Recent hype around intermittent fasting has made the practice a hot-button topic. Today, many athletes swear by its effectiveness, while others have denounced it for its potential for adverse health effects, or detrimental effects on strength and stamina.
Intermittent fasting for athletes assumes a variety of forms. These include time-restricted food intake, in which a person only eats from 10am to 6pm (or 9am and 7pm); the twice-a-week method, in which the practitioner only ingests about 500 calories, two days a week; and the 24-hour fast, during which a person fasts for a full 24 hours, once or twice a week.
In any form, the goal of intermittent fasting is to replicate the forced fasting that early humans regularly endured.
So does intermittent fasting have real, scientific legs to stand on, or is it just another fad diet? The truth is, the effects of intermittent fasting will vary greatly depending on the athlete’s diet, lifestyle, and the type of exercise they favor. Intermittent fasting can benefit some, but will be less useful to others. If you’re considering adding intermittent fasts to your schedule, here’s what you should know before you dive in.
Should Athletes Fast for 24 Hours?
Let’s start with the basics. Full day fasts — yes or no? Full day fasts (FDFs) come with an array of health benefits. During the 24-hour fasting period, your body experiences heightened growth hormone levels, as well as decreased inflammation, and detoxification of the liver.
Persistent inflammation can hinder vital needs and processes for athletes like joint health, muscle recovery, and cell regeneration. One study of 50 healthy adults demonstrated that one month of intermittent fasting resulted in significantly decreased inflammatory markers. Another, smaller study replicated these results, though the fasting periods were 12 hours long, instead of 24. This means that FDF may not only promote physical well-being, but could revitalize tissue cells leading to stronger, healthier muscles for improved athletic performance.
Naturally, FDFs significantly lower your weekly caloric intake; because of this, FDFs can be great for athletes who are trying for a specific weight class, and need to maintain low body weight and low body fat levels.
Is Intermittent Fasting Good for Building Muscle?
Is it possible that intermittent fasting can help higher intensity athletes build muscle? Scientific research, dieticians, and athletes themselves are divided on the subject. Some claim that intermittent fasting can actually lead to muscle loss. The logic is that because fasting means fewer calories, athletes will have trouble getting enough protein to adequately build muscle.
While this can certainly be the case, intermittent fasting and exercise don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The trick is to balance exertion during exercise, recovery time when fasting, and calorie intake during feeding windows, especially when aiming to build muscle with resistance training. Stretching and light exercise can easily complement fasting, and be an effective way to burn excess fat. Time restricted feeding is an excellent way to combine intermittent fasting with performance enhancement.
Plus, intermittent fasting encourages heightened production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which facilitates growth, aids in metabolic processes, and encourages weight loss and muscle strength. In fact, studies have shown that fasting for just a few days led to a five-fold increase in HGH levels.
Does Fasting Increase Testosterone?
One thing the experts can all agree on when it comes to the effects of intermittent fasting, is that fasting has the ability to increase testosterone levels. As a person fasts, the body produces increased amounts of HGH and testosterone in order to combat the resulting insulin resistance.
Testosterone helps build and retain muscle, and aids in recovery from bouts of exertion. One study of healthy men found that a single bout of fasting boosted testosterone levels by 180%. It’s possible — even likely — that longer term periods of intermittent fasting could produce even greater increases in testosterone production.
Testosterone levels are inversely linked to body fat levels; so one of the most effective ways to raise your testosterone naturally is by reducing body fat. Because intermittent fasting encourages a person’s body to burn stored fat, it’s a great way to simultaneously elevate one’s testosterone levels, which in turn helps promote muscle growth.
Intermittent Fasting Pros & Cons
To make sure that intermittent fasting is a healthy and sustainable addition to your lifestyle, it’s a good idea to take stock of all the pros and cons that current science has made available.
Below is a list of commonly understood benefits and drawbacks to intermittent fasting for athletes. As always, if you’re considering experimenting with your diet and exercise regimen, it’s important to do so safely. It’s always wise to consult with your doctor, dietician, or personal trainer when making significant changes to your eating schedule.
The Pros of Intermittent Fasting:
- Encourages weight loss & fat burning
- Blocks cravings and feelings of hunger
- Lowers cholesterol & boosts metabolic health
- Encourages metabolic flexibility for exercise & fueling
- Athletes report greater sense of clarity & focus during workouts
- Increases Human Growth Hormone & testosterone levels
The Cons of Intermittent Fasting:
- May lead users to feel lethargic or fatigued
- Diminished cognitive function during, before, & after workouts
- Dietary regimentation may feel too restrictive to some practitioners
- Some people lean towards excessive eating during non-fasting hours
- Disruption to diet and eating schedule may have negative effects on digestion
So, Is Intermittent Fasting Good for Athletes?
In the end, whether or not intermittent fasting is the right choice will depend on the individual. Triathletes, for example, may need to harness larger levels of daily fuel, while other endurance athletes may benefit from the increased testosterone and HGH levels fasting can provide. For those athletes committed to a schedule of intermittent fasting, exogenous ketone drinks such as Kenetik can help minimize or negate any potential drawbacks.
What are exogenous ketones, you ask? Well, they’re ketones that are externally made. As such, they’re the natural counterpart to endogenous ketones, which are created internally during ketosis — the state induced by strict fasting.
Ketones are a robust source of clean-burning energy that can complement an athlete’s diet and help them reach their exercise goal. Aided by ketones, the body’s muscles and heart can do up to 28% more with the same levels of oxygen they can with carbs alone. This makes Kenetik an incredible new way to fuel training, improve energy, aid in post-workout recovery, and overall improve athletic performance.
Plus, Kenetik is keto and fasting friendly! Because Kenetik’s plant-based blend of ketones is identical to those your body naturally produces in ketosis, you can drink Kenetik during every fast. A bottle of Kenetik can also reduce food cravings and help you start your day off with a burst of energy and a clear head. But don’t take our word for it; grab a bottle for yourself and transform your training with Kenetik today.