Intermittent Fasting and Building Muscle: The Definitive Guide


Barry at the gym will probably tell you
that fasting and building muscle
are not compatible. And for a long time,
I echoed this viewpoint. I subscribed to the broscience; I bought all the supplements, and I associated fasting
with a lack of strength. But upon reflection,
I was wrong. Fasting is not bad for building muscle. But nor is it especially beneficial. In reality,
whether someone fasts or not will make little difference
to their muscle building journey. Let me explain. But before we dive in,
let’s clear something up. Fasting will not burn muscle. This seems to be the overwhelming
consensus among gym-goers, but it is not a science-based view. Fasting increases
growth hormone production, which directly operates to
maintain muscle mass. It won’t turn you into the hulk,
but it will minimise muscle loss. Fasting is muscle-sparing.
Not muscle-burning. If we consult the data,
there is nothing to suggest that intermittent fasting
has any negative impact on muscle mass. In fact, perhaps quite the opposite. One study that was published
in the Journal of Translational Medicine in 2016 found that those
who used intermittent fasting during a dieting phase
were able to maintain more muscle mass than those who did not
use fasting If you incorporate fasting
into your lifestyle, you will not be at a disadvantage
in terms of performance at the gym or your potential to build muscle. If fasting did burn muscle,
then we would not be here today. It really is that simple Building and maintaining muscle mass
really is a marathon And it requires equal parts dedication, hard work,
and patience But first,
let’s talk about the fundamentals. Nutrition matters in muscle growth. But some people make it more
complicated than it is. Bodybuilding wisdom has made
the directive rather clear. You need to eat BIG
to get BIG And this may be one of the
few fragments of conventional wisdom that holds some truth, though it has,
in my opinion at least, been wildly exaggerated
over the years. According to the data,
it is necessary to eat in a calorie surplus
to stimulate muscle growth. This means that we need to eat
more than the body requires. and if we are eating
more than we need this means that fat loss
will be off the table while building muscle
is the goal Although some studies have shown
people building muscle and losing fat at the same time, it is quite rare. And usually only seen in people
who are overweight or have very low levels of muscle mass
to begin with. Generally speaking, It is just
a lot more straightforward to stimulate muscle growth if we have excess energy. Just imagine that you’re
building a house. If you have more supplies available,
building the structure becomes a lot easier and
much less stressful. However, consuming more calories
is not the only factor in muscle growth. We also need to consider how much
protein we are consuming. Protein plays a crucial role
in muscle growth because it stimulates muscle protein synthesis. And yes,
I know what you’re thinking, Synthesis is a very hard word
to say And yes,
it did take me several attempts to
say it correctly This is the body repairing
and rebuilding the muscle tissue that we broke down in the gym,
so it can grow back bigger and stronger. This may come as a shock to some people,
as they believe that their muscles are growing while they are working out
in the gym, but the opposite is true. When we lift weights, we are putting
the muscles under stress and breaking them down, which is why it is important
to allow them time to recover. Training is just one piece
of the puzzle. We also require adequate nutrition
and recovery for our muscles to grow. Exactly how much protein
we should consume has generated a fair amount of debate
over the years. In bodybuilding folklore, the common
advice is to aim for one gram of protein per pound of body weight,
or 2.2 grams per kilo of bodyweight. However, measuring protein intake
according to total body weight is something of a flawed approach. According to this method, a 250lb person
with very high levels of body fat would have to aim to
consume 250 grams of protein per day. And this is not only quite
difficult to do, it is also totally unnecessary
for their body composition. A better way to approach the question
would be to take the same equation but measure protein intake
according to lean body mass instead, which is body weight minus body fat. For example, my total body weight is
210 pounds/95 kilograms, and I’m sitting at around roughly
10 percent body fat. Therefore, I can roughly estimate that
my lean body mass will be around 189 pounds/85.5 kilograms, and that
would leave me with a target of 190 grams of protein per day if the goal was to build as much
muscle as possible. but even that number
seems quite excessive, and I have been
building muscle with less but it’s not a bad target to aim for,
and that’s my whole point as long as we are aiming high
regarding our protein intake it will usually be enough. it’s really not worth getting hung up
on the exact numbers unless we are planning to take
bodybuilding to a competitive
or professional level. My personal advice, though it is not a rigorous measurement
by any stretch of the imagination, is to simply prioritise
protein in your nutrition. Make it a priority, and just
try to eat a lot of it. That’s it. I have spent many years
meticulously tracking my protein intake and worrying
if I was eating enough. Nowadays,
I just make it a priority in my meals. And given how I’ve still been
able to make progress without stressing over the details, it seems to be an approach
that served me well. Protein is important, so the question is
will you be able to eat enough if you only have a short window
in which to do so? Some people struggle to eat enough
when they only have a small window
in which to eat If this is an issue for you,
then just extend the feeding window. The vast majority of people
will find that incorporating fasting while focusing on muscle growth allows them to eat enough to
stimulate muscle growth without going overboard. In fact, incorporating fasting
is the perfect way to carry out what is known
as a lean bulk, which comprises putting on muscle mass
without the added fluff. Then we come to the next pillar of
muscle growth, which is training. Many people are unsure whether to train
in the fasted state or the fed state. But it really makes little difference
to the big picture. Personally, I much prefer
fasted training. In fact, I cannot even remember
the last time that I didn’t train
in the fasted state I find that my most explosive
sessions come when I’m deep into a fast. But of course, everyone
is going to be different. The most important factor is
to find your preference. The pursuit of building muscle
is a very long journey so it’s important to find a way to
enjoy the process of training. In my case, fasted state training is
superior for muscle growth because I enjoy it and it’s something
that I can maintain for the long run. Building muscle takes time. So find the approach that feels
most sustainable for you. Training for muscle growth
is simple it’s not easy,
but it is simple. What we need to focus on
is progressive overload and a very simplified way
to explain progressive overload is with the story of
Milo of Croton Milo was an Ancient Greek athlete
and renowned wrestler he began his quest
to get big by carrying around a baby calf
every day and as the calf grew,
so did Milo the calf grew heavier
until it was a fully grown bull which in turn increased Milo’s
muscle mass and strength The body can adapt to a
broad range of challenges and it can certainly adapt to the
demands of resistance training so to continue making gains,
we must progressively increase the stress to our muscles
as they become stronger. Think like Milo,
and his growing baby bull. There are two main methods
to overload the muscle, we can increase the resistance,
by using more weight in our exercises or we can increase the volume,
by doing more reps, sets, or exercises and the optimal approach is usually
a mixture of the two. Now, that’s not to say that
I will have to keep increasing the training volume until I’m doing
hundreds of sets and spending hours in the gym but it’s something of
an alternation. For example, let’s say that one week
I’m bicep curling with 12 kg dumbbells for ten reps the next week, I might consider
increasing the volume by doing twelve reps with the same resistance the week after that, I might then
consider increasing the resistance by using 14 kg dumbells, but shifting
back down to a rep range of 10 reps and you can see this is where
the alternation pattern begins by the way, I should add
that this is just an example I wouldn’t make progress this quickly,
nor would I aim to another tool in the overload box is to
increase the intensity of a workout this means reducing the rest time
between sets I recommend using a mixture of all three
of these methods to keep your training fresh
and ensure progress something else that we must consider
when discussing training is over-training. over-training is when the body becomes
fatigued from too much stress. To avoid it, the American College of
Sports Medicine recommend that we change resistance and training volume
in increments of 2.5% to 5% per week. Remember, it’s a very long game.
Slow and steady wins the race. Now, the best advice I can give you
in terms of working out is to keep a training log
and plan your workouts ahead of time trust me this will be the best that you ever do
in your journey to build muscle it’s the most efficient method
of tracking progress and being able to see progress you have
made over time will keep you motivated it’s also going to save you
a lot of time because you will know what you’re doing
before you get to the gym and you don’t need me to tell you that saving time will greatly enhance
your quality of life when making plans,
think big when making progress,
think small focus on making gradual increases over a
long period of time and the gains will come moving on to the subject of planning
your nutrition around training let’s say that you train
in the fasted state when should you be aiming
to break your fast? the common answer is that we should
eat as soon as we finish training and although many swear by their
immediate post-workout protein shake it is perhaps not as important
as previously thought in the bodybuilding world, there used to
be something known as the anabolic window this was a concept in which many people
believed that a decent amount of protein had to be consumed
within the hour following a workout in order to optimise
muscle growth I even thought this myself
not so long ago in fact, it was probably the main reason
why I bought protein powder because of course, it’s a lot easier to
bring a protein shake to the gym than a tupperware
full of cold chicken breast and this idea is perhaps why so many
people feel the need to consume protein as soon as they finish working out, and
sometimes panic if they cannot do so but luckily for us,
these worries have been misplaced a comprehensive review
published in the Journal of the International Society
of Sports Nutrition shed light on the validity
of the anabolic window and the researchers found that this
window did not exist they concluded that the most important
factor in muscle growth regarding nutrition is the total
nutrient intake regardless of the timing if we take a deep dive
into the literature it would seem that eating sooner rather
than later following a workout is optimal for muscle growth but, and it’s quite an important but we are dealing with
very fine margins here the differences are so slight,
that unless someone is planning to take bodybuilding to a
competitive or professional level, I really would not
worry about it my advice to you is simply aim to break
your fast soon after training but if you cant, don’t worry.
It’s really not that important. For about a year, I would train first
thing in the morning before work and not break my fast until I got home
that evening at around 6pm that meant that there would usually
be around nine hours between my work-out
and my first meal of the day nowadays, I train in the afternoon, and
i’m able to eat very shortly after and I much prefer
what I’m doing now being able to eat straight after working
out – it just feels right and I have to say that
training makes me hungry so having to fast after working out
can be tricky but my point is my rate of progress was
very similar during both approaches now, another factor that I’m of course
going to have to mention in this discussion
are supplements and I’ll keep it
very simple supplements in a nutshell:
you do not need them as a young man, I spent plenty
of money on supplements thinking that they would be beneficial
in my quest to build muscle but really,
it was just a waste people often ask me about BCAA’s and
whether they break a fast or not but I always say that this shouldn’t be
a concern because we don’t need to take them
in the first place however I did cover that one in quite
some detail in a previous video so I won’t be diving into that one
today now, if you’re someone who struggles to
consume enough protein then protein powder
might be worth it but remember, there’s nothing
inherently special about protein powder in the context
of building muscle it is just another source
of protein so protein powder can be useful,
but generally speaking I wouldn’t worry about supplements actually, apart from one without a doubt, the best, BEST,
supplement for building muscle and actually, pretty much everything
else, is a good night’s sleep ye jist cannae beat it a good night’s sleep has the power
to solve 99% of life’s problems, so make sure
you’re getting enough of that one and it’s free as well,
which always helps and, generally speaking,
quite pleasurable so now it’s time for everyones favourite
part: the conclusion!
the summary!
the end. the question is: can you build
muscle with intermittent fasting? and the answer is yes.
Of course you can. in building muscle, it is the
fundamentals that are key whether someone does intermittent
fasting or not really makes
little difference if you can the basic principles of
training, nutrition and recovery then you will be able to build muscle
even if you choose to fast for twenty-three hours of the
twenty-four in a day likewise, whether you choose to train
in the fasted state or the fed state again makes little difference ultimately, what matters most
is your preference because, like I say, it’s a
very long journey so you’ve got to be able
to enjoy it focus on nailing the fundamentals don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t fall for the fitness
industry marketing hype because lord knows there’s an awful lot
of it going around alright guys, I hope this was helpful.
If you’ve got any questions at all you can leave a comment below or find me
on Instagram @goodlifetheory thank you for watching
and as always, much love.

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Reader Comments

  1. Marcus George

    Excellent information. You just saved your entire generation a great deal of time and money. I wish my generation would've had you and the internet to help us along the path. We waisted so much capital and energy on all the myths out there. It took me years of digging to reach the exact same conclusions. Sleep as the best supplement is spot on. Well done, my friend. Very well done.

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