Guide to Intermittent Fasting

What is it?

Intermittent Fasting is a way of eating defined by taking extended periods without food, followed by a more condensed eating window. One of the misconceptions here is that it is a way to lose weight. Intermittent fasting, like any style of diet, can be used for weight loss if it puts you in a calorie deficit. If someone is losing weight on a fasting diet without counting calories, it is simply because they have less opportunity throughout the day to eat. Intermittent fasting can actually be an excellent tool to implement in a bulk too, as we will go on to discuss

How to:

Common ways to structure a fast include:

  • 16 hours fasted - 8 hour eating window
  • 24 hour fast as desired

We would recommend trialing a shorter eating window first. If this suits you well, you can experiment with longer fasts. Remember to consume enough calories during eating times, it can be easy to under-eat if busy (one of the ways that fasting can induce weight loss).
If fasting for regenerative benefits, fasting means just that, fasting. Anything calorie containing, such as coffee with milk or BCAAs, can knock you out of this phase. You can get away with being more lenient if fasting for convenience or appetite control, for example it might be beneficial to sip EAAs during fasted cardio on a prep to preserve muscle mass.


Potential benefits of fasting on organs and hormones.

Fasting seems to be useful in a process known as autophagy. Autophagy is the process of removing dead cells from the body and regenerating them. This is due to the decreased insulin levels in our body when in a fasted state. Individuals who frequently deplete glycogen through regular exercise have increased insulin sensitivity and will be even more efficient at this process. Generally, the longer and more extreme the fast, the better- but this isn't for everyone.

Giving the digestive system a break. This can be useful in a bulk if very large quantities of food are being consumed. If experiencing digestive discomfort such as gas and bloating, it can be useful to consume larger meals over a shorter time (preferably around the workout window) so that the digestive system isn't always working. Also consider what foods digest best, for example a whey isolate will usually be better tolerated pre-workout than something like steak.

Appetite control. This can be useful if you are a very early riser and find yourself having to split meals across a very long day. If getting up for work around 5am, it can make more sense to fast until lunch time before consuming your first meal, training after work and consuming the rest of your calories by the evening. Appetite adjusts to this very quickly, give it a try!

It's a free way way to potentially improve health. Like other diets which may involve expensive foods and supplements, fasting is something that you can try for free and make fit around your lifestyle. If it's not for you- no harm done!

But won't I lose muscle?

The idea that protein has to be consumed every 2-3 hours is dated and vastly over-exaggerated. While is is beneficial to split your protein intake across your meals (whether you have 3 or 6) your body will not start breaking down muscle for energy if you are consuming adequate overall calories and overall protein intake is sufficient (around 1g per lb for resistance athletes, but this is highly individual).

To preserve muscle:

  • avoid high intensity fasted workouts
  • hit overall protein targets, and split feedings (at least 3-4) to spike MPS
  • peri-workout nutrition is key to keep performance and recovery up

Suggested supplements:

About the Author

Savannah Westerby, BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition. IG:@savannahwesterby
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