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Does Weight Training and Intermittent Fasting Really Work?

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

A topic that has been under discussion for a few years recently is the whole idea of Fitness and Intermittent Fasting.

What is intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting is fasting for the majority of the day and having a set period of the day in which you will eat. One way to do this is to fast for 16 hours per day and have an 8 hour eating window. This is known as the 16:8 version of intermittent fasting.

A second type of intermittent fasting is the alternate day fast, where days of fasting (eating up to 25% of regular daily intake) are alternated with days of normal eating.

So how does fitness come in? Well people have asked the question, can you build muscle while fasting so that you can build muscle without putting on fat? Or, can you lose fat and maintain muscle while fasting?

Let me describe my fasting and fitness experience. In January I joined a three week fast with my church for the start of the new year. In general, people were fasting until dinner and then eating one meal. I have fasted before but not for such a long period so I decided to fast up to 3 pm, and break my fast with a slice of toast or bowl of soup. Then I would have dinner and a protein shake afterwards.

I started the church fast weighing 195 lbs and dropped down to 188 lbs over the three weeks. During this time I was doing the first version of my workout at night after I put the kids to bed,typically around 9 pm. This worked out well because by the time I was working out I had already eaten twice so I had plenty of energy. I was amazed that I was able to drop so much weight in a short time and despite my restricted calories I still had energy to push hard at nights in my workout. However for the long term I felt that the caloric restriction wouldn’t be something that I could maintain.

With this in mind result, my wife and I set out to do an intermittent fast for 40 days. In our case we have been fasting from about 9 pm at night until 1 pm the next day.

With this routine I will typically workout in the morning somewhere between 6:30 am and 1 pm. If I workout early in the morning I will have a protein shake (with milk) so that I can make it through the work day. If I don’t workout then I will not have a shake that morning. This is more sustainable. Weight loss has slowed down but providing I keep my cardio going I can still see weight loss occurring. What also happened though is I was able to see size increases in my muscles as well. This made me very happy!

Right now I am down to about 185 lbs.

What I like about intermittent fasting:

  1. It is easy. I have tried a lot of different eating regimes and diets; this will be the subject of another blog! :) However, what I have found with all of them is that the strictness gets to be a bit much, whether it is the type of eating, the food, measuring portions etc. Especially when you are trying to juggle so many other things in life. Intermittent fasting is simple by comparison, because the fasting creates a general caloric restriction.

  2. It is effective. However the basic assumption here is that you are eating more or less healthy already. So if you are intermittent fasting and your diet consists of McDonald’s and your other favourite fast foods, you will not see any benefit because this type of food has a high caloric content. I would generally say if your diet is healthy then intermittent fasting will work for you. By healthy I mean a lot of vegetables and fruit. Good sources of protein, such as fish, chicken or beef, and good complex carbs like rice, beans and lentils, oats, etc.

  3. It is cheap. Generally speaking if this is the way you cook for everyone then you are not making two separate sets of food. This is cost effective.

  4. It is fast. See point 3. This is important when you have a busy home and family life.

  5. Portion control is almost by default because I find I can only consume a certain amount in one sitting when I fast. This is typically 80% of what I would normally eat in a meal.

If you are trying to lose weight I think this is the way to go especially if you are strapped for time. My challenge to you is to try intermittent fasting for 3 weeks. If it doesn’t work for you, then drop it. However I think you will be surprised by its effectiveness and want to keep it going.

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