When I talk about intermittent fasting, people think it’s detrimental for gaining muscle or weight, for that matter. I even get sent studies proving we need to eat before a workout to have fuel, along with many other notions. Yet, I have spent the last two years running through rigorous bulk, cutting, isolation, upper/lower and full-body routines to prove that it doesn’t make a huge difference.
What Studies Say
When you look on google, stronger by science or any study based website, you will find them saying one of four things.
First, your body will start to burn muscle for energy since it needs protein to push through a workout. Second, It will hinder performance, which will lead to suboptimal gains and energy levels. Third, it will cause your metabolism to eventually slow down due to the body being in a depleted state.
Some studies do mention working out fasted for cardio is great for losing weight and maintaining muscle. But they recommend keeping the intensity low to avoid issues like dizziness, fainting or dehydration. Even when they talk about weight lifting in a fasted state, they talk about it in maintenance or strength but not so much mass building.
The reason studies lean toward it being more a no then a yes notion is because they are not long term ones.
Furthermore, the worry is muscle repair and recovery won’t be optimal due to glycogen levels being low or depleted after a heavy lift session. For those wondering why this matters, Glucose plays a role in muscle repair and recovery. As we know, without these notions, we open ourselves up to more injury.
Before diving in, I want to talk about my nutritional lifestyle during these two years. As many of you know, I’m vegan and have been for a while now, but two years ago, I was still transitioning from pescatarian. Up until February 2019, The switch was not even on my mind, in all honesty.
At the time, a friend was vegan and sent me a lot of research about health, climate, sustainability and first-hand accounts. Since I was not one to crave any specific foods giving veganism, a try was worthwhile. Little did I know by the end of that month, it would become permanent. Not to mention, be the start of an amazing journey. More on that in a post to come in the coming weeks.
Back to fasting, in the first two to four months of running a 16:8 schedule, there were fluctuations in energy levels and workout productivity. As is this case with any lifestyle changes, the adjustment period if we were to label it. Sixteen hours of fasting and eight hours of eating for those unfamiliar with the term above.
After this point, the cutting phase was super easy, probably one of the smoothest ones I have ever done. An obvious notion because intermittent fasting is phenomenal for weight loss.
Usually, in a cut, though some loss of strength occurs even if its minor. I am proud to say the opposite result happened. There was a 5 – 8lb increase in all exercises running a two muscle group a day split four times a week. In the next round of cutting focusing on an upper-lower split, the gain was even higher with a 5 – 15 lb increase. Bear in mind the second bulk came at the start of year two after a prolonged maintenance period. Moreover, my protein intake was much higher, 1.3 – 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight vs .8 – 1 gram the first cycle.
After cutting, my bulk was super efficient as well. After one month of bulking and upping my caloric intake by 4oo calories, the lean mass weight gain was phenomenal. The 400 calories for those interested, 200 calories to climb out of cutting the deficit, 200 to enter bulking surplus, but you can play with these numbers to get optimal results for you.
That said, my workouts went from an 8 RPE during the cut to a mixture between 8 – 10 RPE. Thus showing the bulk was more intense with no adverse effects from fasting. During the two month bulk, 15 pounds of lean mass was added, keeping my body fat pretty low instead of large changes.
Similar to the second phase of cutting mentioned above. The second phase of bulking came right after running the upper/lower split, which made a difference. I attribute this to the fact that upper and lower is a lot more rigorous than two muscle group isolation. You are working the entire lower body one day, then the upper the next for about two hours in the gym. At this point, I was positive the fatigue would hit harder as articles said it would and recovery times longer, but it wasn’t anything overly intense. It was marginally more intense because of fasting and working out later than my body was familiar.
Fasting isn’t For Everyone!
Now that you know a little about my experience, I want to say that fasting is not for everyone. My results were phenomenal, in my opinion, because of my years of nutrition and exercise experience. Not to mention, I made sure to keep healthy eating habits and routines to ensure safety.
That said post-workout, and pre eating window closure nutrition aided in my success. Additionally, listening to essential body cues like hunger and thirst made it much easier to find a feasible fasting protocol. Notions I recommend everyone does before attempting to fasted workout sessions that require a lot of exertion.
Furthermore, if you struggle with a nutrition or exercise schedule, fasting may not work well for bulking. In terms of fat loss, it will be easy and highly beneficial.
Lastly, be careful of ego lifting or pushing yourself to max effort within the first few session to avoid injuries. You and your body will be adjusting to running on less fuel than it was a week or so before.