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Intermittent Fasting and Bodybuilding: Building Muscle with Fasting

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Intermittent fasting has gained popularity in recent years as a weight loss and health management strategy. However, its potential benefits for bodybuilders and those looking to build muscle have also been a topic of interest. In this article, we will explore the concept of intermittent fasting and its effects on muscle growth and body composition. We will delve into the scientific research behind this practice and provide valuable insights for individuals who are considering incorporating intermittent fasting into their bodybuilding routine.

The Basics of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves alternating periods of fasting and eating. Unlike traditional diets that focus on what you eat, intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat. There are several different methods of intermittent fasting, but the most common ones include:

  • 16/8 method: This involves fasting for 16 hours and restricting your eating window to 8 hours each day.
  • 5:2 method: This involves eating normally for five days of the week and restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories for the remaining two days.
  • Alternate day fasting: This involves fasting every other day, with some variations allowing for a limited calorie intake on fasting days.

During the fasting period, no calories are consumed, but water, tea, and coffee without added sugar or cream are generally allowed. The eating period is typically used to consume all daily calories within a specific timeframe.

The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting and Muscle Growth

When it comes to building muscle, the key factors are resistance training, adequate protein intake, and a calorie surplus. Intermittent fasting may seem counterintuitive to these principles, as it involves periods of fasting and potentially restricting calorie intake. However, research suggests that intermittent fasting can still be compatible with muscle growth.

One study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine found that intermittent fasting combined with resistance training can lead to significant improvements in body composition. The study compared two groups of participants: one group followed a traditional diet with a calorie deficit, while the other group practiced intermittent fasting. Both groups experienced similar improvements in muscle mass and strength, indicating that intermittent fasting does not hinder muscle growth.

Another study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition examined the effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and strength in resistance-trained males. The researchers found that intermittent fasting did not negatively impact muscle mass or strength gains. In fact, the participants who practiced intermittent fasting experienced similar improvements in body composition and strength compared to those who followed a traditional diet.

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Bodybuilders

Intermittent fasting offers several potential benefits for bodybuilders and individuals looking to build muscle:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity: Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which can enhance muscle growth and reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance.
  • Increase in growth hormone levels: Fasting has been found to increase growth hormone levels, which can promote muscle growth and fat loss.
  • Enhanced fat burning: Intermittent fasting can increase fat burning by promoting the use of stored fat as an energy source during fasting periods.
  • Convenience and flexibility: Intermittent fasting can be a convenient approach for individuals who prefer larger, satisfying meals and fewer meals throughout the day.

It is important to note that individual responses to intermittent fasting may vary. Some individuals may find it easier to adhere to their calorie and macronutrient goals within a restricted eating window, while others may prefer a more traditional eating pattern. Experimentation and personalization are key to finding the approach that works best for each individual.

Optimizing Intermittent Fasting for Muscle Growth

While intermittent fasting can be compatible with muscle growth, there are certain considerations to optimize its effectiveness:

  • Timing of workouts: It is recommended to schedule workouts towards the end of the fasting period or during the eating window to ensure adequate nutrient availability for muscle repair and growth.
  • Adequate protein intake: Protein is essential for muscle growth, so it is important to consume enough protein during the eating window. Aim for a protein intake of around 1.6-2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
  • Calorie surplus: To support muscle growth, it is important to consume a calorie surplus during the eating window. Calculate your daily calorie needs and adjust your eating window accordingly.
  • Proper hydration: During the fasting period, it is crucial to stay hydrated to support optimal muscle function and recovery. Drink plenty of water and consider adding electrolytes if needed.

By considering these factors and personalizing your approach, you can optimize intermittent fasting for muscle growth and achieve your bodybuilding goals.


Intermittent fasting can be a viable strategy for individuals looking to build muscle. Despite the periods of fasting and potential calorie restriction, research suggests that intermittent fasting does not hinder muscle growth. In fact, it may offer several benefits such as improved insulin sensitivity, increased growth hormone levels, enhanced fat burning, and convenience. By optimizing factors such as workout timing, protein intake, calorie surplus, and hydration, individuals can effectively incorporate intermittent fasting into their bodybuilding routine. As with any dietary approach, it is important to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed. Intermittent fasting can be a valuable tool in your bodybuilding journey, but it is essential to find the approach that works best for you.

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