Should You Participate In Intermittent Fasting Bodybuilding If You Are A Bodybuilder?

Intermittent Fasting For Bodybuilders

Intermittent Fasting For Bodybuilders

Updated on 5/18/2024
Martin AlvarezBy Martin Alvarez
Nutritionist/Dietitian Professional Guide
Learn More about Martin Alvarez

You are undoubtedly familiar with fasting at irregular intervals, and you may even personally know someone who practices this method. The concept is straightforward: you limit your eating to a specific window of time each day, so your body should be able to shed excess fat with ease. 

The proponents of intermittent fasting bodybuilding, often known as IF for its shortened form, believe that it may help you lose weight, enhance your lipid profile, raise your growth hormone, and even assist in the battle against cancer. However, what exactly do the pieces of evidence point to? Does this sound like bro science, or are these claims valid?

In light of this, we'd want to look at intermittent fasting from a scientific perspective in today's piece so that you may form your own opinion based on accurate information. The following is a guide on intermittent fasting for bodybuilders written by BarBend: What exactly is meant by the phrase "intermittent fasting"?

  •  The Technique of Time-Restricted Feeding

 Fasting on alternating days

 A Fast of Forty-Eight Hours

 Hormone Benefits

 Cellular Repair

 Weight Loss

 Condition of the Heart

  • Intermittent Fasting Drawbacks
  • Gaining muscle with the use of intermittent fasting
  • Working Out Under Restraint
  • Should Bodybuilders Implement Intermittent Fasting Into Their Routines?
  • How Bodybuilders Can Benefit from Using Intermittent Fasting
  • Fasting Periods That Are Interrupted Before a Competition
  • Here are some tips on how to make the most of intermittent fasting in the right way
  • Using Carbohydrate Cycling in Conjunction with Intermittent Fasting
  • Intermittent Fasting on Rest Days
  • Natural Bodybuilders Should Consider Using Intermittent Fasting

Note from the editor: Although the information provided on BarBend is intended to be instructive, readers are cautioned not to rely on it instead of the guidance and supervision of a qualified medical expert. The views and articles that may be found on this website are not meant to be used for diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of any health concerns. You should consult your primary care physician if you are concerned about anything.

Intermittent Fasting 101: A Guide to Benefits, Muscle Gain, and More

What Exactly Is Meant By The Phrase "Intermittent Fasting"?

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting

The practice of fasting dates back thousands of years. According to many ancient faiths, this practice dated back to ancient times and was thought by many ancient religions to be capable of purifying the mind, body, and soul of its followers. In conclusion, we can say that fasting is not anything brand new; instead, the current use of fasting is something that is brand new.

Although fasting has been practiced for centuries (think of Lent, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan), the concept of fasting is more recent, just on certain days of the week. The Swedish model-turned-powerlifter Martin Berkhan popularized the phrase "leangains" in 2010 when he started a blog titled "Leangains" and posted multiple in-depth tutorials on his approach to fasting daily. The term has now gained widespread use.

Since then, IF has had a meteoric rise in popularity, turning into a phenomenon that is observed all over the globe, and it is not difficult to understand why this is the case. It would seem that everyone is talking about the advantages of intermittent fasting these days, no matter where you look.

Different fitness professionals and nutrition coaches have even put their twist on it, producing other varieties of intermittent fasting, including the following:

  • There is a 16/8 rule (Eating during an 8-hour window only)
  • Alternate-Day fasting (24-Hour Fast Every Other Day)
  • Intermittent Fasting (IF) (1-2 Days of Total Fasting Per Week)
  • Eat, Then Stop Eating (One 24-Hour Fast Each Week)

Although the fundamental concept behind fasting remains the same, the practice may be carried out in various ways. In the Leangains approach, one of the most popular forms of intermittent fasting, you skip meals for 16 hours per day (this includes the time you sleep), and you only consume food during a window of 8 hours. (Its author also recommends doing heavy resistance training, but the specifics of his programming are outside the purview of this essay.)

The other, more severe approaches, such as intermittent and alternate-day fasting, often include going without eating for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. (You are permitted to consume water and other beverages typically low in calories, such as black coffee.) It is vital to remember that there is no one "optimal approach" for putting intermittent fasting into practice since each strategy might have its benefits based on the individual's objectives, training regimes, and nutritional requirements.

The Technique Of Intake That Is Restricted In Time

nutrition needs

nutrition needs

The time restriction approach is one of the most prevalent ways to practice intermittent fasting. This method requires limiting your eating to a specific daily time window. The benefit of this strategy is that it is much simpler to achieve your daily calorie objectives in comparison to the other ways.

The most common kind of time-restricted fasting is the Leangains approach, which entails abstaining from food for 16 hours every day and only consuming it during the remaining 8 hours.

The flexibility of this approach makes it an excellent choice for accommodating a variety of timetables. If, for instance, your work hours are from 9 to 5, you can easily include those hours into your fasting window. Taking advantage of the benefits that intermittent fasting offers will allow you to be more productive at work while simultaneously allowing you to take advantage of its positive effects.

Fasting On Alternating Days

Regularly engaging in a fast of twenty-four hours, followed by a feast of the same length, is an example of one kind of intermittent fasting. This is a more stringent application of the intermittent fasting method, which was made famous by Dr. Krista Varady in her book "The Every Other Day Diet."

The most ardent supporters of this strategy recommend going without food for the whole first day, which entails zero calorie consumption. On the other hand, other people have advocated for a more moderate approach, suggesting that people "fast" on days when they consume just 20-25 percent of the calories needed for maintenance.

In any case, this may be more challenging for some people than the Leangains strategy. Still, it could be effective for certain people who are highly dedicated to establishing a large calorie deficit in their diet. You should, however, continue to track on a weekly and daily basis how many calories you consume to ensure that you do not overdo it.

The Fast Of 48 Hours

One of the most rigorous approaches to intermittent fasting entails going without food for 48 hours once weekly, followed by five days of regular eating.

The proponents of this strategy claim that you get the most advantages as a result of the duration of the fasting period here; yet, even though this might be one of the most challenging forms of intermittent fasting, many individuals are sure that it is the best approach.

The Advantages of Breaking Your Fast Occasionally

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

If you can believe it, the intermittent fasting (IF) diet regimen has a substantial amount of research to support it, in contrast to many trendy diets, which often have very little evidence to support their claims of being effective. Intermittent fasting has a wide variety of beneficial impacts on health, from elevating growth hormone levels to assisting bodybuilders in achieving a shredded and lean physique. Many individuals stand to gain from these advantages.

Some of the advantages of intermittent fasting are listed below, along with some of its disadvantages of it:

  • Increase Your Body's Receptivity to Insulin
  • Raise your levels of human growth hormone (HGH)
  • Repair Cells (Autophagy)
  • Facilitate Fat Loss
  • Enhance the Profile of Blood Lipids
  • and even more

Much research supports intermittent fasting, indicating that it may have many positive effects if utilized correctly. It's important to note that intermittent fasting isn't for everyone, especially those who experience difficulty preventing themselves from "binging" when their fast ends.

Hormone Benefits

Hormone Benefits

Hormone Benefits

Hormones, as any bodybuilder knows, are essential to gaining muscle. If you don't get enough sleep or don't take your growth hormone and testosterone supplements, becoming jacked will be next to impossible! There is some good news, and studies have suggested that intermittent fasting might help address this issue in some cases. One study, for example, discovered that volunteers who fasted for 48 hours reported a rise in growth hormone levels that was an astounding 500 percent higher than the baseline! The Department of Medicine carried out this research at the University of Virginia. [1]

The researchers concluded that "two days of fasting induced a 5-fold increase in the 24-h endogenous GH production rate." They did this by analyzing serum GH concentrations measured in blood at 5-minute intervals. Researchers have found that the dynamic mechanisms underlying this phenomenon have been investigated in nine average men, they reported. Even though the test participants' growth hormone levels went back to normal once they resumed eating, the researchers found that a temporary boost of just 500 percent in growth hormone for a day or two had several positive effects.

Because human growth hormone, also known as HGH for short, is a crucial hormone that is in charge of a wide variety of critical bodily functions, including the development of strength and muscle, sex drive, and a lot of other essential physical processes, you should try everything in your power to increase your levels of HGH.

Cellular Repair

Cellular Repair

Cellular Repair

Even if "cellular repair" doesn't have the same seductive ring as "raising growth hormone," it's just as crucial, if not more so. Damage to cells is the root cause of the vast majority of conditions associated with aging. [2]

The phenomenon known as oxidative stress is thought to be one of the primary causes of cell damage. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, seems to assist in mitigating some of the negative impacts of this phenomenon.

A study by the Department of Surgery at the Louisiana State University Medical Center reveals that test subjects who used the alternate-day fasting method experienced a "striking reduction in markers of oxidative stress." They also observed increased levels of the antioxidant uric acid, which has been shown to inhibit oxidative stress in the body when applied. As a result of the study, the results were published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. [3]

Since it is also known to help boost the body's natural cellular repair activities, calorie restriction is known to help promote autophagy. The issue of which is better at promoting autophagy needs to be researched in more depth. However, one thing is certain: both are important. Indeed, intermittent fasting reduces the amount of oxidative stress in the body!

Weight Loss

Weight Loss

Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight more quickly, intermittent fasting (IF) might be an excellent strategy for you to use. This is the primary reason most individuals engage in intermittent fasting. To our relief, there is much research to back the concept that fasting may assist in accelerating the rate at which you lose weight. When you are fasting, your body will produce a hormone known as "norepinephrine," which will cause your metabolism to speed up. In point of fact, according to the findings of research carried out by the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Vienna, "resting energy expenditure rises" during the first phases of the fasting process, which is "followed by an increase in plasma norepinephrine." [4]

The increase in energy expenditure seen in the study wasn't broken down into parts. Still, the researchers did find that fasting raises plasma norepinephrine, which speeds up metabolism. According to the findings of another research, which the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology carried out at Queen's Medical Centre in the United Kingdom, it was discovered that following a period of fasting for 48 hours, the test participants' resting metabolic rate dramatically rose. [5]

As if this wasn't enough, another research indicated that intermittent fasting was more successful than daily calorie restriction in helping participants keep muscle while losing fat. The Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition conducted this study at the University of Illinois in Chicago. [6] This study is not the be-all and end-all; other research has revealed no difference in body composition between those who run fast and those who do not run fast, but it is persuasive nevertheless.

Perhaps the results of intermittent fasting are due to increased growth hormone levels or maybe because this system is relatively simple to follow, or it may even be because by having larger meals at the end of a fast, most people feel more satisfied than if they had snacks or calorie-controlled meals during the day. Either way, the growth hormone increase may be responsible for intermittent fasting results. Each person's experience will shape their unique outcomes.

The Health Of The Heart

The Health Of The Heart

The Health Of The Heart

In the United States, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of mortality, so every effort we make to improve our heart health is worthwhile. An alternate-day fasting strategy that was adjusted was shown to have a substantial impact on lowering total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in test individuals who participated in the research on fasting. [7]

In a traditional alternate-day fasting protocol, there is a requirement for a fasting period of 24 hours, followed by a fasting period of 24 hours. However, the conventional ADF protocol was modified for this study. On "fasting days," the test participants were permitted to consume 20-25 percent of their caloric energy demands rather than going without food entirely for 24 hours; yet, the findings were still rather startling despite this allowance.

After following a modified ADF diet for eight weeks, "total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triacylglycerol concentrations dropped by 21 percent, 25 percent, and 32 percent correspondingly." In addition, the researchers observed that the test participants' systolic blood pressure was reduced by an average of 8 points, even though the HDL cholesterol levels remained the same.

In addition to this, a meta-study that was published in the highly prestigious journal "Research in Endocrinology" stated that the current evidence demonstrates that IF "is capable of promoting weight loss and favorably influencing an array of cardiometabolic health indices," which is another way of saying indicators of heart health. The study's authors concluded that IF "can be shown to promote weight loss and positively affect a wide variety of cardiometabolic health parameters.

The simple act of engaging in calorie restriction may confer several of these advantages on its practitioner. Always remember that there is more than one way to skin a cat; the same is true for reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass. If you find that you benefit from practicing intermittent fasting, then that's fantastic! If this is not the case, you should think about losing weight by just restricting your calorie intake. Both options are viable.

Intermittent Fasting Drawbacks

Intermittent Fasting Drawbacks

Intermittent Fasting Drawbacks

Even though intermittent fasting provides many advantages, it is essential to realize that the practice may not be appropriate for everyone. Everyone is an individual, and our bodies react differently to various diets based on the number of calories, exercise, and lifestyle choices we need to meet.

When it comes to bodybuilders, there are two primary problems with intermittent fasting:

  1. It is Not Easy to Put on Mass. (Especially For Hardgainers)
  2. Some people may have a difficult time working out when fasted.

Therefore, you may want to rethink using IF depending on what you want to do. My experience with intermittent fasting in conjunction with strength training has lasted for many years now, and I couldn't be happier about how it's been going for me. I can maintain a slim physique even when I'm at my heaviest in the winter.

Gaining Muscle With The Use Of Intermittent Fasting

If you're following the IF diet, one of the most significant negatives is that it may be pretty challenging to meet your daily macro requirements. Those who struggle with gaining weight due to the limited amount of time spent eating might find it even more difficult to gain weight if they are limited in the amount of time they are allowed to eat each day.

If you have difficulty gaining weight, the alternate-day and 48-hour fasting strategies are out of the question. If you have trouble obtaining enough calories in your diet daily, there is no way that you will even come close to receiving the calories that are advised for you if you fast for 48 hours or more each week.

You should give the 16:8 technique of intermittent fasting a go if it is possible for you to do so while still consuming enough calories to meet your objectives. You will not only gain muscle mass while reaping the benefits of intermittent fasting, but you will also be able to gain those benefits.

Working Out Under Restraint

Working Out Fasted

Working Out Fasted

When it comes to intermittent fasting, one other thing that bodybuilders need to be concerned about is the possibility of having to train when hungry. Some evidence suggests that working out when starving may be beneficial [9]. Still, most bodybuilders do not participate in this practice since it is not considered a good idea.

Having proper nourishment before and after your workouts is vital if you're attempting to break your records. However, this may be tough to do when following an intermittent fasting diet. However, if aesthetics are more important, working out while fasting may be a wise option. Training often results in more fat loss, producing a more shredded body.

Some individuals plan their fasting periods to abstain from food throughout the day, have their first meal, and then go to the gym thirty to forty-five minutes after finishing their meal. Whether you like to exercise after an overnight fast or not does not affect the efficacy of any of these approaches.

Should Bodybuilders Implement Intermittent Fasting Into Their Routines?

Bodybuilders Do Intermittent Fasting

Bodybuilders Do Intermittent Fasting

It is finally time for the moment we've all been waiting for. Is intermittent fasting beneficial for bodybuilders? I'm sorry that no solution is “one size fits all.” The response to this question will be determined by how seriously you take the sport of bodybuilding. You are recommended not to engage in intermittent fasting if, for example, your goal is to become a professional with the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB). You must feed your body every two to four hours to maintain maximum muscle protein synthesis levels. To do this, you need to provide your body every two to four hours.

However, even considering this, there are still a few ways in which intermittent fasting might benefit the typical bodybuilder who isn't very interested in competing.

How Bodybuilders Can Benefit from Using Intermittent Fasting?



Although intermittent fasting might be detrimental to professional athletes and bodybuilders, it can potentially benefit amateur bodybuilders whose primary goal is improving their appearance. You may receive many benefits, like improved cardiovascular health and increased hormone production, by engaging in intermittent fasting and following an effective bulking diet and exercise program. It is important to note that all amateur bodybuilders can benefit from following a program that is known as 16/8 intermittent fasting and the following are just a few advantages that may result:

  • a higher level of growth hormone
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Reduced Systemic Inflammation
  • A more significant reduction in body fat

The 16:8 technique of intermittent fasting will be your best chance if you are a bodybuilder and want to improve your performance in the gym. If you go to any more extraordinary lengths than this, it will be pretty tricky for you to satisfy your daily calorie requirements.

Fasting Periods That Are Interrupted Before A Competition



The only time practicing intermittent fasting may benefit professional bodybuilders is just before a competition when they attempt to lose weight quickly. Hence, if this is the case, intermittent fasting may be a helpful tool, significantly since it may help increase fat loss while increasing your daily energy expenditure. Consequently, intermittent fasting may benefit you if this is the case.

The most important thing to remember is to continue eating meals high in protein and calories; this should not be difficult to do if you eat healthy foods. A high-quality whey protein supplement is excellent if you need to supplement your diet with a high-quality protein supplement. In general, you should strive to ingest 1 gram of protein every pound of your target lean body weight, which will help you reach your fitness goals more quickly. (Even though this number might change, further information can be found in our guidance on the amount of protein consumed.)

The 16:8 intermittent fasting approach is by far the finest for a pre-competition cut since it will enable you to accomplish all three of the following goals efficiently:

  • Keep up with your calorie needs during the day.
  • Boost Your Body's Metabolism (And By Extent Fat Loss)
  • Assist in the Preservation of Muscle Mass

Therefore, if you are a natural professional bodybuilder, intermittent fasting may be a great alternative to the conventional "6 meals a day" diet that most bodybuilders adhere to. The majority of bodybuilders follow this diet.

Using Intermittent Fasting in the Correct Manner: Using Intermittent Fasting to its Full Potential

How to Use Intermittent Fasting The Right Way

How to Use Intermittent Fasting The Right Way

We are relieved that most of our readers are not professional bodybuilders but rather men and women who want to get into better shape and experience more strength throughout the year. Even if this is the case, you can still derive a lot of benefits from intermittent fasting by combining it with your carbohydrate intake.

Carb cycling can be described as timing the number of carbohydrates you consume so that you consume more of them on the days you exercise.

Carbohydrate cycling is an excellent method that may be an excellent way to bulk up and develop muscle while concurrently shedding fat when paired with intermittent fasting. Some individuals may think it's too good to be true, yet there is evidence from scientific research to support the claim. [10] [11] [12]

Using Carbohydrate Cycling In Conjunction With Intermittent Fasting

Combining Carb-Cycling

Combining Carb-Cycling

As I've said before, the most significant disadvantage of intermittent fasting is that it makes it challenging to satisfy your daily calorie requirements while trying to pack on muscle. You will find that it is much less complicated if you combine carb cycling with intermittent fasting.

To mix the two, a person with difficulty gaining muscle would have a GIANT meal high in carbohydrates after exercise and could even see it as a cheat meal. While adhering to the 16:8 intermittent fasting strategy, it will be much simpler for you to meet your daily macro needs.

If you are a hard gainer and your daily caloric intake target is 3,500 calories, then your meal planning and routine for intermittent fasting may look something like this:

  • 8 am: Wake Up After 8-Hour Sleep Fast
  • Continue your fast when awake from 8 am to 4 pm.
  • The first meal of the day is at four o'clock (Pre-Workout 1,000 Calorie Meal)
  • It's gym time from 5 to 7 o'clock!
  • Dinner is served at 7 pm (Post-Workout 1,500 Calorie Meal)
  • Dinner is served at 9 pm (750 Calorie Meals)
  • Fourth meal of the day (750 calorie meal) around 11 pm

Therefore, you would still be able to meet your daily calorie target of 3,500, AND you would do it while reaping the advantages of intermittent fasting (such as increased growth hormone).

Fasting On Alternating Days, Especially On Rest Days



An additional approach for amateur bodybuilders and athletes to participate in intermittent fasting is to participate in a fast that lasts 24 hours on the days when they are not actively training. Even though this is a more complicated variant of IF, it is still possible for it to be successful.

You may do this by first determining your weekly calorie target, then making it a point to consume sufficient quantities of food on the days you exercise to ensure that you continue to meet that goal.

Continuing with the previous example of a person who has difficulty gaining weight, let's assume that his daily caloric target would be 3,500 calories; this would indicate that his weekly caloric goal would be 24,500 calories.

Using this illustration, a typical week's worth of food may look somewhat like this:

  • Starting Strength Workout A will be performed on Monday (Eat 4,900 Calories)
  • Tuesday is a day of rest.
  • Starting Strength Workout B will be performed on Wednesday (Eat 4,900 Calories)
  • The day of rest is Thursday
  • Starting Strength Workout A will be performed on Friday (Eat 4,900 Calories)
  • Saturday is the day of rest.
  • Sunday: The Day of Rest (Eat 4,900 Calories)

Because the total daily caloric intake would equal 3,500 calories, a person who has difficulty gaining weight may still gain weight while reaping the advantages of a fast lasting 24 hours if they follow this example.

Natural Bodybuilders Should Consider Using Intermittent Fasting

Natural bodybuilders who want to grow stronger, develop muscle, shed fat, and overall look nice should consider intermittent fasting as their primary weight loss and aesthetic improvement method.

To begin enjoying the benefits of intermittent fasting in the most effective and uncomplicated manner possible, you should immediately start adhering to the 16:8 IF regimen. The first eight hours of the day are spent without eating, and the next sixteen hours are spent eating the amount of food that corresponds to your daily calorie target.

This is something that a bodybuilder can start doing right away, and there is very no fuss or strategy involved in doing so; it is also something that any bodybuilder can instantly apply to his life. If you go to the gym first thing in the morning, taking a pre-workout supplement might help you feel less hungry and give you more energy for your activity.


Overall, men and women can use intermittent fasting bodybuilding as a helpful tool to improve their overall health, hormone profile, lipid profile, and appearance by cutting back on their food intake for specific periods.