advantages to spreading out your protein over more meals; every time you consume protein it increases your protein synthesis. So the more often you eat protein, the more opportunities for muscle growth. Limiting the number of times you eat protein limits the opportunities for muscle growth, even if you eat the same amount of protein each day. I will say this: intermittent fasting has been shown to have muscle sparing effects, making it a good choice for a cut or mini-cut, where you’re in a calorie deficit and want to preserve as much muscle as possible.
- It's healthy. Let’s look at all the health benefits claimed from intermittent fasting. When you’re in a prolonged fasted state, your body initiates a cleansing process called autophagy. Autophagy comes from 2 words, auto meaning self, and phagy meaning to eat. So autophagy literally means “self-eating.” I know that sounds kinda gross, but this process involves cells breaking down and clearing out old, unwanted, broken and unneeded cellular materials that build up inside of cells over time. Studies have demonstrated that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Research has also shown it does increase growth hormone production, reduces insulin resistance, lowers blood sugar levels and may even help prevent cancer. These benefits are all backed by research!
My conclusion: intermittent fasting offers a sustainable way to lose fat and preserve muscle with a myriad of health benefits. The only claim that falls a little short is muscle gains while intermittent fasting. You CAN gain muscle on a 16-8 plan but in my opinion it would be more difficult than a standard bodybuilding diet, where you eat 4-5 times a day starting when you first wake up in the morning, giving your body as many opportunities for protein synthesis as possible. But you may feel the health benefits of intermittent fasting are worth the tradeoff for slower muscle gains.
So whether you want to try the 16-8 method or the every-other-day diet, or even if you decide intermittent fasting isn’t for you right now, one thing’s for sure: you MUST track your diet if you want to see results in the gym. Remember, the number one reason people get discouraged and give up is due to not seeing results because their nutrition isn’t on point. So if you want to start seeing results right away, pick up my free Calorie Calculator Combo. This is a free online calorie calculator where you enter your stats and it tells you how many calories you need to eat each day in order to maintain your bodyweight, or to lose fat, or build muscle. It comes with a special report on the best calorie counting apps, and by the way most of those are free too. And it comes with the S&M Glycemic Index Food Guide. I want to give you the tools you need to succeed on your fitness journey! So to pick up these free resources visit the link below.
Thanks for reading. Pease share these articles and videos if they are helping you. My goal is to help as many people as possible. That’s all for now, God bless you, and I’ll see you next time!