Intermittent fasting seems to be the latest fad, but is it just that?
Many people swear by a regimen of intermittent fasting and working out. Hard science shows that there are some serious benefits to adopting it as a lifestyle choice as well but many people are still on the fence.
If you’ve been looking for a bit of quick education on the process then look no further. Read on and I’ll show you how it’s done and why you should consider it.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting refers to a complete overhaul of what most people consider a “normal” eating pattern.
There are three main variations:
- Alternate Day Fasting-On the first day the person takes in less than 25% of their estimated caloric requirements, followed by a day in which they can eat however they’d like.
- Periodic Fasting-The person skips a whole day or two per week of eating, often in a row. In many cases there’s still an allowance of ~500 calories per day, or around 25% of normal energy requirements. This is followed by a period of “feast days.”
- Time-Restricted Feeding-Where a person fasts for most of the day and then allows for some amount of time to eat whatever they want. The most common split is 16 hours of fasting to 8 hours of eating.
If you’re planning on seriously working out while engaging in intermittent fasting then time-restricted feeding is the best way to approach things, otherwise, you may not gain as much benefit from your exercise. The body needs food as fuel, after all, and doubly so after exercising. Your workout may also suffer if you decide to get in a session on a day when you’re fasting, which makes it a one-two punch against your gains.
The goal of alternate-day fasting or periodic fasting should still be to cut down calories. Despite the marketing claims you don’t exactly want to load yourself up on hamburgers and ice cream in between… the caloric deficit is still what matters when it comes to weight loss.
Regardless of the way that you go about it, there are a few key things that you need to know about intermittent fasting before making the commitment.
What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
The benefits seem to be the same across the board: improved markers of health are often found with intermittent fasting. That includes both intermittent-fasting and time-restricted feeding.
The benefits seem to include lower blood pressure, lower risk of diabetes, and even reduced inflammation.
Reduced body fat, which is what most people engage in IF for, is also a common benefit. It would seem that fasting improves health overall in addition to decreasing the practitioner’s weight. That’s a big bonus for those who have the will to engage in it.
The main drawback seems to be fairly subjective: many subjects found that they were excessively hungry on days where they were fasting.
The problem comes in when we realize that many of these studies didn’t include an exercise routine. Exercise can increase the caloric needs of the person working out, so it’s important to put that into perspective for those who are looking to get in gym sessions in the meantime.
So, What About Intermittent Fasting and Working Out?
When you’re combining any form of intermittent fasting alongside a serious exercise routine you’ll need to take more into account than you would on a normal diet.
For instance, if you opt for the 5:2 split that some people prefer for their intermittent fasting then it’s probably not a wise idea to engage in heavy weightlifting on the days that you’re fasting. It’ll just lead to a lower quality workout.
Alternate day fasting or periodic fasting are both bad ideas for those who are looking to gain muscle. You’ll take in fewer calories and the chances of muscle breakdown, especially in a hard gainer with a fast metabolism, are much higher.
However, for those who are focusing on weight loss, or even cutting, can adopt a strategic plan for their workouts to maximize their potential gain while reducing calorie intake overall. The adoption of a solid exercise routine alongside IF can increase the health marker improvements seen with just intermittent fasting as well.
Hard gainers, on the other hand, can be well served by a restricted feeding time-variant, provided that they’re still able to get the caloric surplus they need during the feeding window they’ve chosen. Aiming for 500-1000 calories more than they require for maintenance should be fairly easy in an 8-hour window.
Who Should Try Intermittent Fasting?
The bottom line is that intermittent fasting seems to improve the health of practitioners but it’s definitely not for everyone. If you’re still on the fence and you’re planning on keeping up a great workout routine in the meantime then you should structure your workout around your plan for eating.
It’s definitely not for everyone. If you’re looking to gain muscle you may be better served with a 6-8 meal a day plan which will keep your nutrient levels up and allow you more time to get the caloric surplus you need.
Likewise, those with poor self-control won’t get much benefit even if they’re looking to lose weight. Engaging in an endless spree of starving and binge eating can lead to much worse results than just trying to lower calories per day by a smaller amount.
The Bottom Line About Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting isn’t a miracle but it’s not just another fad either: it’s another way of improving your health that may or may not be a good tactic to use depending on how you approach it and your own personal makeup.
Consider carefully, especially if your overall goal is to gain muscle. But with some strategy, it’s almost never a bad choice. It just may not be the best for your particular situation.