Short fasts can accelerate fat loss and make you healthier. But should you do them? Should your clients? If so, how?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is the name some people give to the practice of occasionally going for extended periods without eating.
Of course, fasting is nothing new. Humans have fasted for most of their history, whether it’s during the typical overnight period, during more extended periods of food scarcity, or for religious reasons.
What is new is the clinical research. Data show that IF, when done properly, might help extend life, regulate blood glucose, control blood lipids, manage body weight, gain (or maintain) lean mass, and more.
Rather than something we’re forced to endure – whether because of food shortage or cultural expectations – IF is becoming something that health and physique-oriented people are seeking out in order to keep their bodies in top shape.
That’s why, in this video series, we’ll teach you all about the hottest trend in the nutrition field. What it’s all about. Who it’s for. And, most importantly, whether you (or your clients) should give it a try.
This video is about 6 minutes long.
In part 4 of this video series, we talked about how the popular intermittent fasting plans are simply variations on a single theme: meal frequency.
We also share the results of my own intermittent fasting experiments, designed to help me lose body weight and fat.
Building muscle with Nate Green
So, what if you don’t want to (or need to) lose fat? What if you want to build muscle?
Well, that’s possible with intermittent fasting too.
In fact, there’s one specific intermittent fasting protocol I really like using for muscle gain. We tested it extensively on fellow guinea pig Nate Green to try the same kind of weight gain — weight cut — rehydration process we use with our UFC athletes.
We set the following goals for Nate’s experiment:
- gain 20 lbs in 4 weeks (mimicking muscle gain during a training camp)
- lose 20 lbs in 5 days (mimicking pre-fight weight cut)
- gain 20 lbs in 1 day (mimicking the after weigh-in rehydration process)
Yes, it sounds pretty extreme. But it’s exactly how many MMA fighters prepare for fights.
During the weight gain portion of the experiment, we used:
- a very high calorie diet (Monday through Saturday),
- calorie cycling to help promote recovery (Monday through Saturday),
- a once-weekly fast to help him stay lean despite the calorie load (Sunday).
Here’s what the eating plan looked like:
So, what happened?
Well, Nate gained 20 pounds of lean mass during the 28 day experiment.
Here are his before and after photos:
Of course, this is a brief overview of the process. If you’d like to learn more, check out our free online book: Bigger Smaller Bigger.
In the book we share every menu and workout he followed for during the experiment. We also include daily journal entries, downloadable workout and nutrition plans, and much more.
Obviously, the experiment was a success: Nate gained 20lbs in 4 weeks, lost it all in 5 days, and gained it all back in 24 hours.
We’re pretty sure his weekly fast helped him stay lean while gaining weight so quickly.
Wrap-up and summary
That’s it for part 5 of this video seminar.
Throughout the series we talked a lot about intermittent fasting. We argued that there are a host of potential benefits. And that fasting can be used successfully for fat loss and muscle gain.
However: Fasting, especially regularly, isn’t for everyone. It’s not one-size-fits all.
Remember, aside from our one-day fasting experiment as a teaching tool, 90% of our clients never fast. It’s not right for them. So they don’t do it.
This video series isn’t meant to convince you that fasting is better (or worse) than any other meal timing strategy. Rather, it’s to present you with one additional weapon in your coaching arsenal.
To help you get a better sense of who should fast and who shouldn’t, here are some thoughts.
Fasting might be right for clients with:
- a healthy approach to food and eating
- experience with nutritional manipulation
- a lot of exercise experience
- no partner or children; or an extremely supportive partner
- a flexible job and lifestyle
- low lifestyle stress
- a desire for the athletic look
Fasting might not be right for clients who are:
- new to diet and exercise
- married and/or with children
- working in a performance-oriented environment
- working in a client-facing job
- competing in elite sport/athletics
- facing excessive lifestyle stressors
- looking to gain lots of muscle or strength
Here’s a particularly important piece: There may be crucial sex differences (likely hormonally based) in the response to fasting. Women of reproductive age may have to be more careful about hormonal health — fasting too much, too long, and/or too frequently can disrupt normal hormonal cycles.
Men tend to do better with intermittent fasting than women. Based on direct coaching experience, we’ve found that about 80% of men have success with intermittent fasting while only about 20% of women experience the same result.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out this great article: Shattering the Myth of Fasting for Women.
Here’s the core message:
Fasting is one simple nutritional option — if and when you match it to the right type of client, at the right time, for the right reasons, under the right conditions.
As a fitness professional, it’s your job to know who, what, and when that is.
If you want to learn more about exercise nutrition and add legitimate nutrition coaching to your skill set, the Precision Nutrition Certification is perfect for you.
The program is based on over 10 years of research and statistical data from over 20,000 Precision Nutrition clients. In essence, it's a comprehensive nutrition coaching course. And it's designed to teach fitness, strength, nutrition, and rehab professionals how to get clients in the best shape of their lives.
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