I have been in the fitness and fat loss industry for 10 years and practiced intermittent fasting even longer.
I have helped 1000s of people lose weight, build muscle and improve their health using intermittent fasting as a key tool.
In fact, if your goal is muscle gain, intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to build muscle but keep lean.
Gone are the days of having to continuously “bulk” and “cut”.
People who intermittent fast cycle between periods of eating and fasting (not eating). It can do wonders to help you lose weight. What do you do when you want to intermittent fast but build muscle? Is it possible to increase your strength while intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting may seem counterintuitive if your goal is to improve muscle gain. After all, to build muscle, you need to increase your calorie intake, eat more protein, and lift heavy things.
Intermittent fasting helps people lose weight by making it harder to eat more calories.
If you struggle to eat more calories, combining daily intermittent fasting might not be the best way to build muscle and stay lean.
If you have no issues eating a lot of food, then daily intermittent fasting can be a great way to eat large, satisfying meals but keep the calories down so that you aren’t putting on a lot of fat and muscle.
Contrary to what many people believe, intermittent fasting does not make you lose muscle.
Being in a too big calorie deficit will though.
In fact, there are studies to suggest that human growth hormone increases when you fast. One of the hormones essential for muscle gain and maintenance.
Although intermittent fasting has become a very popular sustainable fat loss tool, you can still practice intermittent fasting and gain muscle.
Read below for my top tips on how to build muscle, and stay lean with intermittent fasting.
Tips For Muscle Gain While Fasting
I’ve worked with hundreds of clients one-on-one to help them build muscle while implementing an intermittent fasting meal plan. It is possible to gain muscles during intermittent fasting. Follow these tips to help you stay on track and reach your fitness goals.
Building muscle isn’t complicated – eat more food (preferably high in protein) and lift heavy things… CONSISTENTLY – that is the equation for muscle gain.
In theory, it’s very simple. In practice, it can get complicated.
In my experience, people make two main mistakes:
- They aren’t eating enough (but they think they are)
- They keep stopping and changing their training because they aren’t seeing immediate results.
Building muscle can take a long time. It takes patience and consistency.
The methods I recommended are:
1. Start calorie tracking – This is the only way to know that you are getting enough calories and protein in. It’s even more important if you are fasting at the same time.
It’s not enjoyable and you don’t have to do it forever, but it works.
Very quickly you will learn a lot about your nutritional habits and what they mean. Do it consistently for at least 30 days, and track EVERYTHING!
2. Monitor your protein intake – for optimal muscle gain 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight is advised.
3. Consider Different Intermittent Fasting Plans – There are many intermittent fasting schedules to choose from. You want to select the one that works for your training schedule and allows you enough time to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need to build muscle.
As mentioned above, if you have no issue eating big meals, the 2 Meal Day could be a great intermittent fasting plan to help build muscle and burn fat.
If you are someone that struggles to eat a lot of food, then eating normally on your training days and incorporating a longer fast 16+ hour fast on one or two rest days can be an effective intermittent fasting plan to gain muscle and lose fat.
4. Supplementation – There aren’t many supplements with a lot of scientific backing. The two that have been proven to increase muscle size are protein and creatine. I recommend using them both.
5. Focus on the key lifts – Squats, Deadlifts, Pull-Ups, Bench Press, and Overhead Press. Keeping these five exercises in your strength training program consistently will help you to pack on muscle. The stronger you get with these exercises, the more potential you have for muscle growth. Compound exercises like these will help you pack on muscle in proportion. Cycle through accessory exercises like bicep curls and tricep extensions as a secondary protocol.
6. Limit Hard Cardio – Heading to your local HIIT class is going to make muscle gain harder. You will burn a tonne of calories (which means you need more food) and it will likely leave you feeling stiff and sore, making quality strength training harder. Instead, stick to slow, steady state cardio, not exceeding a heart rate of 180bpm minus your age (I’m 32, so I don’t exceed 148bpm. Slow running, fast walking, cycling, and swimming are good options.
7. Sleep more! When I went into 18 months of pure Olympic Lifting, my sleep requirements went up. I went from needing about 7.5 hours of sleep to 9 hours. Getting quality, consistent sleep will decrease recovery time, improve performance and reduce injury risk, to name a few:
Find consistency – Building muscle is going to take time. Accept that it is going to take at least one year to see a big difference.
Focus on the process, not the goal – Learn to love the process of getting stronger and the muscle gain will happen as a byproduct of doing something that you love. This is the only way to get long-term success. If you focus on the goal, you will end up depending on motivation and willpower, which are finite resources.
Get a coach – The fastest way to achieve your goals is to get help from an expert. Think of a good coach like google maps. You will avoid the traffic, and roadworks and get to your destination (of muscle gain) in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
Combining an Intermittent fasting plan with a proper strength training routine can be a great way to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Best of all you achieve these things without having to endlessly “bulk” and “cut” which requires a lot of willpower, motivation, and organization.
If you want to learn how to incorporate intermittent fasting and strength training check out my 30-Day Reset.