Weight loss has always been a target for lots of new fads. It seems as though every two minutes there some new strategy being trumpeted for losing fat faster and more effectively while ‘eating whatever you want’.
Intermittent fasting is just one such fad and a particularly popular one at that. In fact, intermittent fasting is heavily promoted by the well-known YouTube fitness vloggers ‘The Hodge Twins’. But just because something is a ‘fad’ that doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t have merit. Let’s look at IF a little more closely then and see what we can ascertain about it… Is this a useful cutting strategy for bodybuilders?
What is Intermittent Fasting?
To begin with, what precisely is intermittent fasting?
Essentially, IF means that you go through periods of fasting and periods of eating normally. There are various different ways you can do this but perhaps the most popular form is the ‘5/2’ diet. The 5/2 diet essentially means that you will be eating normally five days a week and then fasting for the other two days. On those two days you are not encouraged to go completely without food but rather to just eat considerably less than normal – usually restricting your calories to 2-500 depending on how hardcore you are.
Other types of IF include fasting for half the day. Hugh Jackman famously used a version of intermittent fasting when he was getting into shape for Wolverine, wherein he would stop eating in the afternoon and then not eat again until morning. As we all know, Jackman got into pretty insanely ripped shape, so he’s a pretty good advertisement for IF…
The Fasting Twins (the secondary account for the Hodge Twins) meanwhile recommend fasting for 16-19 hours every day (during which time they consume zero calories). They also combine their intermittent fasting method with carb-backloading meaning that their 5 hour fasting window immediately follows their training. The common belief is that fasting for any less than 16 hours is not sufficient to put you in a ‘fasted state’.
Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting
It’s easy to see the appeal of intermittent fasting. Right from the offset it provides you with a way to reduce your calories. No matter how hard you’re trying to stuff your face, chances are you won’t be able to eat as much in a week once you’ve removed 48 hours in which to eat. If you’re looking for an easy way to restrict your intake of food, this gives you a structure without being complicated or too invasive.
But the idea of intermittent fasting is not just to eat less. At the same time, it’s to force your body to burn fat for energy and to produce ketones which are an alternative source of energy. There are also numerous touted health benefits, including improved autophagy – the clean-up of damaged cells which may aid hypertrophy.
As for the downsides… well one big obvious drawback is the fact that IF means you’re going to be hungry throughout much of the day and potentially functioning sub-optimally as a result. The IF Twins always train fasted and while that seems to suit them, others will find this exhausting and it will likely result in the breakdown of muscle.
There are about a million arguments for IF but there are about a million against it too. If you’re struggling to burn fat then it may be something that’s worth trying out but for many people it will be too much of a commitment and too strict to maintain.