As time evolves so does the amount of information that has been researched regarding nutrition, meal timing, meal frequency, and the way we change our eating habits to suit our goals. In the bodybuilding/fitness world the most preached diet deals with eating multiple meals per day spaced 2-3 hours apart (usually 5-6 meals per day). Today I am going to give you a little insight on a very popular lifestyle scheme as far as a diet goes called “Intermittent Fasting”. Now I know you may be thinking “Fasting”? is this going to be good? This sounds counter-productive, how can this work? What are the benefits of intermittent fasting? Will I lose my gainz? Sit back, relax, and enjoy what you are about to read, for some of you it will be magical, for others it may not suit your lifestyle.
The take away message from this article will be this is a lifestyle diet. It should suit your lifestyle and make your life easier, does everyone need to do it? Absolutely not, but a lot of individuals who get on it find it is the best decision they have ever made. I am a huge advocate of the phrase “Do not fix what is not broken”. If your diet isn’t broke, then it doesn’t need to be fixed. There will still be plenty to learn from this article, I promise, so keep reading.
How Do I Intermittently Fast?
It’s actually quite simple. Intermittent Fasting (also known as IF) is based off a 16-8 Fasting to Feeding Window. Do you need to always fast for 16 hours? No. Again, this is based off your lifestyle, but the creator (Martin Berkhan) who heads leangains.com which is the intermittent fasting blog/website started it this way. He has even claimed that women can fast for 14-16 hours based off their preference and males can also fall into the same category. Again the premise is as follows “this is a lifestyle diet” it should suit YOUR schedule/lifestyle. If for some reason you can’t fast 16 hours and it’s 15, should you stress over it? Absolutely not, but sometimes you can end your eating window earlier if it happens to strike over 8 hours.
Do you always have to eat within 8 Hours? Absolutely not, if you want to fast for 20 hours and eat in a 4 hour window again this is “Personal Preference” and what suits your lifestyle. It may sound crazy, but believe me, if you see the personal results of those who follow this lifestyle it is truly mind-blowing. So how does a day on intermittent fasting look? It can really vary and as stated by Martin on his website this pertains to how you break the fast (your first meal) and when you train. So I am going to give you multiple ways you can set this up.
Intermittent Fasting Setup Alternatives
First and foremost you can train in a fasted state (yes this sounds counter-productive but its really not once you understand the reasoning). Regardless if your goal is cutting, bulking, gaining size, maintaining etc these are outlines on how to set up your training/diet.
The 16/8 Setup
Lets assume the individual below will feast or eat in a 12-8 p.m. window for EVERYTHING below. There is an 8 hour window and fasting from 8 p.m. to 12 noon (16 hours total) the next day.
Fast at least 16 hours and train but you will intake 10g of BCAA’s before training and during your workout to help stimulate MPS (Muscle protein synthesis). Yes BCAA’s do contain calories (while not labeled due to FDA Standards) but this is meant to be counted in your total calories for the day.
Meal 1 will follow after your workout and however many meals after that you want is YOUR CHOICE.
Fast from 8 p.m. the night before till 10 -11 a.m. or so and take 10g BCAA
- Meal 1 – 1 P.M.
- Meal 2 – 4 p.m.
- Meal 3 – 7 p.m.
*Even though this was not 8 hours of feeding the initial BCAA hit is to be counted towards your calories but that does not start your eating window.
*if you do take a pre-workout product that contains carbs don’t stress. Martin allows up to 50 calories in your fasting window (which may come from Cream/Sugar etc that you drink in coffee) or from a pre-workout. Don’t SWEAT!
1-2 Pre-Workout Meals:
- Pre-Workout Meal 12 Noon
- Meal 2 – 4 PM.
- Meal 3 – 7/8 PM
Or if you have two meals
- Meal 2 – 3 P.M.
- Meal 3 – 7/8 P.M.
Again these are all just suggestions on what you can do, but if you want to have 4 meals in 8 hours go for it. A few things that martin does advocate regarding your calories that I should note of:
- The post-workout meal should be the bulk of your carbs/calories (he usually advocated at least 50-60% of your total calories).
- Pre-Workout Meals should be very light (but again its personal preference on what you want to eat and know what settles best on your stomach. On his website I remember reading he did Chicken, a small piece of fruit, and some veggies (around 400-500 calories) Something very small that gives you some protein and carbs to train and push through your workouts (if you train fasted disregard this information)
- ON workout days martin has a higher carbohydrate intake and likes to cycle his carbs/calories, on Non-workout days he likes to drop carbs in addition to more fats (again this is his personal preference) in the end does it matter? Absolutely not. If you know you work well on higher carbs every single day then do that, if you want to keep your calories the same everyday then do that if it makes your life easier.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
A simple question is will fasting be unbeneficial towards muscle gaining? You won’t lose muscle during this its just eating your calories in a block of time compared to spread out throughout the day. You will fast in the morning and sip on diet soda’s, coffee, water etc. until its time to break your fast. What you like to drink again is your choice, and as stated earlier, if you want to add up to 50 calories of cream/sugar or other things to help you curb your appetite rock it out. At first this may be hard because your body is so used to eating so many meals (Gherlin the body’s hunger hormone) but this will adapt over time. To read more about your hunger hormone Martin has MANY studies on his site you can research. You can also read about his articles that were on PUBMED along with his recent articles on the 10 ten fasting myths.
I remember Martin saying the following regarding his feeding window/pattern “believe it or not we are animals just like the rest of the world. We weren’t meant to wake up and just eat food. Where would this food come from? We would hunt to get food and then eat it, while not knowing when the next meal would be.” Which in essence is true when you think about cave men and how they rarely ate. Were some of them big and strong? Absolutely, were some skinny individuals with little/no muscle, yes. This comes down to being more strict on your diet. Think about bodybuilders who count calories and hit their protein, fat, fiber minimums daily, now apply that to less meals and in a time frame that is IF in a nutshell.
Aren’t More Meals Better?
The 6 meals a day theory was based off getting steady amino’s and protein in your system. When your body is always burning food/calories it’s not always burning fat or keeping you lean. Total calories is what matters most to dictate your goal in the 24 hours you do consume your food. The truth is that 6 meals holds no benefit over IF regarding preserving lean mass, help burning fat or making gains, increasing metabolism, increasing HGH, increasing serotonin levels etc. All studies that are presented by Martin at leangains.com.
Layne Norton and The MPS Study
Another piece of information I wanted to bring up was less meals per day and how it is superior. If you know Layne Norton, he has an infamous Muscle Protein Synthesis Study (MPS). In this study Layne showed how eating meals spaced 4-6 hours apart while dosing 5g of leucine (which can be found in BCAA products) maximizes MPS. How is this possible? He shows in the study that eating too frequently is actually counter-productive to muscle gaining and stimulating MPS. This is because protein levels never get the chance to reach their refractory stages before being spiked again. He found that utilizing the BCAA’s between meals to spike protein levels real short and allowing longer durations between whole food meals.
Alan Aragon and Girth Control
Another nail in the coffin for IF? Absolutely and more research is shown to back it. I am not even getting into Alan Aragon and his research on this and his book “Girth Control” Which is a great read that I do suggest you read on top of the Lyle McDonald Books.
Are Supplements Essential for Intermittent Fasting?
I would consider BCAA’s regardless if training fasted or not because I believe in them because of how fast they are digested in a free form state. What do we lose during training? Glutamine and Amino’s if you are in a fasted state. These are essential than training on nothing but if you do have a pre-workout meal I would consider it optional, but I like being safe than sorry. So I do advocate BCAA’s on top of the essentials:
- Whey protein
Note: All should be taken on a daily basis. You should take these during your feeding window and not before or after it has been ended.
Cardio and Training during Intermittent Fasting
Martin is a big advocate of doing LISS cardio (low intensity steady state) which is most commonly linked to walking. He does advocate this during the fasting period such as brisk walks for 20-30 minutes, which could be done for a few times a week (2-3 times) for around 20-30 minutes. Nothing crazy as far as speed or incline goes (if you wish to use a treadmill) but just to get the blood flowing and the small benefits cardio does have to offer. If you were to perform HIIT cardio (high intensity interval training) he would recommend to take BCAA’s prior or do it once the feeding window is broken (refer to fasted training above for the outline on the meal protocol). Depending on your overall goal (Cutting/bulking/recomping) the amount of cardio will vary to suit your overall goal.
Training wise, Martin has a huge outline on his website regarding RPT (Reverse Pyramid Training). In the grand scheme of things this is a lifestyle diet, so any type of training that you find that suits you should take priority. Regardless of your split this is more based off meal timing and frequency than training wise, but I did want to touch on the subject.
Other than that read up on the research and studies off Martin’s website (www.leangains.com). There is a lot of speculation regarding the whole subject of meal frequency, timing, and nutrition but in the end Martin does make a firm stance with his personal experience and his clients that back his Intermittent Fasting lifestyle. Those who follow it and are reaping the benefits will continue to preach how it may be the best thing they have ever done for the life and body. Some people just enjoy feasting on larger meals, while others prefer to have more spread out meals per day. In the end this is only research and this is only a suggestion on how to manipulate your life and diet. Give it a shot for a good 8-10 weeks and assess from there based on your mood, energy, training!