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Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

Intermittent fasting has risen as a popular and compelling strategy for weight loss in the fitness industry. This method of eating alternates between the period of eating window and fasting and comes in various forms, allowing bodybuilders to choose the methods that fit their lifestyle.


Beyond weight loss, intermittent fasting has shown promise in improving insulin sensitivity, reducing inflammation, helping digestion, improving heart health, and promoting cellular repair processes through autophagy. It may also be easier for some bodybuilders to adhere to than traditional calorie-restriction diets.


But how does intermittent work? Are the benefits essential for your long-term fitness goal? Do you understand its various forms, benefits, and its rules? If not, read on.  This article explains what intermittent fasting is, how it works, its various methods, and its rules and benefits you should know before starting.



What is intermittent fasting?


Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of eating and fasting window. Unlike traditional diets that focus on what you eat, intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat. It doesn’t prescribe specific foods to eat or avoid but dictates when you can consume food.


During normal eating patterns, carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. If your body doesn’t utilize all the glucose you consumed during the day, it gets stored as fat.  


During the intermittent fasting window, there is no calorie intake to provide glucose for energy for your body. This forces your body to break down the stored fat for energy, leading to weight loss.


During fasting periods, insulin sensitivity improves, and insulin levels are reduced. Lower insulin levels make it easy for your body to access stored fat and break it down. It also helps the body become more effective at using insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, reducing insulin resistance and potentially aiding in weight loss.


Additionally, intermittent fasting makes your body initiate the cellular clean-up process, such as autophagy, which may result to the breakdown and removal of damaged cells and the recycling of their components. This could help in weight loss.


Moreover, Intermittent fasting may influence appetite-related hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, may decrease during fasting, aiding to control hunger and reduce overall calorie intake.



Methods of Intermittent Fasting


There are several methods of intermittent fasting, and they vary based on the length of the fasting and eating periods. Here are five common approaches:


1. Time-restricted Eating (TRE)


Time-restricted eating (TRE) is the most common form of intermittent fasting that people know. It focuses on limiting the time window you consume food each day.


The fundamental principle is to condense the daily caloric intake into a specific timeframe, usually between 3 to 12 hours daily.  For instance, you may opt for 20:4, 16: 8 or 18:6 methods to determine what time you eat and fast.


16: 8 restricted time eating method presumes fasting for 16 hours and restricting your eating to an 8-hour window daily. For example, you might eat between noon and 8 p.m. and then fast until the next noon.


The time-restricted eating approach suits bodybuilders of all levels since it is easy to follow and doesn’t leave you hungry for long periods, like a 2:4 pattern.


18:6 is suitable for those who want to make fasting more challenging. It’s the same as 16:8, except that you will be fasting for 18 hours and eating for 6 hours. Advanced fasters mostly practice 20:4 restricted time eating to lose more extra body fat and understand their hunger limit.


2. The 5: 2 Intermittent Fasting Method


The 5:2 intermittent fasting, also called  twice-a-week method, assumes eating normally five days a week and significantly reducing your calorie intake (about 500-600 calories) on the other two non-consecutive days. Usually, women require 500 calories while men need 600 calories, but bodybuilders can consume more.


The key feature of this approach is that for two non-consecutive days of the week, you restrict your calorie intake significantly to 500-600 calories, while on the remaining five days, you eat a regular diet.


The reduced calorie intake on fasting days creates a calorie deficit, leading to weight loss over time. The 5:2 method is also relatively easy to follow and offers flexibility, allowing you to enjoy regular meals on most days.


3. Eat-Stop-Eat Method


The stop-eat method involves a 24-hour fast once or twice a week. For instance, you can eat dinner at 7 p.m. and then only eat again at 7 p.m. the next day.


During the fasting period of 24 hours, you are only allowed to consume beverages like water, black coffee, or herbal tea. But for other days you are not fasting, there is no limitation for food consumption.


You should not follow this type of fasting for two consecutive days a week. Extended fasting periods can lead to increased hunger, which may be challenging for some bodybuilders to manage. Fasting for 24 hours may also cause discomfort and fatigue and negatively impact performance and muscle recovery for those who engage in intense or prolonged exercise

4. Alternate Day Fasting

The alternate-day fasting method alternates between days of regular eating and partial or complete fasting days. It lets you choose the days you want to fast within a week. For instance, you can fast on Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday and eat on the remaining days.


On fast days, you either abstain from consuming calories entirely or significantly reduce your calorie intake to 500-600 calories to speed up your progress.



Benefits of Intermittent Fasting


Intermittent fasting offers several benefits to bodybuilders when incorporated into their training and nutrition regimen. While individual responses may vary, here are six potential benefits of intermittent fasting for bodybuilders:



1. Promotes Weight Loss


The main benefit of intermittent fasting is supporting weight loss. You consume nothing or fewer meals during fasting, leading to a caloric deficit. The caloric deficit state forces the body to enter ketosis-  a process that breaks down the stored energy to meet its energy needs. This helps reduce body fat in bodybuilders while preserving lean muscle mass.


While intermittent fasting promotes weight loss, avoiding certain meals, such as breakfast, can hinder your progress. If you must skip breakfast, ensure you consume more food during the eating window to reach the required daily calories.


You can also pair intermittent fasting with cardio-based exercise to maximize the physical result.


2. Improves Insulin Sensitivity

During the intermittent fasting period, there is a reduction in overall calorie intake. Reduced calorie intake enhances insulin sensitivity- the body’s ability to respond to insulin.


Improved insulin sensitivity helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduces insulin resistance, preventing and managing type 2 diabetes. It also promotes better utilization of glucose and storage of nutrients in muscle cells. This can help prevent excess energy from being stored as fat, supporting weight management and reducing the risk of obesity-related complications.



3. Helps Digestion

If you are experiencing digestion problems, a few hours of intermittent fasting can help you with your digestive system. During fasting hours, Intermittent fasting provides periods of gut rest. This break from constant digestion and nutrient absorption may reduce inflammation and enhance digestion issues like bloating and irregular bowel movement.


During fasting, a migrating motor complex (MMC) pattern occurs every 90–120 minutes in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This pattern acts as a housekeeping wave that sweeps undigested foods in the digestive tract, preventing the build-up of undigested food and harmful bacteria in the gut, which may cause obesity and inflammatory bowel disease, hindering your weight loss goal.

4. Improves Heart Health

Insulin resistance is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance.


Intermittent fasting also positively influences lipid profiles by reducing total cholesterol levels, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides.  Stable blood sugar levels and better cholesterol can lower weight gain, diabetes, and other risks of heart-related complications that might interfere with your physical fitness goals.



5. Reduces Inflammation


Intermittent fasting has been linked to a  reduction in inflammatory markers, which can lead to various chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.


It induces autophagy, a cellular process that removes and recycledamaged or dysfunctional cellular components. This helps clean out cells and debris, potentially reducing inflammatory markers.


Intermittent fasting also increases the amount of the gut microbiota. A balanced and diverse gut microbiome is essential for good digestion of food and absorption of nutrients needed for bodybuilding.


Moreover, Intermittent fasting may lead to a reduction in oxidative stress. The less oxidative stress in your body ,the more likely you’ll be energized and less prone to inflammation.  



6. Helps Retain Muscle Mass


Contrary to some concerns, intermittent fasting has been shown to preserve muscle mass, especially when combined with resistance training. When fasting, the body prioritizes fat as an energy source, sparing muscle tissue, helping to maintain or build muscle.


Fasting periods followed by eating windows of rich proteins provides the necessary amino acids for muscle protein synthesis, helping to rebuild and repair muscle tissue.


Short-term fasting periods also have been associated with increased growth hormone secretion. Growth hormone plays a role in muscle growth, fat metabolism, and overall recovery, making it a potential advantage for bodybuilders.



Is Intermittent Fasting Good for You?


Yes. Intermittent fasting (IF) can be beneficial, but its suitability and effectiveness depend on various factors, including individual health, lifestyle, and goals. It can be effective for weight loss and weight management, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, support better blood sugar control, and improve mental clarity and focus.


However, extended fasting periods can lead to increased hunger, irritability, difficulty concentrating ,and eating disorder making it unsuitable for individuals with eating disorders. People with certain health conditions or those taking medications should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any form of intermittent fasting.



Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting


While intermittent fasting can have various benefits, it’s bound to have potential side effects as you are going from frequent eating patterns to not having food for an extended period. Here are five potential side effects of intermittent fasting:



1. Hunger and Irritability


Extended periods without food during fasting windows can increase hunger, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, especially for beginners. As a beginner, try the 16:8 fasting method as you level up.


Also, stay well-hydrated during fasting periods and consume nutrient-dense meals particularly rich in proteins during the eating window. Proteins will make you fuller and satiety for a long time, preventing snacking.


2. Disordered Eating pattern


For some  individuals, skipping meals for a certain time may contribute to disordered eating patterns, such as binge eating during eating windows or feelings of guilt associated with food consumption.


To curb this effect, stick to an average calorie deficit and approach intermittent fasting with a healthy mindset.



3. Changes in Menstrual Cycle


Some women may experience changes in their menstrual cycle, including irregular periods or amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), possibly due to the stress response induced by intermittent fasting.


Be cautious and monitor the impact of intermittent fasting on your menstrual cycle if you are a woman. If concerns arise, consult with a healthcare professional.





Intermittent fasting is beneficial for most bodybuilders, particularly when implemented sensibly and considering individual health circumstances. It promotes weight loss, helps with weight management, improves metabolic health, and supports heart health.


However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, and there isn’t a universal recommendation for everyone. Before starting intermittent fasting or any significant dietary change, consult a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to ensure that it aligns with your health and fitness goals and needs.







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