Ever heard of intermittent fasting? It has become a powerful nutrition strategy that can purify the organism from all the waste and toxins and encourage it to burn more stored fat. The goal of intermittent fasting is to stimulate muscle growth and restoration and burn fat – all of that by avoiding food consumption for more than twelve hours (typically it’s 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of regular meals).
Cycling periods of fasting and eating can aid detoxification, encourage fat burning, help you build more muscle and improve immune function. This may sound rather crazy to the seasoned bodybuilder who has already gotten comfortable with eating 8 meals a day – you know, train big and eat even bigger – wasn’t that the only possible way to gain serious mass?
According to some new studies, no. Which is pretty great actually, since it shows we have a lot more quality choices when it comes to finding the right diet than we think. So, one of these studies has shown that fasting can lead to sharp increase in the human growth hormone (the ultimate anabolic-friendly hormone) in young men with normal weight!
The human growth hormone plays an important role in maintaining health and fitness and promotes both muscle growth and fat loss. That means fasting will help you lose weight without sacrificing muscle mass (as long as you don’t overtrain), as many people believe.
Furthermore, another study has found that fasting enhances the autophagic processes in the organism, improving the efficiency of your body’s efforts to get rid of all toxins, maintain muscle mass and lower the amount of estrogen, which brings immediate benefits to your testosterone levels. If you want bigger gains, a bit of fasting (read starving) now and then will take you a long way.
Now, about the second cool benefit of intermittent fasting – it’s one of the most powerful enemies your fat reserves could encounter. Your body fat is the accumulation of all the excess calories you’ve ingested, and they’re stored as a backup source of energy to be used in cases of caloric deficit (that’s when you burn more calories than you consume).
When you fast or restrain from eating for long periods of time, your blood sugar gets lower, signaling your brain that you’re hungry. Since you’re not consuming any new food that can be broken down and used for energy and the carbs you’ve consumed in the last meal are getting depleted, your body has no choice but to start burning your body fat in order to keep on functioning properly, therefore becoming a highly efficient fat-burning machine.
In addition, fasting has shown to have an important anti-inflammatory effect, since it increases the production of the anti-inflammatory cytokines, while suppresses the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body.
That being said, the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines is associated with insulin resistance, obesity and metabolic syndrome, whereas a higher production of anti-inflammatory cytokines has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity (which helps protect the organism from developing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases), decrease fat storage, enhance muscle regeneration and support longevity.
When should you fast?
Start by skipping a late-night meal and entering the fasting mode while you sleep. In the next morning, you should also skip breakfast and train on an empty stomach – this will force your body to burn more fat and induce acute oxidative stress (acute oxidative stress is beneficial for the muscle while chronic oxidative stress leads to disease).
Then you can eat a big lunch about 30 minutes after the workout. For optimal results, make sure your meal includes more healthy fats like eggs, butter and nuts and a bit less carbs in the form of bread and potatoes – this will help your body shift from carb burning to fat burning mode.
Consume a minimal amount of calories until lunch time the next day, just enough to keep you going. It might take some time and to get used to it, but it gets a lot easier once you succeed to switch to fat burning mode and shake off the sugar cravings.