Meal Plans

The Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Everything you need to know about this diet strategy.

two chicken breasts in light herb sauce

WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?

Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular weight loss methods, and for good reason--it works! Many studies have shown that it has powerful effects for your body and brain, and it may even help you to live longer. Intermittent fasting is not actually a diet but rather described as an eating pattern. It is an approach where you go a certain period of time during the day without eating (water and black coffee are allowed during this period). Typically this is a 16-hour window, followed by an 8-hour feeding window (a period of 8 hours where you consume all your calories for the day).

There are many variations to these alternating eating and fasting windows. Some examples are two days of a full 24-hour fast (not recommended, especially if your goal is building or maintaining muscle), 18 hour fast with a 6-hour eating window or a 20-hour fast with a 4 hour eating window.

SEE ALSO: Build Muscle With the Warrior Diet

BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING

Intermittent fasting has cellular and hormonal benefits. When we fast, certain hormones skyrocket. Human growth hormone (HGH) is the main hormone that is affected via intermittent fasting. HGH has muscle building and fat burning properties. Insulin sensitivity and circulating insulin levels also drop. When you are in a fasted state, your body makes changes to genes that effect longevity.

Research has also shown that fasting for certain periods may result in increased fat burning even when daily calories are the same versus typical dieting.

Aside from the health and fat-burning benefits, you will experience getting leaner and being able to maintain it easier. Since you are cramming all of your calories into a shorter eating window, you will experience a feeling of fullness. You can finally be full while eating for fat loss!

In addition to that, because you will have more calories available for your eating window, you will be able to fit in more fun, "cheat" foods than on a typical diet. Imagine being able to eat ice cream or pizza every day while getting ripped!

SEE ALSO: 15 Ways to Gain Lean Mass

POTENTIAL DOWNFALLS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING

One of the biggest downfalls of intermittent fasting is that it is not optimal for maximum muscle gain. If your goal is to get as big as humanly possible, you will need to be in a caloric surplus, consuming protein every 3-5 hours. You will need to spike protein synthesis throughout the day. With intermittent fasting, this can’t be achieved. While this may sound like a bad thing, it will only equate to a 1% difference in the amount of muscle you will gain in a year. It might not be a big drawback, but its better to have all the cards lined out in front of you so you can make an educated decision about intermittent fasting.

Another downfall is that being in a caloric surplus with intermittent fasting is difficult. Intermittent fasting works best during a cut because you get to save more of your calories for your eating window. However, when you're trying to add muscle mass and in a caloric surplus, it can be extremely tough to get down all the calories you need to grow in a eating window. If you are an ectomorph and you require a ton of calories to grow, this may not be the plan for you. However, if you can gain weight on a lower amount of calories, then this can work for bulking.

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