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It’s common knowledge that in order to build muscle in the gym, you need to eat lots of food to fuel your body. However, the consumption of extra calories is often synonymous with fat gain, leading to a difficult conundrum: How can you add muscle to your frame, while minimizing the amount of fat that comes with it?
One way to manage your weight when you are trying to build lean muscle is through intermittent fasting, or IF. IF is an eating style (not necessarily a diet) in which you consume your day’s worth of calories during a specific period of time, and fast with water and other low-calorie drinks such as coffee or tea for the rest of the day. For example, you may choose to eat your meals from 12pm – 6pm, but consume no other foods outside of that time window. You are not necessarily changing what you eat or the amount of what you eat; you are simply doing all of your eating in a set period of time, called an “eating window.”
How Does it Work?
IF helps spare and preserve muscle tissue while keeping your metabolism strong and healthy. In other words, this eating style allows you to fuel your muscles with necessary proteins and carbohydrates, while simultaneously ensuring that you do not put on unnecessary weight. The food that you eat during your eating window contributes directly to lean muscle growth and development, and then your metabolism kicks in during the fasting phase of the day to melt fat.
Incorporating IF Into Your Life
When participating in IF, you are free to adjust your personal eating window to meet your physical demands. Many people who engage in IF use an 8-hour eating window, usually from 12pm-8pm or 1pm-9pm. An 8-hour window provides ample time for sufficient caloric intake, and the 16-hour fast gives your metabolism plenty of time to do some serious fat burning. However, if you want to burn even more fat, you can shorten your eating window to five or six hours. This can make it slightly more challenging to consume the necessary amount of calories to foster muscle growth, as you may find yourself too full after your first few meals to eat another, but shorter eating windows can undoubtedly be effective.
As with any weight management program, on IF you should still watch just what foods you are putting into your body. Make sure that you consume mostly lean meats, healthy carbohydrates, fruits, and veggies. While it is indeed the restriction of your eating time that makes IF so effective, if you were to eat lots of unhealthy food, like three large pizzas during an 8-hour eating window, you will still struggle to lose weight.
Interested in IF?
Here are some links to a few websites that can help you learn more.
By Gabe Sansone
Photo courtesy of askmen.com