Intermittent fasting has always been known for its fat loss benefits, people from around the world have been following it to stay in shape without putting in a lot of effort.
Before we get into all details let me just tell you those 5 remarkable reasons to intermittent fast for lean bulking:
- It’s easy to follow eating protocol
- Fasting for a few hours give your digestive system a break
- It will improve your insulin sensitivity
- Preserve that hard-earned muscle mass
- Convenient for the lifters with regular 8-5 job.
Now you know the abstract, lets get into detail by understanding the science behind success of intermittent fast while bulking.
One day a student asked me, coach, can I follow intermittent fasting while still being on a bulking phase. I have been a long time follower of fasting and I have been using fasting to achieve some detoxing and spiritual benefits. But I never had a thought of blending in intermittent fasting with the bulking phase.
Just out of curiosity, we tried intermittent fasting on a client who has been following our 12-week bulking program.
We never had an intention to document the journey on the blog post so I don’t have a systematic transformation photoshoot, but photos are still enough to understand the difference.
About the client.
Shubham is 23 years old, 6”1’ tall, with a lean body type (ectomorph) and he has always struggled to gain muscle mass.
12 weeks bulking program helped him gain about 8 kg of body weight (some of it was obviously fat). With a de-loading period of 2-weeks, we spent another 10-weeks on a High-calorie diet but this time we followed a time-restricted pattern.
This time we also Included some regular steady-state cardio sessions that were done while in a fasted state. Time-restricted feeding while bulking lead to clean & lean bulking.
What lean bulking is all about?
Going on a bulking phase has been a reliable solution to pack on muscle mass. The bulking period includes staying in a state of caloric surplus, heavy lifting, and good quality sleep.
Bulking is not about getting a license to eat crappy food all day long, instead, you still need to watch out where those calories are coming from.
Bodybuilders utilize the bulking period to gain maximum muscle mass at the body’s maximum potential but the problem is, they gain a lot of fat mass as well.
Not every random lifter at the gym wants to look like a muscle monster; most of the guys have regular 9-5 jobs and want to get jacked without putting on tons of fat mass as well.
Lean bulking is a great way to bulk up without gaining several pounds of fat mass but it has been considered quite difficult to follow as well.
Why is lean bulking is difficult?
- Preparing a 5-6 clean meal every day can be a difficult task.
- Consuming those 5-6 boring meals is more challenging.
- Multiple meals can disrupt your digestive system, especially for people who do not have a habit of eating a big amount of food.
- Most of the lifters don’t want to be a Pro-bodybuilder, hence find it quite difficult to stay motivated.
If you are someone who has been annoyed by the drawbacks of the bulking session then you can consider including intermittent fasting in your program.
Benefits of Fasting While Bulking
These are the benefits that we personally experienced after putting many clients on bulking but with a time-restricted eating window. Still, everybody responds differently to the intermittent fasting, your results might differ from our results because of many other factors.
Trying it for a few weeks and analyzing the results might help you know if it is working for you. Let’s discuss the benefits.
1# Easy To Follow Protocol
If you are someone looking for easy to follow bulking protocol then it might be the best approach for you.
Lifters who have a full-time job are the ones who miss their meals very often.
Problem is, eating 5-6 meals is really difficult when you have a lot of other stuff to do like studies, college or office work.
2# Easy On Stomach
Consuming 6 meals a day is difficult if you are someone who usually eats 2-3 meals a day.
First of all, your body does not have a habit of eating too many calories, also, your body is not prepared to have meals after every 2-3 hours.
High calorie bulking diet is not only hard to follow but can be relatively hard on the digestive system.
Fasting for 16-hours gives your body optimum rest time to repair the digestive tract and also allows time to digest the food properly.
Fasting is convenient, we all know that. How does it add convenience to your bulking program? Here is how-
- Fasting is easy to follow for people who have a busy schedule, someone who doesn’t have enough time to prepare breakfast can just choose to have a big lunch.
- Eating in an 8-hour window is a lot more convenient, you just need to focus on consuming 2 big meals to fulfill the caloric needs.
- Fasting is convenient because you don’t need to invest all your time in meal preps.
- You are not constantly wondering about your next meal.
4# Preserves muscle mass
First of all, your body doesn’t start losing muscles as soon as you stop eating. There are enough glycogen reserves available in the body to support extended fasting.
Fasting has been proven to be a very effective method for preserving muscle mass. Intermittent fasting promotes the production of testosterone levels and growth hormones (GH), these are the hormones that have many health benefits, including – growth, metabolism, strength gains, and weight loss.
A study conducted on the effects of short-term fasting with a group of non-obese men. It found some promising results, the study stated LH (luteinizing hormone – a testosterone precursor hormone) rises up to 67% and overall testosterone increased by 180%.
So basically, fasting prevents muscle catabolization by boosting levels of testosterone and GH.
During the period of fasting, the body starts to use fats as a source of energy which helps in clean and lean bulking.
As long as you hit your calories, you will build.
5# Improves insulin sensitivity
Another important thing you should be focusing on.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas, its main function is to regulate blood glucose levels.
Your body breaks the food to produce energy, food molecules are broken down into glucose to provide energy to every cell of the body. Insulin is a hormone that transports glucose from blood to every cell of the body.
Because of constantly feeding your body excess calories, the supply of glucose surpasses the amount of glucose every cell needs. This process triggers insulin resistance, which means, your body needs to produce more insulin to feed the cell.
Long story short, your body loses its ability to absorb the nutrients to its optimum levels.
Decreasing insulin resistance can increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, allowing it to transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells more efficiently.
Fasting has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity in type II diabetics.
In short, improved insulin sensitivity will allow your body to absorb nutrients more effectively which will ultimately help in the growth.
6# Increased appetite
Eating 5-6 meals a day can drastically decrease the appetite and can make you feel lethargic and bloated.
Fasting not only resets the digestive system but also improves the appetite to fit in bigger meals with ease.
Ahead in this article, I am going to elaborate on the best approach to eating more food while fasting.
7# Mental clarity and concentration
Fasting is not only simplifying the bulking process but also improves work concentration and mental clarity.
Fasting has been proven effective (1, 2) to improve cognitive function and brain structure.
Types of intermittent fasting
I hope you already know about the basics of intermittent fasting, but do you know, Intermittent fasting is of many different types.
16:8 method: It’s one of the most common and widely followed fasting methods. You need to eat all your food in an 8 hours window.
Warriors diet: It’s a 20:4 fasting method when you shrink your eating window within just 4 hours.
OMAD: It’s one meal a day pattern that allows eating a single big meal in a day. It’s one of the best ways to fast for weight loss.
Alternate day fasting: You fast for one whole day and eat your regular food on every next day.
Warriors diet, OMAD, alternate-day fasting should not be followed while bulking, They might negatively impact the gains.
I would suggest only a 16-hours fasting window, it will provide enough rest to your system.
Drawback of fasting while bulking
Not the best but still good: Fasting is not the best way to bulk guys, but it’s an easier alternative to extreme bulking.
Bulking is not about getting a license to eat crappy food all day. If you can keep up with clean food prep while the entire bulking phase then intermittent fasting might not be the best option for you but if you are looking to enjoy clean bulk then it might be a great option to introduce yourself to intermittent fasting patterns.
I suggest intermittent fasting while bulking to the people who are either too busy to follow a proper diet or who are experiencing difficulties while conventional bulking.
How to fit in calories in the eating window?
One of the biggest confusion people have, how to fit in those calories in just 8 hours. It’s not that difficult.
Eating 2 big 1200 calorie meals while supplementing with a 1500 calorie shake can help you reach 3500-4000 calories in a day.
Here is how it works.
- The day starts with slow and steady fasted cardio to boost up metabolic rate and burn down stored fat.
- Meal 1 should be consumed just after the cardio session, this cardio session will also help in increasing the hunger levels.
- 4 hours after the first meal, prepare your 1500 calories protein-rich bulking shake. Below, I have mentioned the recipe.
- Workout 90-120 minutes after the shake, it will give enough fuel to power up your intense and heavy training session.
- Don’t skip your intra workout supplementation to keep your body fueled.
- Consume meal-2 after the training session.
- If you want, feel free to fit in additional meals.
Follow the same routine even if you like to workout in the morning, just add some decent pre-workout meal before your workout. Do your steady-state cardio in the evening to burn down some fat and promote hunger for the next big meal.
If you have a day job then it’s okay to skip the morning cardio, cardio was added only to maintain cardiovascular health while bulking. You can also start your day with a big high-calorie shake followed by two big meals as lunch and dinner.
It’s always easy to fit in 3 high-calorie meals instead of fitting 6-meals.
My personal favorite 1500 calorie shake recipe, you can always alter the content ratio to fulfill your caloric needs.
- Whey protein– 2 scoops, 320 Calories.
- Oatmeal – 1/2 cup is 150 calories
- Greek Yogurt – 1 cup, 130 calories.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon – 120 calories.
- Banana 1, 60 calories
- 2% Skim Milk – 2 cups, 260 calories.
- Peanut Butter – 2 tablespoons, 420 calories.
Fasting While Bulking FAQ
1- Can I gain weight from fasting?
Gaining weight or losing weight depends on the number of calories you consume. If you are consuming more calories than your daily caloric needs then you will gain weight and if you are consuming lesser calories than the requirement then you will lose weight.
You can definitely gain weight if you are conscious about maintaining a caloric surplus.
2- Should I workout while fasting?
What kind of workout are you looking for? Any kind of low-intensity steady-state cardio is perfectly okay while fasting but heavy lifting is not the best thing to do.
Heavy lifting requires an abundance of muscle glycogen levels that is not possible while in a fasted state. If you are trying to gain muscle and strength then its highly recommended to take a balanced pre-workout meal before your training session.
3- How long is too long to fast while bulking?
If you are on a bulking phase and trying to put on muscle mass then you should not be fasting for more than 16-hours, fasting for more than 16-hours may sabotage your gains.
4- Does fasting hurt muscle growth?
Some clinical researches have proven the effectiveness of fasting in preserving muscle mass, this happens because of the release of GH (growth hormones).
16-hours intermittent fasting should be totally okay for you if you are feeding yourself optimum macro and micronutrients.
Thanks for reading. Questions are welcomed in the comments as always.
This site contains affiliate links as well as general health and fitness information. Please read my Medical Disclaimer and Writing Disclaimer for more information.