What is Intermittent Fasting | Types of Intermittent Fasting | How does Intermittent Fasting Work | Intermittent Fasting Benefits | Basics of Weight Training & Benefits | Intermittent Fasting and Lifting Weights | Common Mistakes
Intermittent fasting is the most in-demand eating pattern followed by millions of people worldwide. Notwithstanding the fact that it is an age-old practice that has been practiced by people for various religious reasons or positive impact on health, it has gained momentum in recent years amongst people predominantly for weight loss. It has become the new nutritional strategy in the fitness world alongside Atkins and keto.
Despite all the strategies, one thing is clear, the effects of intermittent fasting on the lean body mass may be detrimental. Research indicates that resistance training helps gain lean muscle mass, but whether this works well with intermittent fasting is not clear.
When you are in strength training, you need to be supplemented by food. But what if you are into intermittent fasting? How can you be able to build muscle in a fasted state? Will it be safe to lift weights while on intermittent fasting?
No worries!! Maximizing fat loss and muscle gain with building stamina and endurance simultaneously while intermittent fasting, you will have to strategically schedule your workout regime.
Let’s dive into the detail. I am sure you will get the answers to your questions and find many other tips in this article. But first, let’s understand what is intermittent fasting and how it works.
Curious about fasting supplements? Check our BCAA and fasting guide.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy that refrains you from ingesting calories for a specified period of time usually ranging from a minimum of 12 hours up to 40 hours. However, plain water and unsweetened calorie-free beverages like coffee or tea can be taken during the fasting period as per your preferences. But you are not permitted to take any calorie-dense beverages or solid foods during your fasting window.
One best things about intermittent fasting is that after your fasting window ends, you can eat normally as per your choice within the feeding window. Because unlike other diet plans it does not track calorie intake but rather focuses on when to eat and when to abstain from eating.
For example, if your last meal was finished at 7 p.m. and you do not eat anything until 7 p.m. of the next day, then you have had a 24-hour fast. However, this duration works differently in the case of each individual depending upon what time duration suits them the best. While some people stay on a longer duration fast, some prefer to have short-duration fasting. Based on the time duration and preferences, there are different types of intermittent fasting plans.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
While there are various IF plans, the following are some common methods to apply intermittent fasting to your regimen.
The 16/8 Method
This is a time-restricted feeding method that involves restricting food for 16 consecutive hours and limiting the eating window to 8 hours in a day.
On the other hand, some individuals prefer to extend the fasting window up to 18 or 20 hours and eat between 6 to 4 hours every day. The 16/8 method is regarded as more flexible and less restrictive because it can suit most lifestyles.
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet plan entails eating normally for five days of the week and restricting food for two non-consecutive days. However, a maximum of 500 to 600 calories is allowed to be ingested during each of the fasting days.
The Eat-Stop-Eat Diet
This method involves fasting for 24 hours for one or two non-consecutive days in a week and then eating normally for the rest of the days.
For example, you start fasting from 7 a.m. Monday up till 7 a.m. Tuesday. However, before starting your fast, you must eat at least one meal before 7 a.m. Monday and then have your next meal after 7 a.m. Tuesday.
The Alternate-Day Fasting
This method includes fasting for every alternate day and eating normally on non-fasting days. However, on fasting days you can consume 25% of your energy requirements or a maximum of 500 calories.
The Warrior Diet
The e 20/4 Warrior Diet is a pattern of eating that involves consuming a small amount of foods throughout the fasting period and then having a sumptuous meal at night.
During the periods of fasting, you are encouraged to take small portions of dairy products, boiled eggs, fruits, and vegetables, as well as adequate non-caloric fluids.
How does Intermittent Fasting Work?
When the body enters a fasting state, the insulin levels decrease and your body starts to utilize the glycogen stores for energy.
During intermittent fasting, this process repeatedly occurs and the glycogen reserve depletes gradually allowing your body to tap the fat stores for further energy. This process causes fat burning and eventually results in weight loss.
During this process, your body goes through some changes which include:
1. Increased Human Growth Hormone
When you fast for a long time, your growth hormone increases. Growth hormone helps in stimulating the breakdown of your fat cells, resulting in fat loss and higher muscle growth. See how fasting relates to human growth hormone here.
2. Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Intermittent fasting reduces insulin levels and insulin resistance and improves insulin sensitivity. An improved insulin sensitivity lowers the glucose levels and mitigates the risk of developing diabetes
3. Induces Autophagy
Intermittent fasting helps your body induce autophagy, a cellular repair process that automatically cleanses out damaged cells, making room for fresh, newer ones. Autophagy prevents you from developing infections and certain neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
4. Expression of Genes
Intermittent fasting encourages favorable changes in various genes and molecules which improve longevity and protect from numerous chronic diseases.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Ages back when our ancestors had to go through prolonged fasting due to scarcity of foods, it did not impact them negatively rather it worked wonders by keeping them healthy and alive for long. Here’s what intermittent fasting can offer you.
- It can help you lose weight by improving your metabolic rate which helps in burning more calories.
- It can reduce insulin resistance, lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes.
- It reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.
- It improves heart health by lowering the levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol which are inflammatory markers of heart disease.
- It may help prevent cancer by boosting metabolism.
- It improves brain function by increasing the brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which improves symptoms of depression and various other brain-related issues.
Understanding the Basics of Weight Training and Its Benefits
Weight lifting also known as resistance training includes lifting weights or resistance to strengthen the muscles of your body. Weight lifting aims at increasing muscle mass and stamina, higher bone density, and minimizing the risk of injury.
Apart from the above benefits strength training can improve heart health, improved coordination and balance, better mental health, improved metabolism, and so on. Following are some other benefits that can be experienced when you combine intermittent fasting with strength training.
- Increased fat loss: When you do intermittent fasting, it increases your norepinephrine hormone which helps in fat oxidation. When you combine weight training with intermittent fasting, your body starts to burn fat more efficiently resulting in increased fat loss.
- Improved muscle growth: Intermittent fasting increases growth hormone in the body. Both weight training and growth hormones result in muscle growth.
Want to know more about how to gain muscle while intermittent fasting? Read “Intermittent Fasting Muscle Gain: How To Do It Right”
If you lift weight on an empty stomach it won’t cause you muscle loss so long as you are fed with a combination of carbohydrate and protein-rich food. Because carbohydrate helps restore energy and protein helps rebuild muscle. However, the eating window should be decided according to the training level and duration and you might want to add a pre-workout drink to your routine.
Intermittent Fasting and Lifting Weights Tips!
Although intermittent fasting has several health benefits to offer, how about building muscles? Ultimately starvation for an extended period of time does not have a good impact on muscles. If you want to develop muscle mass, you need to consume enough food and keep track of your calorie intake as well.
Below are some tips to follow as to how you should do the weight lifting while on an intermittent fasting plan.
1. Go Slow and with Low-Intensity Workouts
If you are already on an intermittent fasting plan and going to exercise, go for low-impact exercises, especially on longer fasting days like 24 hours fasting or 5:2 fasting.
The low-intensity workouts like normal walking, light jogging, or cycling would help burn body fat. But if you are planning for weight lifting then go for the light weights with more repetitions rather than doing heavy lifting.
During intermittent fasting high-intensity interval training (HIIT) along with lifting weights is a big “no” because it will start utilizing the glycogen reserve more fast than usual for obtaining energy and eventually make you feel exhausted and worn out. Additionally, you could encounter more body pain after the workouts.
2. Focus on your Macronutrients
Research recommends that you should aim to have a healthy source of proteins and carbohydrates after a fasted workout training session.
Because a healthy combination of protein and carbohydrates prior to or directly after a workout helps build muscle. So if you plan for workouts during your fasting, aim to do it either within the eating period or just before breaking your fast.
Consuming carbohydrates during strength training enhances euglycemia in the body while eating a combination of protein with carbohydrates during weight lifting training may help increase your muscle glycogen store. Additionally, it can help ameliorate muscle injury, and help to get acclimatized to both acute and chronic training.
You may control portions according to your body weight and your personal fitness goals, but eating a healthful meal containing carbs and proteins is essential. Here are some examples of meals containing healthy carbs and proteins.
- Whole grain toast with eggs
- Oatmeal with milk
- Fruits and yogurt
- Rice and chicken
- Whole grain pasta with tuna
Even if you are into intermittent fasting, you must not forget how calories are essential for your body. To build muscles, and develop stamina and endurance, you need calories. Hence, be sure to include all your meals and snacks during your eating window while intermittent fasting.
3. Focus on Meal Times
Meal timing is a factor that is totally dependent on what type of intermittent fasting you do. For example, if you follow the 16:8 plan and before working out you want something to eat, then it is better to have a small portion of pre-workout food that is easily digestible.
However, if you want to exercise at a moderate or high intensity, you should eat near the time of your workout so that your body can have adequate glycogen reserves to utilize. But if you do high-intensity interval training by lifting weights, you should exercise near the end of your fast.
Whether it is a slow or steady-state cardio or a high-intensity workout with weight lifting while being on intermittent fasting, paying close attention to how you feel is most important. If it makes you feel exhausted or feels like passing out, eat some food as soon as possible. However, it is always recommended to consult a doctor before starting any workout or fasting regime especially if you have any pre-existing condition like diabetes.
4. It is Not the Same for Everyone
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to fitness and fasting. If you are a newbie to exercise and fasting, listen to your body first. Adjust yourself to the new way of eating first and then start working out slowly.
If you are into a fasting regimen that restricts taking calories for the entire day like the one in the 5:2 diet or ADF, then you may consider not exercising on those days. Or if at all you want to exercise anyhow then don’t push too much beyond a low-intensity workout like simple walking.
If you love to do morning workouts, you may adjust the eating window accordingly so that you can eat out right after exercising. If you like to lift weights around lunchtime, it will be a good time because you will have energy before and after the exercises.
5. Stay Completely Hydrated
Getting adequately hydrated with water and electrolytes while working out with intermittent fasting has always been a good idea. If you go out of balance with your electrolyte levels, then you may face conditions like headache, dizziness, nausea, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, and muscle cramping. You may choose to have coconut water or calorie-free electrolyte beverages.
Common Mistakes Done by People while Combining Intermittent Fasting and Lifting Weights!
When it comes to combining intermittent fasting with weight lifting, people tend to make some common mistakes.
- Neglecting proper eating or not eating enough
- Get themselves overindulged in working out leading to injury and delayed recovery
- Not adjusting the workout intensity
- Neglecting cardio while only focussing on weight training
- Not tracking the progress
- Not consulting a certified professional
Final Thoughts – Intermittent Fasting and Lifting Weights
I personally lift weights most morning while intermittent fasting, then around 10am I will have my first meal of the day. I find myself having more energy than if I were to workout and eat before hand. Do what feels right for you! But yes, you can build muscle and strength while fasting Be sure to eat a high protein, fat, and electrolyte balanced diet.
Intermittent fasting and weight lifting are a great combination that can provide effective results in terms of health and fitness if done in a disciplined, consistent, and safe way.
However, listening to your body and acting accordingly is crucial while doing weight lifting and intermittent fasting combinedly.
For example, if you feel exhausted working out while on a calorie deficit, you may pre-shift your eating window and have some calories to get the energy to perform further. But if you are someone who does not like having anything before or during a workout, then you must aim at lightweight lifting rather than lifting heavier ones.
Ultimately, it is more important to know what motivates you to work hard and makes you feel happy. But remember weight lifting during the eating window always provides the best results.
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