Intermittent Fasting

Building muscle mass while losing fat. How is it done?  

Intermittent fasting has become very popular in recent years due to its multiple health tips benefits and mainly as a method of weight loss .

One thing that is not widespread, however, is that with appropriate modifications in combinations, intermittent fasting can be used for fat loss and parallel increase in muscle mass .  

When we hear the word fasting in our minds we mean deprivation, great hunger or even starvation. In fact, things are completely different.

Intermittent fasting is actually the consumption of all meals (and consequently calories) within a specific time frame of the day (e.g. within 8 hours). Throughout the rest of the day we do not consume even 1 calorie, in liquid or solid form.

Our body will not be hungry nor will it be deprived of nutrients, as long as your meals are complete and of good quality.

In simple words, you consume all your meals in one window, for example 8 hours. Even in English the word breakfast which means breakfast comes from the break (stop / break) + fast (fasting).

In England it is customary for the big meal of the day to be the afternoon (dinner). Then either eat something very light for the evening or absolutely nothing. During the night we do not eat anything anyway, so breakfast comes to interrupt the abstinence – fasting from food.  

When we fast intermittently we consume fewer calories

On average, an active man needs 2500 calories a day to maintain his weight and 2000 to lose about half a kilo a week.

On average, an active woman needs 2000 calories a day to maintain her weight and 1500 calories to lose about half a kilo a week.

The above calculation, however, is average. Each person has a unique metabolism, muscular system and daily life (work, activities, hormonal profile, exercise, etc.)

However, when we miss a meal without replenishing calories in the next meal, we easily create an energy deficit. Simply put, we consume fewer calories than we expend, which  leads to gradual  loss weight.

Do we lose muscle mass when we do intermittent fasting?  

Almost all the studies that have been done on intermittent fasting concern weight loss.

We must point out if we do NOT gain weight we will lose both fat and muscle tissue. Weight training is a prerequisite for maintaining our muscle mass.

This applies not only to intermittent fasting but also to all other diets.

If our goal is to increase our muscle mass by taking intermittent fasting, we should definitely do weight training at least 3 times a week.

If your goal is to increase muscle mass, from a nutritional point of view along with the breakfast and the training program you should eat more calories than we burn on a daily basis.

Research, as we will see below, has shown that intermittent fasting may help maintain muscle mass better than other diets. However, by itself it does NOT increase lean body mass.

The increase in lean muscle mass occurs when there is initially the external stimulus (weight training). Second, we need to eat more calories than we burn throughout the day.

This is a relative difficulty as in a “narrow” period of 8 hours we have to eat enough calories in total.

A very important factor for the increase of muscle mass is the intake of  good quality protein of high biological value and high index of NPU (net protein utilization).

The process of fasting increases the metabolic rate

One study found that fasting for 2 days  increased the basal resting metabolism by 3.6%.

A second study found that the metabolic rate increases by 11% after 3 days of fasting, which means that you burn more calories when you are completely calm.

Throughout the day without extra activity you will have burned more calories.

However, fasting for longer periods of time in the end slows down the metabolism and there is a risk of loss of muscle tissue.

Intermittent fasting protocols differ from long-term fasting and in no way lead to a stage of “starvation” and loss of muscle mass. Intermittent fasting when performed correctly does not adversely affect metabolism.

Fasting increases growth hormone levels, which is essential for increasing muscle mass

There is insufficient research on intermittent fasting itself and muscle building. However, there are clear results that show an increase in growth hormone levels up to 5 times!

High levels of the growth hormone HGH as a result of fasting are the key to both fast recovery after hard workouts and to gaining lean muscle mass faster.  

The results conclude that if the diet and training program are properly adjusted, if a break is followed, we can result in an increase in lean muscle mass.

Weight training helps maintain or increase muscle mass along with intermittent fasting

A prerequisite for maintaining or increasing muscle mass when one is on a fat loss program is weight training even in old age.

Studies confirm the same for the case of intermittent fasting in the context of fat loss.

An 8-week study looked at the combination of intermittent fasting and weight training 3 times a week.

The researchers divided the 34 people who participated in the study into 2 groups. All individuals have been training regularly with weights for years.

The first group followed an 8:16 intermittent fasting program (consuming all meals within 8 hours – for 16 consecutive hours they abstained completely from food). The second group followed a regular diet.  

Both groups were given the same number of calories and grams of protein. The only change was in the timing of the meals.

At the end of the study, no loss of muscle mass or strength was observed in any of the 2 groups. However, in the group that followed an intermittent fast, a reduction of 1.6 kg of fat was observed, while in the 2nd there was no change in the percentage of fat.  

The results show that weight training 3 times a week helps maintain muscle mass while losing fat when followed by regular intermittent fasting.  

In any case, if your goal is to increase muscle mass by following a break fasting program, weight training should be hard and high-intensity.

Training protocols must be followed where in each set we will reach complete muscle exhaustion while techniques such as drop sets or negative repetitions will be applied.

Ideally each muscle group should be trained 2 times a week at intervals of 48 to 96 hours.

Another necessary condition for tumor growth is a good night’s sleep. Hard training requires a good quality of sleep at night which should last about 8 hours.

Do we need to train with weights during the fasting time window?

A 4-week study was performed on 20 women who exercised on a treadmill 3 times a week. Half followed an intermittent fasting program while the rest did not.

Both groups lost the same percentage of fat and pounds on average. No loss of muscle mass was observed in any of the 2 groups.

However, there is a possibility that training during fasting will affect performance, especially if you are a high level athlete.

This is the main reason why the studies that examined the results of intermittent fasting in parallel with weight training did not plan the training to take place during the fasting period.

In fact it is purely a matter of preference. If we do a hard workout with weights while fasting we will not have better results.

Most likely we will not perform as well as we will feel that we do not have so much energy.

In any case, if you want to exercise during fasting, it would be good at the end of the exercise to consume at least 20 grams of protein of high biological value within 1 hour.

Dietary supplements during intermittent fasting.  

If your goal is to increase your volume, you may want to consider taking a diet supplement along with your training program to get better results.

If you follow a break fasting program at the same time you will surely wonder when you should take the supplements and if they will have any effect on the breakfast.   

The truth is that some supplements enhance the action and results of intermittent fasting while others interrupt it as they signal to the brain that fasting has stopped!

Nutritional supplements for the time window we eat

The two main dietary supplements when it comes to weight loss are protein and creatine. However , omega 3 fatty acids have a beneficial effect  as they indirectly contribute to the growth and reconstruction of muscle tissue.

When trying to lose fat, adequate protein intake is essential. However, the same thing happens when we are in a program to increase muscle mass.

Several studies have shown that a high-protein diet helps maintain muscle mass when trying to lose fat.

In a weight loss program, along with exercise, it is recommended to take 1.6g of protein per kilo of body weight. For example, an 80 kg man should consume at least 128g of protein.

If you generally eat good quality food you probably do not need a protein supplement. However, when fasting intermittently, due to the narrow range of 8 hours you have to consume a large number of calories, large meals may not be as digestible and protein absorption may be low.  

Protein supplements have been shown to have a beneficial effect on people who exercise intensively at high intensity and contribute both to the rebuilding of muscle tissue, to the increase of muscle mass and to performance.

In addition to protein supplements, creatine is especially popular as a supplement in tumor growth programs. It is estimated that creatine increases strength by 5-10% on average.

Supplements for the time window we are fasting

Many will wonder if they should take a dietary supplement during fasting where we eat absolutely nothing.

Some will consider taking a protein supplement, amino acids BCAA or creatine during this time, believing that complete abstinence from food will damage muscles or cause loss of muscle mass.

We must remember that the purpose of intermittent fasting is different. It is the increase of metabolism, the possible burning of fat and the strengthening of the immune system.

In any case, studies have shown that there is no loss of muscle mass due to intermittent fasting.

Many of the benefits of intermittent fasting are due to the fact that we abstain completely from the consumption of nutrients.

If you take supplements such as protein or essential amino acids BCAAs during fasting you are sending a signal to your brain that you are stopping fasting. Even 1 gram of lysine (L-lysine) was found to interrupt the fasting process.

If you get enough good quality protein, high biological value with a high NPU (net protein utilization) index during the day you consume your food, your muscles are not at risk.

Supplements that you can take while fasting without “spoiling” the fast are usually those that do not have calories such as vitamins, multivitamins, some fat burners.

However, if your goal is to line up with a parallel increase in muscle mass, the Health team suggests that you get to know the specialized package of 3 nutritional supplements

Also Read : Should You Train On An Empty Stomach?

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