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Bodybuilding and fasting: Two concepts that generally don’t go together at all.
Pick up any bodybuilding magazine from the last 30 years and you’re guaranteed to find an article promoting the importance of eating every two to three hours to keep your levels of muscle protein topped up and to prevent your hard earned muscle breaking down. You see this so often it has to be true, right?
Well, not necessarily. As amazing as it might sound, you really don’t need to eat every few hours to build muscle.
The idea that frequent eating boosts your metabolism and aids weight loss has been debunked for quite some time, but it still seems that bodybuilders are holding on to these beliefs. It’s not surprising really. Seeing as you need a high calorie intake to build muscle (usually around 18 calories per pound of body-weight) it would make sense to consume all your calories spaced as evenly as possible throughout the day, rather than not eating for the majority, then trying to squeeze them all into one small window.
But more and more bodybuilders, athletes and even just general gym goers looking to pack on size, are hopping on the intermittent fasting bandwagon.
Diet plans such as Lean Gains, the Warrior Diet and Eat, Stop, Eat, while all originally designed for fat loss purposes are gaining popularity among the bodybuilding community, and for good reason too.
It takes far longer than a few hours for muscle tissue to break down, and even if it was that quick, you’d very soon turn it around again by eating another meal. Besides, your body needs to become catabolic and break down muscle tissue in order to go into an anabolic state and rebuild it again. Training is the catalyst for muscle tissue degradation and nutrition is what builds it again.
Fasting has also been associated with a number of health benefits, including better blood lipid and cholesterol levels, reduced inflammation and better insulin sensitivity. Clearly however, you might still have some concerns about diving head first into an intermittent fasting plan, which we’ll go through later.
One other interesting aspect is post workout nutrition
Bodybuilders have long been advocates of consuming a meal containing protein and carbs (or more often a shake containing these macronutrients) as soon as possible after training to kickstart the recovery process. While there may be some truth in this, and having a meal so soon after training certainly won’t have any negative effects, it doesn’t appear to be necessary.
In fact, the longer you leave it to eat after a session, the more receptive your body is to the foods you give it. Training and then not eating for a whole day might be taking this concept a little too far, but leaving it two to three hours to consume anything after your workout may not be the worst idea in the world. Nutrient partitioning will be improved, meaning your body will make better use of the protein and carbs, and put them all towards recovery, rather than storing or simply excreting them.
Before you decide to take the plunge and try fasting, there’s a lot to consider Just skipping meals here and there or deciding not to eat one day is a recipe for disaster. Building muscle while fasting requires careful consideration.