Intermittently Wrong

Thinking about fasting? Be prepared to sacrifice lots of muscle.
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WHERE'S THE SCIENCE?

After weeks of digging through research, all I found to test the power of IF was a single study done on humans. One study, that’s all. It describes the results of an every-other-day fasting schedule on body composition. Two things came out of this study.

  1. Over the long term, there was no difference in total lipid, protein, or carb utilization compared with a standard diet.
  2. The study showed that IF decreases metabolism over time.

Other studies done on Ramadan fasting—even ones that control and match calories intact between experimental groups—demonstrate the same result: For fasts of 14–36 hours, there’s no benefit. Only cost.

These results explain what happened to me and why I was unable to maintain my physique and my performance. If you’re starting with a high level of body fat, this can mask muscle loss and help you maintain strength for a while. But if you’re looking for more, you won’t be happy with anticatabolic protocols that allow catabolic reactions to run rampant. For the reasons outlined thus far, it makes each training session severely catabolic.

THE MISSING INGREDIENT

One thing that’s always overlooked with regard to IF is the fact that the body responds to both nutrient restriction and carbohydrate restriction, taking different actions with the two. Your body is highly sensitive to nutrient availability and energy balance. Take away energy (read: food) or overtax the system, and two things happen: Anabolic processes shut down, and catabolic processes start up.

Take carbs out of the diet and reintroduce them at the correct time, and you get all of the benefits of IF. In contrast, if you take all food out of your diet and re-feed, you’re suddenly adding in a batch of anti-anabolic, catabolic effects. Carbs are the drug here, not simply food.

THE ANSWER

My training hasn’t changed much, but I re-embraced the magic of carb backloading, gained weight, and got my abs back thanks to a crazy new supplement known as food.

Your first fast-breaking nutrition should prolong fat burning, and trigger muscle growth and repair. It doesn’t need to be much, but it needs to be something—a shake, perhaps. Don’t completely fast longer than 12 hours, ever. If you stop eating two hours before bed, then sleep eight hours, your first meal should occur within two or three hours of waking. This way, you’ll get all the purported benefits of IF—with none of the catabolic downside that comes with sticking to it religiously. FLEX

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