I’m incredibly honored to bring you today’s post – courtesy of Vit Kashchuk, editor of www.eatstopeat.org! Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat is one of the foundational intermittent fasting protocols in existence, and a major inspiration for my book The What When Wine Diet. When they contacted me about writing this guest post, I just about died. Plus, I get asked this question about maintaining or even building muscle while fasting, all the time. Enjoy!
Current research shows that short-term fasting is actually good for your muscles, thanks to increased growth hormone, cellular cleansing, and muscle protein synthesis. However, in this post you will not encounter any scientific findings on the subject. Instead, you’ll learn a simple yet unconventional theory. This theory explains how you can gain muscle on an intermittent fasting diet and how the conventional bodybuilding theory of overloading on calories in order to gain muscle has the potential to cause undesired weight gain.
Our theory is that the “natural” state for your body is one of growth with a system of factors that work together to prevent constant growth. In other words, imagine having a car with the accelerator permanently on, and you have to change the speed by pushing down or releasing the brake. However, in your body’s case, there are hundreds of brakes.
If “growth” is your default setting, you don’t need to force growth through eating huge amounts of food. If growth is what you want, you need to look at the “brakes” in place that stop growth. However, these “brakes” are not a bad thing; after all, no one wants uncontrolled, unstoppable growth!
These brakes are both internal and external. This means they can come from within your own body (such as the myostatin gene which prevents your muscles from growing) or from outside sources (such as not working out or having excessive amounts of inflammation in the body). Compare this to the current accepted theory, which is that an adult body stops growing and must be stimulated and forced in order to grow more.
Our theory explains the inconsistency of recommendations such as protein or calorie intake for building muscles. For example, a nutrient deficiency can be a “brake” that prevents muscle growth. Once you start consuming the appropriate amounts of protein or calories, then adding more food does nothing to encourage more muscle growth. Think of it this way: once a brake is off, it’s off.
That is why you can achieve muscle growth with intermittent fasting. It’s important that you continue to consume a sufficient level of protein and calories in order to encourage muscle growth. If you do that, and cultivate muscle growth with exercise such as resistance training, your muscles can and will grow.
There is no hard and fast number regarding the sufficient level of nutrients you should consume; it varies entirely based on your body weight, lifestyle, and training goals.
Take the example of a 5’1” woman with an inactive lifestyle besides her 2-3 workouts on a
weekly basis. She may be able to lose fat and build muscle on a restrictive diet of 1,200-1,500 calories per day.
Meanwhile, a 6’4” man who burns many calories at work and works out for 3 hours daily may not be able to build muscle at even a such a high number as 5,000 calories per day. So keep in mind that it will take trial and error to find the right caloric and protein intake to match your body and your desired results.
Also, be aware that the recommended intake of calories and protein can change as your lifestyle changes. Let’s imagine that the 5’1” woman suddenly increased her daily activity levels. Her 1,500-calorie daily intake would most likely not be sufficient. By the same token, if the 6’4” man only exercised for 1 hour per day, then his prior 4,000-5,000 calorie intake could potentially make him become overweight in a matter of months.
Bottom line – yes, you can build muscle by using intermittent fasting. Short-term deficits like restricted calories do not affect factors like muscle growth. Adequate nutrient consumption for muscle growth does not have to mean maintenance for body weight. Remember, the exact number of calories or protein needed for muscle growth can change along with external factors like activity levels. If we keep that in mind, we can see why huge surpluses of calories are not the answer. The real answer is that determining nutrient adequ
acy for muscle growth is much better for your health. But this answer is harder to identify than most muscle-building experts let on. This is why this theory is not as well known as conventional bodybuilding theories despite its potential for greater success.
This post was contributed by Vit Kashchuk, fat loss coach, intermittent fasting proponent and editor of www.eatstopeat.org