The importance of quality nutrition has never been more valued as part of a sound training regime than it is today. It is rare to find someone who is serious about training that completely disregards what they eat and the truth is that if they do then they are unlikely to be very successful at all.
As awareness has grown for the importance of having a strong nutritional plan, so have the number of approaches to achieving that goal. Back when people were less aware of what they were putting into their bodies there wasn’t the same need for carefully planned diets. One phenomenon that has grown out of all this is intermittent fasting, which is being increasingly used by a great number of people in the fitness community.
Nine times out of ten the reason why somebody will be intermittently fasting is because they want to drop weight quickly. After all, this is a radical approach to losing weight. But it is now becoming more and more common for people to experiment with fasting while still trying to build muscle. This begs the question: is it possible?
Well let’s think why you would want to fast if you aren’t looking to drastically decrease your weight. One reason could be that you have a busy lifestyle. Between getting the kids ready for school and working a full day, it can be difficult to find the time to prepare and eat the right amount of decent food.
Or maybe you want to find a new way to cut? Altering your diet very subtly can make it feel like you aren’t really making any changes at all and discourage some people. Making very clear and obvious changes to your lifestyle can offer that sense of empowerment where you feel in direct control of what is happening to your body.
Whatever your reason for fasting is, you need to make sure that you are doing it in the right way if you want to still be able to build muscle. The thing with intermittent fasting is that there are a number of methods. Some involve eating literally nothing for alternate 24 hour periods (alternate day fasting), whereas others simply reduce the number of calories that you eat on the days that you fast to a small percentage of your usual intake (e.g 5:2 diet).
So let’s say you choose a fasting that means you don’t eat during the day. This is quite common because people can tailor it around their working lives by setting the fast between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., for example.
The first thing to consider is when you are going to train. You have to eat before and after you train if you want to build muscle and assuming you aren’t going to be up at 4 a.m. this rules out the morning and most of the day. Late night training allows you to still get the calories you need around the times that you train without stopping you from fasting during the day.
If that is what you choose to do you will have to make sure you are bulking calories around your workouts, which means get ready for plenty of calorie dense foods. You need to be getting as much energy as possible from the least amount of food! Whole grains are great for this. But you might find that going the whole day without food leaves you feeling hungry, starved of energy and generally rather irritable. So it is best to get up before you start your fast and make sure that you eat some food that will slowly release energy throughout the morning, like porridge for example.
Doing these things make building muscle while fasting a possibility. But does that mean I encourage you to do it? Well your approach to your nutrition needs to be sustainable. There is no point trying something that you can’t carry on with for long periods of time with just a few minor tweaks.
The difficulty with fasting is getting it right. There is a fine line between eating little enough to consistently lose weight and falling into starvation mode. At that point you can wave goodbye to building any muscle.
Any radical change to your diet needs to be considered by not only you but somebody who knows what the possible impacts are. I’m not saying that intermittent fasting won’t work for you, I am simply saying that you need to make sure that you have all the relevant information before making such a drastic decision.