Good Day fellow lifters! Today we are blessed indeed as in our house, is no other than the great Mangan of Rouge Health and Fitness! I have been an avid follower of Pd Mangan from the days of Mangan’s drift, where he compiled several studies and researches about health, fitness, and nutrition. Today he will share with us about intermittent fasting and its application to us, lifters and muscleheadz! So enjoy! Eat your eggs!!
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In case you are curious, here’s a photo of a 60 something Mangan, still kickin’ ass!
My friend George here at About Lifting asked me to write a guest post on
intermittent fasting, so what I want to do here is show you lifters in the audience
why you might want to consider practicing intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (from now on, IF) is merely the practice of going without food
for a given length of time, which can vary greatly. Before I get into why that can
be a good thing for weightlifters, let’s look at the science and rationale for the
Our human ancestors lived in the hunter-gatherer phase for approximately 99% of the
time that humans have existed, and only 1% of the time have we lived in the
agricultural era, and some tiny fraction of that have we been in the industrial era.
As a result, our genes are adapted to that hunter-gatherer environment; when we live
in ways that are not consistent with that, then our health becomes worse. To stay
healthy, we should pay attention to how our ancestors lived, whether that is in the
realm of food or physical activity.
Hunter-gatherers have little means of food preservation, and therefore, their food must be hunted and gathered daily. As a consequence, they do not eat three squares a day plus snacks. The typical pattern with them seems to be that they hunt and gather during the day, and then cook and prepare food at the end of the day and eat one huge meal.
Besides that, shortages of game or tubers to eat would have meant that they would go for stretches of time, even days perhaps sometimes, without eating. This is what we are adapted to. The practice of eating constantly is an unhealthy habit, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, and worse. “Grazing”, or eating more or less constantly, is an unhealthy practice.
Humans and other organisms have natural physiological rhythms that coincide with
what scientists refer to as the fed and fasted states, which are just what they
sound like. When we eat, protein synthesis – such as in muscles – increases, and
food energy is stored for later use. When we fast, the process called autophagy
kicks in, breaking down muscle and fat for use by the body. We need both of these
processes to work well if we want to stay healthy and avoid disease.
Fasting strongly up-regulates autophagy. The usual fast that most people do, which
is overnight between dinner and breakfast, is enough to do this, such that autophagy
is most strongly activated in the early morning hours. As we age, this process
declines in amplitude, but fasting for longer than overnight can increase autophagy
to youthful levels.
The physiological response to
Increasing the process of autophagy is one of the physiological responses to
fasting. This makes sense, since when we go without food, our bodies need
nourishment, and this is supplied through breaking down cellular elements. Those
elements that are broken down are preferentially old organelles and misfolded
proteins that have passed their expiration dates. Thus, autophagy breaks down old
tissues and prepares the way for renewal with the building of new tissue.
Another response to fasting is the lowering of insulin levels. When this occurs, fat
cells are allowed to break down triglycerides for release into the bloodstream. In
this way, fat loss is sped up.
The scientist Mark Mattson, who studies aging, has written of three intermittent
challenges to health. (Dose-Response.) These three challenges that are essential for
good health are exercise, the exposure to toxins in fruits and vegetables, and
fasting. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors faced these three challenges daily. In our
modern world, we don’t get enough exercise, we eat processed food, and we never go
very long without eating, and our health suffers for it.
Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting
Calorie restriction, that is, restricting food by more than 30% or so of what
animals will eat if they’re allowed to, has been shown to be the most robust
health-giving and life-extending practice of anything yet tried.
Calorie restriction does have a down side, however, and that is that most animals –
and people – who practice it aren’t too happy: they’re cold and have less energy and
libido. Calorie restriction may also conduce to frailty and lower immune response.
But, intermittent fasting appears to have all the advantages of calorie restriction
with none of the drawbacks. (PNAS.) The reason for this is that fasting mimics calorie
restriction, but during the fed state, more food than normal is eaten, so that the
number of calories eaten remains nearly the same as for someone (or an animal) who
does not fast. Therefore a strong body in full health can be maintained.
Why should weightlifters fast?
OK, so maybe you’re young and in decent health and aren’t terribly interested in
fasting for anti-aging and health purposes. And you lift weights. So why should you
be interested in IF?
Probably the biggest reason is for fat loss. Having a low body fat percentage, or
being “ripped”, is just as important for bodybuilders as having large muscle mass.
IF can help with fat loss.
Most bodybuilders – I see I’m using “bodybuilders” and “weightlifters”
interchangeably here – will probably be concerned that fasting will cause them to
lose muscle. After all, standard advice for bodybuilders is to eat many meals a day
so that one never gets out of the fed state, in order for muscles to be constantly
supplied with nutrients.
Muscle loss appears to be a non-issue with IF. Going without food strongly increases
levels of growth hormone (Journal of Clinical Investigation); meals actually suppress growth hormone secretion.
The function of increased growth hormone secretion from fasting appears to be to
protect lean tissue and allow fat to be burned.
Another aspect is that after a fast, whatever muscle is broken down is quickly
rebuilt upon feeding. This is the natural rhythm of our bodies: breakdown followed
An intermittent fasting schedule for
If I’ve given you enough reasons for wanting to practice IF, the next question is,
how do you implement it?
IF has almost as many variations as there are practitioners, but for bodybuilders –
I’m one myself – there are some additional considerations.
For experienced bodybuilders, the increase in muscle protein synthesis caused by lifting weights lasts about 24 hours. (For beginners, that period is longer, about 48 hours.) Therefore, after a weight session at the gym you want to be well fed. No fasting for a minimum of 24 hours after you work out.
Now, I lift once every three days. The schedule that works best for me is this:
- Day 1, lift heavy, followed by eating adequate food and protein for that day.
- Day 2, I also eat well, with only light exercise (such as walking). After dinner in the evening of day 2, my fast begins, and normally last for 16 hours, until lunch the next day, which is…
- Day 3. If I’m feeling like it, I may fast until the afternoon or
evening, so that my total fast is from 20 to 24 hours.
- Day 4, back in the gym, repeat.
The beauty of this schedule is that I fast long enough to have health and fat loss
benefits, but I only skip one meal, breakfast, or two if I’m fasting longer. It’s
pretty easy to do.
You can drink coffee or tea (without sugar) during your fast, and these will help
kill appetite. I consider coffee and tea essential to my fasting.
For those weightlifters who work out more than once every three days, it gets a little trickier, since you don’t want your fast to interfere with building muscle. One possible way would be to fast for 24 hours once a week, on an off day.
A 16-hour fast is really about the minimum duration for what could really be called
a fast. Even until very recently, most people fasted 12 hours every night, between
dinner and breakfast, so that duration needs to be extended to be properly a fast.
If you’d like to know more about intermittent fasting, please visit my site, Rogue Health and Fitness, where I’ve written extensively about it.
-What do you think of Intermittent fasting? Have you tried it before? Please share your experience or your opinions in the comments section below. And if you liked this article please share it – sharing is caring, you know 🙂 press one of the share it bottoms below to share it on Facebook, Twitter, etc, or simply email it to a friend or a foe who you wanna help out. Mangan has a free eBook on his site but please support his cause and buy his Amazon book, Best Supplements for Men’s Health, Strength, and Virility: A Concise, Scientific Guide to Maintaining Youth, Vigor, and Manhood (note:that is an affiliate link, which means I will also make a small commission when you buy from that link). Eat your eggs, and.. fast a little, or a little more, then get ripped!! people!