If you have spent any time looking to add some lean muscle, drop some fat, increase strength or even set foot in a gym I know you will hear these things.
“What, you are fasting? You are a crazy man. That stuff will make you into a big pussy in the gym.”
Really? Sounds like an untested assumption to me. You know what we do with untested assumptions, right?
“Carbs will make you fat”
Really? Hmmm, maybe we should test that too.
“Yo, don’t you know that you need to eat every 1-2.3337 hours to stay anabolic! Everyone knows that, bro”
Really? Sounds like some more crazy Bro-Science in need of a beat down.
Putting it to the test
There is not much better than setting personal records (PRs) both inside and outside of the gym. It is an awesome feeling, knowing that you are making progress.
Last night I got a triple with a weight that was 20 lbs heavier than just about 3 weeks where I got 1 rep for deficit deadlifts. Whoo ha.
To top if off, I did it at the end of a 24 hour fast as described in Eat Stop Eat. Yep, only water for 24 hours.
Ok, ok, if I am going to come clean and be perfectly honest (my wife can vouch that I am honest to a fault), I did have a fiber drink at 10 AM and 6 brazil nuts around 3pm; so technically not a true fast but very close.
Even with minimal food, I still set a PR!
Video of deficit deadlifts (double overhand grip) for a PR on Dec 6.
Why intermittent fasting? I was told it makes you weak as a kitten?
Great question. I believe (ala Metabolic Flexibility) that your body should be able to perform well under a variety of conditions.
The 2 most basic conditions for training are:
1) lots of food (high levels of insulin)
2) low levels of food (thus low levels of insulin)
Each has a specific purpose and a time to be used best.
High levels of insulin
When insulin is very high, your body is shifted towards carbohydrate metabolism. This is great right before a high intensity weight training session since the main fuel source to power your workouts will be carbohydrates. Insulin is also a very potent vasodilator, so you can dump all the worthless Nitric Oxide products.
Low levels of insulin
When insulin is low, your body is shifted towards fat metabolism. This is awesome when you are trying to drop some fat and lean up a bit.
Can we have the best of both worlds though?
Here is a 3 step approach to add some lean mass without tons of fat in the process.
Step 1: Moderate insulin levels during the day
You food for these meals will be protein (about 20-40 grams), fats, and veggies. While all foods have an insulin response, a mixed meal with protein and fats as a base results in a more moderate insulin response (especially if you add in some fiber from the veggies).
Step 2: Spike insulin levels pre-workout
We want to shift the body to carbohydrate metabolism for the upcoming weight training session, so by using a simple carbohydrate and protein (whey protein works great) drink consumed pre-training we can increase insulin, and vasodilation effects as a side benefit.
Sample preworkout drink
2 scoops dextrose (or 1 packet of Vitargo)
1 scoop of whey protein
5 grams creatine monohydrate (optional)
3 grams beta-alanine (optional)
Mix with about 750mL of water and drink half about 30-60 minutes before training and the rest during training.
Note: if you have not done this before and have been on a low carb diet for a long time, I would recommend that you test this beverage in place of your breakfast to determine your response. A few people will experience a drop in blood sugar after consuming it and become a bit dizzy, which is not conducive to lifting heavy objects. This is rare, but test it out at breakfast on a non training day and note your response to it.
Step 3: Monitor and continue
If your muscle to fat gain ratio of your new weight is still good, then continue on. That ratio will depend on each person. For me, if I can gain at about 2:1 or even 1:1 muscle to fat, I am happy with that since adding lean muscle is more difficult for me than dropping fat. At times in the past I was happy with a 0.5 to 2 lb ratio.
When you are gaining more mass and calories are higher (especially carbs), your body gets really good at using carbs, but not as good at using fat (constant higher levels of insulin = burning more carbs and not fat). One symptom is that when carbs are spiked, you may get a bit hypoglycemic and dizzy.
Remember what I said about testing it first?
This happened to me 2 nights ago. I went to lift and just felt bad during lifting and dizzy. I came back in and crushed 2 glasses of water and 2 Cliff bars. About 20 minutes later I felt better, cranked out a PR and called it a night.
Even during a bulking phase, we want to maintain some ability to burn fats when needed! In a perfect world, we want to be able to go back and forth between burning fats and carbs seemlessly (metabolic flexibility) to use body fat to fuel muscle growth. While it is hard to get the body to do this without drugs and extreme approaches, it can be shifted that direction.
Once I get the hypoglycemic feeling, I schedule a fast starting that night to sensitize my body to carbs and teach it to burn some fat again. A recent study by Harvie, MN et al. (1) showed that intermittent fasting was a bit more effective than even caloric restriction for reductions in fasting insulin and insulin resistance. One of the benefit of caloric restriction is centered around its positive effects on insulin and glucose management.
How often do I do an intermittent fast when looking to add lean mass?
It will vary from person to person, but about 1 every 14 to 21 days seems to be average for those training 4-5 days per week with pretty good levels of training volume. These trainers are also using this tip I share for free in this video too.
If you are looking to build muscle and you are skinner to start with, you will need to increase calories. The goal is to get those increased calories shunted towards muscle growth and not your gut.
We only want to fast the minimal effective amount (mEA) to keep insulin in check and not lose the ability to burn fat between meals.
Newer research by Dr. Layne Norton has shown that CONSTANT levels of amino acids (proteins) in the blood may ironically NOT be best for muscle growth (2); so eating every 1-3 hours is not ideal. Plus it is a huge pain in the butt. Typical spacing is about 4-5 hours since this gives the body time to burn a bit of fat between meals (insulin drops a bit, but for it to get really really low takes up to 24 hours) and appears to “reset” the mechanisms involved in protein synthesis (stuffing proteins into those muscles).
In an experiment done by Bohe et al. (3), a constant infusion (via an IV stuck in their arm) was done to keep amino acid levels high for 6 hours. What they found was that DESPITE high levels, muscle protein synthesis started to DROP at about 2 hours; so CONSTANTLY high levels of amino acids is not ideal.
Dr. Layne Norton pulling some big weight on deficit deadlifts
What about calories?
Calories are king, so if you are looking to gain some lean mass and your calories are really low, it will take quite some time. If you are looking to drop some fat and your calories are still sky high and you are not doing Michael Phelps 3 hour training sessions, you will need to drop them down. No matter what anyone tells you, calories do matter and should be accounted for first.
Key points to take home to maximize body composition while gaining lean mass
1) Fasting does not appear to make you weak (but run your own experiment)
2) High levels of insulin = carb burning, low levels of insulin = fat burning
3) We want to be able to effectively switch back and forth seemlessly between both conditions
4) Space meals farther apart to about every 4-5 hours
5) Calories matter and are king
To further help you kick start 2011, for everyone that picks up a copy of Eat Stop Eat from my site here, I will give you my Metabolic Flexibility: Burn That Fat webinar that I routinely sell for $35 for FREE.
Metabolic Flexibility: Burn that Fat! $35
I am currently studying the concept of Metabolic Flexibility in the lab and writing it up for publication. I’ve tested this method out on my clients and other too, so it is NOT just theory. One guy dropped almost 20 lbs eating Chipolte and drinking Guinness.
How to burn more fat!
How to use carbs at the RIGHT times!
Have more energy!
Eat more of the foods you WANT to eat, with fewer to no “side effects”
Use fat to gain muscle
Research based, no “broscience” here
and much more
Total running time 46 minutes Only $35
This is a limited time only offer and ends at midnight this Monday Jan 3, 2011.
Once you have picked up Eat Stop Eat, just hit the contact tab above and paste your receipt into it and I will send you the Metabolic Flexibility webinar for FREE, a $35 value.
1) Harvie MN, Pegington M, Mattson MP, Frystyk J, Dillon B, Evans G, Cuzick J, Jebb SA, Martin B, Cutler RG, Son TG, Maudsley S, Carlson OD, Egan JM, Flyvbjerg A, Howell A. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Oct 5. [Epub ahead of print] The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women. Genesis Prevention Centre, University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK.
2) Dr Layne Norton “My Powerpoint presentation from the 2008 International Society of Sports Nutrition Symposium” accessed on December 31 at 10:01am from http://biolayne.com/
3) Bohé J, Low A, Wolfe RR, Rennie MJ. Human muscle protein synthesis is modulated by extracellular, not intramuscular amino acid availability: a dose-response study. J Physiol. 2003 Oct 1;552(Pt 1):315-24. Epub 2003 Aug 8. Division of Metabolism, Department of Surgery, University of Texas Medical Branch, Shriners Burns Hospital, Galveston, TX 77550, USA.
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Pick up Eat Stop Eat by midnight this Monday Jan 3, and I will give you my Metabolic Flexibility: Burn that fat webinar for FREE!
Can I have a coke? It is not technically food, so it is ok, right?
Guess what my answer is
No, no, and a large side of nope
Now, of course you can still have these things, but you would not be truly fasting then.
That is ok if you are not fasting, but when you are fasting the goal is to not consume anything with calories.
Why Do You Have to Fast for 24 hours?
It is because at hour 24.5 the catabolic hormones go ape shit since they realized there is no food coming in and they go into full assualt panic mode. Like a group of bad street gangs they start to tear down everything in site.
Those terrible catabolic street gang hormones are going to tear you down!
There is nothing magical about 24 hours per say. It it just normally easier for people to remember and actually do.
I have had fasts that were 23 hours and 26 hours and I did not get worried about it.
Metabolic Flexibility and Fasting
Doing a fast is an easy way for people to increase their metabolically flexibility. During a fast, there is no food coming in, so insulin levels are very low. Insulin is the main fuel selector switch
High insulin = burn carbs
Low insulin = burn fat
Now that is an over simplifciation and disregards GH levels, catacholamines, and others; but it is pretty close.
Low levels of insulin push the fuel slector switch to the “burn fat mode” and no, you won’t scrivle up and lose tons of muscle. If you are really afraid, do a training session that day as lifting heavy stuff is extremely anabolic. It is a massive signal to the body to keep the muslce you have in case you ever try to do that again.
Lifting, even in a fasted state, will still turn on muscle protein synthesis (adding new muscle tissue) (Phillips et al 2005).
While it is true that this can further enhanced by timing protein/carbs around training, you will not lose muscle by lifting weights.
Here is his first person account of how it went down
” I did a 24-hour fast yesterday and it was sure interesting. Not necessarily a “damn I’m hungry” pain but a lot more mental just feeling like I needed to taste and chew something. I heard a great interview with Brad (of Eat Stop Eat) last week where he talked about true hunger being some kid who hasn’t eaten in 3 days and doesn’t know when his next meal is, not just being conditioned to eat often and now don’t have food so I’m hungry. I think getting through a big fast once, like doing a marathon or anything else that seems “impossible”, gives you control over it and then you own it. For sure wouldn’t be as tough the next time. The client I am thinking of using ESE for would really dig that mental component.
Definitely was a lot more cold yesterday and got tired a little earlier than normal, but that’s probably not too out of the ordinary considering. I was telling Dustin I had some jacked up dreams last night also, not sure if that has anything to do with 0 cals or not. Those were really the only things I noticed.
Good to give it a run before I would ever recommend it to someone else. And I definitely see how it can create caloric deficit considering I probably burnt somewhere around 2500 cals and didn’t consume any…that’s a big trade off.”
See, Mike survived just fine and so will you. As a side benefit, you will not only drop some fat to look and feel better, you will increase your metabolic flexibility to boot also (which helps your body in many ways too).
I recommend you pick up a copy of Eat Stop Eat and give it a shot. If you still want more info, you can download a full hour interview I did with Brad Pilon below
Stuart M. Phillips, PhD, FACN, Joseph W. Hartman, MSc and Sarah B. Wilkinson, MSc “Dietary Protein to Support Anabolism with Resistance Exercise in Young Men” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 24, No. 2, 134S-139S (2005)
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Eat Stop Eat Intermittent Fasting First Person Interview: Dave “Athlete Creator” Sandel
Note: full disclosure. Dave lifts with me here at the Extreme Human Performance Center, so I know him and yes I will have an affiliate link at the end for you to purchase a product that I make a few bucks off. If you don’t purchase said product I will not hunt you down via your IP address (like I even know how to do that) and force you to buy it, but if you do I will be forever thankful.
Lets fire up some green tea and put the screws to Dave about his recent fasting experiment and see what we can learn. Let’s go.
I heard that you lift weights, but yet you did some fasting. Why?
First off, thanks for allowing me some precious bandwidth on your site. For all you non-geeks, bandwidth is…uuhhh, nevermind, I’ll keep my nerdiness to myself. Anyways….
The biggest reason I decided to try fasting was that spring was in the air, and it was time to shed my winter jacket, if you know what I mean. I’ve done every other type of “diet” out there known to man: low carb, carb cycling, veagan, just plain ‘ole “eating clean”, etc. etc., so I decided I might as well give this a try too.
Unlike you, Mike, I can only stand to read research for a couple of hours a week. I’d rather get out there and actually try it. (Editor’s note, since this is my blog I can add my comments, hehee. Wile I do love to read research, I do try things out too, just ask Dave about Tuesday night lifting sessions).
After hearing about “Eat Stop Eat“, I did some more digging into it and found that Alan Aragon changed his mind about fasting. I also found the Holy Grails of fasting information from Martin Berkhan’s website as well as Brad Pilon (obviously). I didn’t spend a lot of time debating whether or not I was going to ruin myself forever. I saw that these people, among others, were doing it and figured, “what the hell, if they can do it, so can I.”
The rumor mill is that when you fast, muscle will disappear faster than free drinks at a Lindsay Lohan party? Is this true?
Like 99% of the fitness people out there, I thought that were the case too. But if you step back and think logically about it, how can your body possibly eat any noticeable amount of muscle in just 24 hours? Now that I’ve done it, and done a lot more research, it doesn’t make any sense at all that your body will catabolize that much muscle in that short amount of time. It’s like saying that if you take an extra 5 minute break at work, your entire day was ruined and you didn’t get anything accomplished. In reality, what’s another 5 minutes?
Editor’s note: muscle catabolism (break down) is very over hyped in all the muscle mags and all over the internet.
As for real world results (not to plug my website or anything), a year ago I did 9 weeks of German Volume Training. By the end of it, I was 185lb. and around 13% bodyfat. You can see my actual ending measurements on my site here. Since that time, I’ve lost 10lb. and only 0.5″ off the meaningful measurements: biceps, chest, and quads, of course! Hahaha!
I’m willing to bet that my bodyfat is much lower than 13% right now and my strength has actually increased. So, even if that 0.5″ is somehow all muscle, which I highly doubt, I’m even stronger now, regardless of fasting or not.
Why not just cut back on your normal food intake, why fast?
I may only weigh 175lb. but I am definitely a fat kid at heart. I love, love, love to eat. For 6 days out of the week, I get to eat like I always have while maintaining bodyweight. Now take an entire day’s calories out of the week and voila, caloric defecit (weightloss) by doing nothing! Now, if I want to expedite the whole process, all I have to do is increase my activity level to burn even more calories.
Conversely, if I am trying to maintain or even increase bodyweight, that just means that I REALLY get to induldge my inner fat kid. That means I get to eat a lot (relatively speaking) of excess calories 6 days per week in order to keep caloric excess over the course of a week.
How did you survive 24 hours without food?
It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I choose to fast from Sunday after lunch until Monday at lunch. About the time that hunger sets in on Sunday is the same time I start to get ready for bed, so I get to sleep through that part. The next time it gets hard is around 11:30 on Monday when my co-workers start to bring their lunches back to their desk. Luckily that only lasts for about a half hour before I get to eat. I mean, you do have to have some mental toughness when doing this, but nearly as much as you may think.
Words of wisdom about the fast?
To make fasting even easier, water and stimulants are your friends. I can’t handle coffee on an empty stomach so I turn to its milder cousin, green tea.
Fasting the day after a heavy workout seems to be a bit tougher when you’re body is asking for more calories to repair itself, but again, nothing you can’t handle.
Using the fast as an excuse to binge eat before or after is a recipe for disaster. Make sure you have a healthy psychological relationship with food before you try this. And speaking of binge eating, even though you WILL be hungry when you break your fast, I highly suggest NOT eating everything in sight, regardless of how “clean” it may be. I’ve made that mistake twice: once breaking it with a big meal from a chain restaurant, and once breaking it with chicken breasts (plural), a cup of rice, and tons of veggies. A small snack followed by a normal sized meal an hour or so later seems to work best for me.
I hear you run a fitness website, so fill us in.
Nah, I think those are just rumors. I have a website where I talk like an idiot and try to inform people of better ways to workout and eat, but I think my overall tone of “jackassery” wards off a lot of “serious” fitness folks. They probably wouldn’t want me in their inner circles. You’re taking a pretty big risk by letting me type stuff here, Mike. (Editor’s note: I probably have offended enough people for quite some time with my distaste for foam rollers, backwards corrective exercise work, love of vibrams and metabolic flexibility as it is, so no worries there)
If your readers think they might like a little change up in the way material is presented, they can head over to AthleteCreator.com. And just for your readers only, if they sign up for my newsletter, I’ll give them a detailed, inside look at how I’ve used “Eat Stop Eat” to shed those 10lb. while eating “junk food” weekly and maintaining muscle mass…for free! Of course, they’ll need to email me after they sign-up so I know they come from here.
Crap, I guess that means I actually have to type it up. I better get going!
Congrats on your CSCS certification, what are the plans now?
I seem to be getting asked that quite a bit lately, and I seem to be doing pretty well at avoiding it. So, I’ll see ya next week, bye!
The only thing I know for sure is that I’m completely focused on my training for the next month or so. I need to get that 0.5″ back…especially on the gunz! Hahaha! Hey! Don’t judge. It’s beach season, and I’m a single dude. You know?
My full-time gig is Electrical Engineering (which is totally lame, by the way) so I have the “luxury” of being able to take my time in jumping into the industry. I have a new website in the works and am working on getting some behind the scenes business type stuff taken care of. Obviously I’ll be trying to pick up some clients along the way, but I won’t be pursuing it full steam ahead until I get the other stuff taken care of first. Eventually I will be pursuing training full-time, and I look forward to working with serious athletes in all types of sports.
Thanks again for taking the time to do the interview–much appreciate! See ya next Tuesday night for big bench night at the Extreme Human Performance Center, ya crazy bastard, I mean faster.
No, thank you for giving me the opportunity to prove to your readers why they’re here instead of over at my slapstick website. :-p (I’m not sure, do you allow smiley faces over here?)
No, no smiley faces are ever allowed here, this is serious business. ha. I kid, I kid.
If you are interested in dropping a few pounds, I do highly recommend Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat ebook. There are very few fitness products I whole heartily endorse, and Brad’s is one of them.
Random Updates: TRX Suspension Trainer, Eat Stop Eat, Biofeedback, Evil Shoes, Metal, and More
Claud Derrick, New York AL, at Polo Grounds, NY
Wanted to drop you an update on some cool stuff that is coming up and help you out with some biofeedback questions I’ve been getting (aka how for your to maximize your results)
1) New Phone : D R O I D
Thanks to all that helped me select a new phone! Wow, it is sweet! My old phone was barely a phone at best. I am still trying to figure out all the new features, but I will get there. I figured out how to stream music through my phone to my home stereo and that is awesome! Love it.
2) Updates to Facebook and Twitter
Since I can now update Facebook and Twitter pretty easily, I will have more updates there.
Join in on the fun at my facebook and twitter accounts.
I will have more picture of food, training and whatever I feel like. I want to hear from you, you drop me some comments there. My schedule does get nuts at times, so it may be a few days at times for an update, but I will do my best to get back to you!
3) Teleconference on Grip N Rip DVD and Biofeedback Training ; How to set a PR EVERY TIME in the gym!
If you want to change your body, add more muscles, strength and decrease pain, you NEED to listen to your body (biofeedback). For those that picked up the first round of the Grip n Rip DVD set, you know what is going on!
I’ve been getting many questions about the next round of DVDs, what is biofeedback training, and how can I gain more muscle with less pain.
I will have a special 3 part teleseminar series coming up very soon where we will answer all of these questions and much more.
Sign up on my Insider Newsletter today and I will automatically send you 1 hour of free video on common questions about mobility work, strength and exercise programming.
You will also be the very first to get the teleseminar series info too. We will have to limit the amount of callers on the line initially too, so don’t miss out. Sign up below.
4) TRX Fun
I have a few more videos of the TRX in action coming soon too. I’ve received some more questions about the TRX as of late and the short version is that I love it for travel and doing some unique body weight drills. I have one and would recommend that you pick one up (yes, I do make a few clams from selling them, but I would never recommend anything that I have not tested first myself and really love)
TRX suspension trainer review video the professor speaks from his lab
5) More coming from Brad Pilon at Eat Stop Eat
Brad will be back on to answer one of your top questions about the Eat Stop Eat Intermittent Fasting approach. I like Brad because he never pulls any punches and just tells it like it is.
As I Lay Dying and Demon Hunter will be here in Minneapolis Minnesota May 12, so drop a comment below if you are going to be at the show and we will meet up. It is going to be an amazing show as I have seen both of them before and they always deliver live!
Any thoughts, comments, yeahs, neahs, let me know!