Does Intermittent Fasting Work For Bodybuilders?
A few of months ago after I finished bulking for the year; I began to contemplate different dieting methods that could help me get me back in shape. After a couple of days of research, I narrowed it down to either Intermittent Fasting (IF) or a Keto Diet. I was fully aware that both of these dieting styles were very extreme but nonetheless, I decided to give one of them a try and went with IF. Now here I am, a bodybuilder that's four months into a diet asking himself if it was all worth it. So, does Intermittent Fasting work for bodybuilding purposes? Here's what I have to say regarding my brief experience with it.
Before I tried this crazy diet, I was eating three regular meals a day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I'm a natural bodybuilder but I could care less about competing and eating six tasteless meals a day. I was bulking and eating whatever I wanted within reason; the diet wasn't completely clean but it wasn't that dirty either. I decided to do a cutting cycle because I was tired of being too heavy and not fitting into regular clothes. My goal with this new venture was to get as lean as possible -but not shredded- in approximately twenty weeks.
If you're not very familiar with Intermittent Fasting, I'll give you a quick introduction. This dieting method basically consists of being in a fasted state for an average of sixteen hours; this can easily be achieved by eating the last meal of the day early and skipping breakfast the next. I don't know about you but when I was a kid I was always thought that breakfast was the most important meal of the day- and I still believe that.
As soon as I started my “journey” with IF, I came to realize just how much I loved breakfast and how dearly I was going to miss it. The first few days were absolutely miserable and I hated my life, but I still followed through. After the first week concluded, I quickly noticed that my whole physique had noticeably begun to shrink. My clothes were beginning to feel baggy, my pants weren't as tight, and my stomach didn't feel as bloated.
If you do some research on the general benefits of Intermittent Fasting, you will see a lot of positive feedback. Studies have shown that fasting raises your HGH production, insulin sensitivity, and your metabolism's working rate. Experts also claim that it promotes cell repair, cardiovascular health, diminishes inflammation – and reduces the effects of aging.
At the end of the day, I can't really tell you if I experienced any changes that could be backed up scientifically; but I did notice a few benefits. For the most part, my energy levels went up a bit, my strength didn't really change, and I lost quite a bit of weight during the first couple of weeks. My hunger for breakfast faded and I felt comfortable with only eating lunch and dinner.
The downside of this diet and its biggest flaw is that it's very extreme and not bodybuilder friendly. Even though I managed to lose a lot of weight during the first few weeks -results began to fade soon after. Once weeks three and four rolled around the corner; my weight quit going down and began to rise again. Although I managed to lower my body fat levels – my overall muscular development took a huge hit.
I based my results on how I was looking and feeling – I didn't use a scale or caliper to measure my progress. I attribute my weight loss to the drastic change that my body and metabolism underwent – not the diet itself. As soon as I completely eliminated hundreds of calories from my daily diet; my body had no other choice but to adapt to the changes that I was making.
I stuck with Intermittent Fasting for a bit longer just to be sure and saw my waist and stomach increase in size as the days went by. My newly found vascularity and definition began to slowly fade away and I began to feel tired and lethargic. Not long after, I got a cold that I attribute to my immune system's poor strength from being deprived of the extra nutrients that it was accustomed to.
Once I confirmed that I was wasting my time with the diet – I decided to go back to my traditional methods and ended up incorporating a variation of the IIFYM diet. I managed to quickly repair my metabolism and restart the cutting process. After a month or so of dieting this way; I decided to do a few days of IF just for the kick of it and it pretty much confirmed my overall thoughts. I'll go into detail and share my general opinion at the end of the article.
The Best Diet For Bodybuilders
I've always been very practical when it comes down to how I approach bodybuilding. I think that eating every couple of hours to maintain an anabolic state is ridiculous and uncalled for. This doesn't mean that it doesn't work for a lot of people out there because I'm sure that it does; especially for competitive bodybuilders. But that's the thing, I'm not a competitive bodybuilder and I could care less about stepping on stage.
I love to train and I really enjoy to eat, so I'm pretty old-school when it comes to working out and dieting. I'm a firm believer in listening to your body and doing what it asks of you. Once I saw that IF wasn't going to cut it (no pun intended) – I switched my game plan and did the complete opposite. I began to eat breakfast, and my other two meals (lunch and dinner) saw an increase in calories.
My physique began to fill out and my waist actually started to shrink again; veins started popping and I was back on track. After a few weeks, I noticed that my progress slowed down so I lowered my calories a bit for one of my three meals. Once that stopped working, I upped half the calories back and added ten minutes of cardio every other day to my routine. Since then, I've been repeating the same cycle; making small changes every week.
I've successfully managed to consistently drop body fat and maintain most of my lean muscle mass through the cycle. It's been a very enjoyable process as I honestly haven't had a difficult time playing around with it. I feel like training and eating instinctively will always yield the best results for a bodybuilder. I'm sure that you can see faster results by doing an aggressive diet but it's not going to be very enjoyable. The best bodybuilding diet will always be the one that produces the best results with the smallest amount of effort.
Intermittent Fasting is definitely a bad option for any bodybuilder that wants to maintain as much lean muscle mass as possible while cutting. Although this method does work – it works best for short periods of time and particularly at the beginning of a diet. Relying on it for extended periods of time is counterproductive and will lead to a crashed metabolism. I personally feel that IF is better suited as a plateau-breaking tool than a diet. I can see it being successfully used for a couple of days (on and off) at a time (not weeks) during a dieting period.
If you are considering trying Intermittent Fasting for leaning out – you'll probably want to look at other methods. I would personally recommend for you to start playing around with your calories and cardio, and go from there. It's always important to make sure that you consult with an expert that can guide you and answer any of your questions. I don't consider myself an expert and I simply wrote this article to share my opinion on Intermittent Fasting from a bodybuilder's perspective.