Intermittent Fasting for Bodybuilders | Intermittent Fasting and HGH | Intermittent Fasting and Beta-Hydroxybutyrate | Intermittent Fasting and Myostatin Levels | Insulin Sensitivity and Autophagy with Intermittent Fasting | Tips for Bodybuilders Practicing Intermittent Fasting
So you want to bulk up and build muscle mass, but are scared to intermittent fast? Let’s debunk…Fasting is an age-old tradition followed by many religions for its beneficial effects on the body, the mind, and the spirit. Fasting has been around us for millennia but recently gained much attention post-2010. The term “intermittent fasting” was introduced by Swedish model and bodybuilder Martin Berkhan, who wrote many in-depth guides on his preferred modes of fasting in his blog.
Ever since, intermittent fasting’s popularity has skyrocketed, with everyone talking about it and many practicing it for its health benefits. However, a question arises, is intermittent fasting good for bodybuilding and strength training? The answer is short and straightforward. Yes, Intermittent fasting has a lot to offer to people trying to bulk with muscle.
Intermittent Fasting for Bodybuilders & Strength Training
If you are a bodybuilder, you shouldn’t worry about trying out intermittent fasting. It can induce muscle development and muscle gain (bulking) while helping you with fat loss. As a bodybuilder, you know how challenging it is to shed and maintain weight without disturbing your muscle mass. On a regular diet, you will gain muscles rather quickly, but it does nothing to prevent weight loss. In this case, IF will work wonders for you.
If you are a frequent eater, your body will produce glucose to burn for fuel. If you restrict your eating periods, it will help your body to burn fat instead of glucose. Because intermittent fasting is of many types, a bodybuilder can easily choose his routine and diet, which will be more helpful than other calorie restriction methods.
Also, your heart health and overall body function will improve through intermittent fasting, which is something every bodybuilder wants.
So is intermittent fasting good for bodybuilding? We have some studies that say it is!
Intermittent Fasting and Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
Two studies were done on intermittent fasting and its role in HGH production. In the first study by the Western Journal of Medicine, after three days of fasting (extended fast), there was a 300-1250% increase in HGH levels of the test subjects. Another study in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found a five-fold increase in HGH levels after a short fasting period.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is no random hormone. It is a 191 amino acid chain polypeptide. This means that it operates in your body like a protein. HGH is created by the somatotropic cells in the pituitary gland. HGH is responsible for the creation of chondrocyte cells. Chondrocyte cells in our cartilage divide and multiply, stimulating collagen synthesis in the skeletal muscles and tendons. Thus, HGH helps muscles to develop and have structure.
HGH also does something particularly when it comes down to protein. It decreases protein oxidation. In protein oxidation, the excess protein intake gets oxidized and turned into waste. As HGH reduces protein oxidation, it helps most of the protein you consume get turned into muscle. That’s good news for bodybuilders!
Intermittent Fasting and Beta-Hydroxybutyrate
When you practice intermittent fasting, your body produces ketone bodies known as Beta-hydroxybutyrate (bHB). Beta-hydroxybutyrate is one of the main molecules that help your body make energy without glucose and is responsible for several processes in the body. A study looked at athletes already in a ketogenic state and how their muscle levels were affected while working out.
The study had the athletes work out while their bHB levels were measured. It showed that bHB increased their muscle cell survival rate. This means that the test subjects did not burn muscle while working out, which addresses a primary concern that most bodybuilders have! Every time you work out, you lose a bit of muscle, and bHB, a byproduct of intermittent fasting, helps that muscle survive.
Another fantastic thing to note is that bHB increases ATP function in the mitochondria. This means that bHB increases the power of your muscles too. By not eating and working out, you have an increase in power! Pretty amazing!
Intermittent Fasting and Myostatin Levels
Myostatin is a myokine, a protein produced and released by myocytes that acts on the autocrine function of muscle cells and inhibits myogenesis. Myostatin is a limiting factor in building muscle. Humans have a high level of myostatin, which ultimately stops the muscles from growing. So, more myostatin means less muscle.
Myostatin has a very intricate relationship with testosterone. A study by the International Journal of Sports and Health found that test subjects exposed to a small amount of testosterone experienced a massive decrease in myostatin levels. This does not occur in one particular area of our bodies but is systemic. This means that your body can put on more muscle than you were genetically capable of before testosterone.
The European Journal of Endocrinology did a study and found that fasting increases luteinizing hormone production by 180%. The pituitary gland produces the luteinizing hormone, and more LH equals more testosterone production in your body. With this increase in testosterone, there is a decrease in myostatin, helping you build more muscle.
Insulin Sensitivity and Autophagy with Intermittent Fasting
When you do intermittent fasting, it improves your body’s insulin sensitivity. This is very important for muscle growth. Insulin will help transfer nutrients into your body’s cells, including amino acids (the building blocks of protein). With an improvement in insulin sensitivity, your muscles will be better adapted to utilize macro and micronutrients and support the growth of muscles.
Again, intermittent fasting will increase the production of molecules in your body called autophagosomes. Autophagosomes help break down and recycle damaged proteins in your body. This process is known as autophagy and helps replace damaged protein cells and support the production of healthy and new proteins. With autophagy, your odds of increasing muscle mass will increase!
Tips for Bodybuilders Practicing Intermittent Fasting
It is essential to understand that intermittent fasting alone will not produce muscle growth. If your question is, “Is intermittent fasting good for bodybuilding?” it is, but it has to be coupled with adequate nourishment and the correct type of exercise program that will support your muscle-building efforts.
Carry on Exercising
To reach your goals as a bodybuilder, maintain a consistent training program that will test you. Have protein-rich snacks 1-2 hours before a workout, and eat high-protein foods in your feeding windows. If you weigh 180 lbs, you typically want to have at least as many grams of protein as your body weight or more. So 180 lbs = 180+ grams of protein.
Go for Morning Exercises
To get the best results from your bodybuilding efforts, exercise in the morning. Research suggests that the right time for exercise is in the morning, after you wake up, or at least 4 hours before bedtime.
Choose the Right Exercises
There are some types of training, like resistance training with weights, that increase muscle sensitivity to insulin. Focus on high-intensity interval training, cardio training, and weightlifting as effective ways to build strength and gain muscle. However, a word of caution about weightlifting: it puts a lot of stress on the body, and you must refuel on food shortly after your training ends.
Workout Near the end of Your Fasting Period for strength training
If you exercise near the end of your fasting period, it will increase your body’s ability to burn fat. Also, targeted strength training is a preferable activity near the end of the fasting period. But be careful not to over-exert yourself!
Don’t go Without Food for Long Periods
Consider the size of your eating window when you use intermittent fasting to build muscles. If it is a small window, you may find it tough to include all the necessary nutrients in your food. If this is the case, you may go for 16:8 fasting. Here, you fast for 16 hours straight and eat your food in the remaining 8-hour window. This will give you enough time to get the necessary nutrients while still benefiting from intermittent fasting.
Take Care of Your Body
Besides proper hydration, consuming a nutrient-rich diet is crucial when you are bodybuilding. An abundance of veggies, healthy fats, and high-quality protein is what you need. To optimize the growth of muscles, go for long-chain carbohydrates like whole-grain pasta or bread on training days. On rest days, you can go for a low-carb diet. Equally important is not overeating and giving your body enough time to rest and recover after intense weight training. Also, consider the use of BCAA while practicing IF. This will maximize muscle protein synthesis.
Conclusion – Is Intermittent Fasting Good for Bodybuilding and Muscle gain?
I personally still use intermittent fasting while in a muscle building phase of my workout routine. As long as you are getting adequate protein (.7-1 gram per pound of lean body weight), and are eating enough calories, you can gain muscle without any problems while intermittent fasting.
Bulking with Intermittent Fasting is an excellent approach for bodybuilders looking to manage their eating habits better and optimize their body composition through strength training. Intermittent fasting also reduces overall body fat, reduces cravings for sugar, and even boosts energy levels.
Overall, intermittent fasting is an intelligent dietary strategy for bodybuilders who can use its benefits to achieve a muscle-bound, healthy physique.
A Calorie Deficit will lead to muscle loss if you sustain that too long, for bulking its best to maintain a calorie surplus, while getting enough protein during your feeding window. As you bulk your body weight will increase, but this doesn’t necessarily mean fat gain, but building muscle mass and bulking weight gain (muscle building). As with any fasting diet, its always a good idea to check with your doctor to be sure there are not any underlying medical conditions.
See the article about the BEST BCAA’s For fasting.
Also need help fasting? Check out these Top 6 Fasting Mobile Apps we recommend to help you on your journey.
Also, want to know – Can You Drink Protein Shakes While Fasting?