If you’ve been keeping up with the various diets that have come into the mainstream in recent years, then you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting. In fact, it has become a bit of a rage – with proponents even appearing on well-known daytime television shows like Dr. Oz and The Doctors. It’s discussed frequently on muscle building and weightlifting blogs as well as specifically diet and nutrition blogs.
We have to admit – at first, we did not take to the idea of restricting our nutrition to a small window of just a few hours daily. More expensively, intermittent fasting covers a wide scope; some plans mandate that you eat every other day, whereas others entail eating within a three hour block, or a five hour block, or in a hour block of time during the day. Outside of the specified time, you are fasting. Think of the word breakfast, for example; it is entitled as such because you are breaking the fast that you underwent the night before and eating your first meal.
Nonetheless, intermittent fasting (IF) is making the waves as a viable weight loss tool. It even has scientific backing: there’s plenty of medical research showing that IF may be effective in the following areas (always dependent on the other things that the subject is doing, of course):
- It can accelerate fat loss
- It has shown the ability to reduce body weight
- It increases the oxidation of fat
In the following article, we will investigate whether supplementation is effective for intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) Supplements
Because intermittent fasting can apply to a wide range of selected time blocks, the best supplement strategy to help you attain your goals can vary somewhat. Regardless of how you schedule your intake, the selected supplement strategy is very much capable of maximizing your performance in the gym, and helping you in your fat loss program. There are numerous reports and official studies of success while on the IF diet.
Just because you may be fasting for much of the day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working out – but this of course depends on the specific version of the IF diet that you choose. For example, if it hasn’t been too long since you last ate, then you may have enough energy stores to launch into your exercise routine right before you break your fast. This is where supplementation becomes very important; if you’re using a pre-workout powder containing branched chain amino acids, then this will provide you with both the energy and the protein synthesis that you need to optimize your gym performance.
A Bit More on Taking Supplements During the Day
It’s important to note that imbibing branched chain amino acids right before your workout can go a long way in facilitating a good exercise session. Remember, due to IF, your body has been deprived of calories up to this point in the day; therefore, the BCAA’s may be necessary to help you power through a session as your feeding window opens up. Not only will the BCAA’s inhibit protein catabolism, they will do you one better – they’ll improve actual protein synthesis simultaneously. Therefore, not only will the supplement stop you from losing muscle, you’ll end up with a net positive as you finally break your fast during your gym session for that day.
Whatever pre-workout powder you choose to use, it should have a stimulant of some kind, another ingredient towards facilitating fat loss, and something to help stave off fatigue – especially since you haven’t yet eaten today. Lastly, you’re going to need some carbs for energy which, when combined with essential amino acids (the ones that your body produces naturally, and more of which can be acquired from external sources of sustenance), promotes the synthesis of protein. Let’s go through a few viable and popular options:
Caffeine: We start things off with a bang with the world’s foremost stimulant – caffeine. Not only can it be paired with theanine to heighten and sustain your alertness, but it can be used by itself to both keep sleep at bay and to energize you within minutes after you take it.
Even better, bodybuilders, weightlifters and fitness enthusiasts alike successfully use caffeine to extend their workouts. As for how much you can safely take, it turns out that just wanting 3 mg of caffeine for every pound of body weight has been shown in research studies to dramatically improve your upper body strength. This obviously also translates to lower body strength for you squatters and dead-lifters.
Beta-Alanine: Next up is everyone’s favorite amino acid sourced from sources external to the body. Although you can usually find beta alanine being used as an ingredient by itself in a pre-workout powder, it is also fairly common to find it paired with other BCAAs.
As for the function of beta alanine by itself, it actually performs as a sort of mediator for the carnosine created inside of your body and retained there. This intracellular mediator stifles the buildup of hydrogen ions and other metabolites. Basically, it slows down the buildup of lactic acid which would otherwise cause your muscles to fatigue. Effectively then, later alanine helps you workout longer at higher intensities. For best results, limit your intake to between 3 and 6.5 g of beta alanine daily.
One of the side effects that people report from taking beta alanine is a distinct tingling/flashing of the top layer of the skin. Remember, there’s a chemical activity going on as beta alanine counteracts the buildup of lactic acid. If you get this tingling feeling while taking the recommended dosage, and simply halve that dosage (two between 2 and 3 g) every time you take it – up to twice daily.
Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate: Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate is an especially useful substance for those who are engaged in a program of intermittent fasting. Since this particular diet is geared towards supporting the loss of fat in the human body, a substance that essentially melts stored fat and is exothermic (it produces extra energy through the oxidation of fatty acid cells) would be extremely beneficial. The scientific name for this entire process of melting stored fat for the production of excess energy is lipolysis.
When Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate is included in a pre-workout powder that also contains the stimulant caffeine, then research studies show a significant increase in metabolic rate. Basically, fatty acid oxidation goes into overdrive. There have been a number of trials and subsequent published results on this correlation.
As for exactly how it works, it will give you the skinny: caffeine and Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate are able to work together to stifle the muscular catabolism that is usually part-and-parcel with fasting for prolonged periods. Simultaneously, the Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate aspect of the pair burns fat cells in the background and turn them into energy with which to fuel the overall process. As for how much you should take, if you’re taking a dose of pure Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate and restricted to 150 mg daily. Alternatively, green tea extract contains this naturally and if you imbibe between 500 mg and 1000 mg daily – which should contain 30% Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate – then you will be ingesting enough to reliably increase lipolysis.
Carbohydrates + Essential Amino Acids: Not surprisingly, it turns out that the combination of amino acids and carbs goes a long way in your weightlifting endeavors. The research is ironclad: the consumption of essential amino acids along with carbohydrates right before you engage in weightlifting will dramatically increase protein synthesis. Remember that essential amino acids are the ones that your body produces naturally; but you can also supplement them from sources such as meat, very products, etc.
For precise numbers, make a shake (or by a pre-workout that contains them) that has 35g of cluster dextrin carbohydrates, along with 6 g of a spectrum of essential amino acids. When you do this right before your gym session, the essential amino acids are shuttled right to your active muscles where protein synthesis begins immediately. You don’t have to get this from a shake, however; a cup of dried dates for the sucrose, and another source of essential amino acids right is your preparing to go workout will help you produce significant muscle gains.
Using Supplements During Your Workout
There are many supplements where it doesn’t matter what time you take them, as they can flood your body with nutrients throughout the day and be effective for a workout undertaken at any time. With that said, there are also some which have an optimal effect when taken during a gym session.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): BCAAs actually have a couple of primary functions that may be of use during intense resistance training. Keep in mind that there’s not a whole lot of research on the matter, but there have been several studies done. Firstly, BCAAs helps to stave off muscle fatigue; this has obvious benefits for those trying to build muscle and strength. The precise mechanism involves dampening the amount of free tryptophan present in your blood, while also of course increasing the amount of BCAAs.
The second way in which BCAAs help is by slowing down metabolism – the process in which the body starts to feed on its own muscles. This is particularly a problem when you are engaging in intermittent fasting, for obvious reasons. By drinking a powder with ranch chain amino acids during your gym session, you will benefit from both these activities. When searching for a good powder, look for one that contains valine, leucine and isoleucine. Experts recommend a total of about 7 g of BCAAs that should last you for the duration of your workout. For those who desire a specific breakdown, consider the following:
- Valine – 1.75 g
- Leucine – 3.5 g
- Isoleucine – 1.75 g
Intermittent Fasting Day: What Should Be in Your Post-Workout Break-Fast
Carbohydrates: It would be nearly impossible to indulge in a keto diet as well as an intermittent fasting diet at the same time; carbohydrates are simply too important in the first meal after you break your fast for the day. In fact, studies show quite distinctly that if you are taking in at least half a gram of carbohydrates per pound of body weight, then your body’s tendency to feast on its own muscles will diminish dramatically. Basically, carbs help to stifle catabolism. Just as importantly, carbs actually encourage protein synthesis. Even if you don’t consider yourself a bodybuilder, if you engage in any type of resistance training, you will need to replenish your glycogen stores with carbohydrates.
As for what type of carbohydrates you should imbibe? If you’re going for the easy-to-make protein shake, then get one that contains dextrose over maltodextrin. The reason for this is the superior speed with which the former replenishes your glycogen stores. Since you haven’t eaten in a while, you may prefer actual food over a drink; in that case avoid the low-glycemic-index foods in favor of potatoes, white rice, pretzels or bananas.
Protein: Within a window of 15 – 120 minutes after your gym session has concluded, it is very beneficial to make sure you are getting some protein. Indeed, studies have shown that an amazing 400% increase in protein synthesis has been seen in subjects who imbibed a 6/35 g split of protein in the form of essential amino acids and carbohydrates right after weightlifting.
If you really want to supercharge your workouts and smash through your bodybuilding goals, then consider taking 15 g of whey protein right before resistance training, and then another 15 g of whey protein immediately after you’re done. Protein synthesis has been shown to skyrocket when this program is followed.
For serious lifters, a very safe and effective way to launch her body into the anabolic process post workout is to drink a shake or eat some food that contains 20 to 25 g of primarily (if not exclusively) whey protein. Way is preferable because it has been shown that this digests the fastest out of all the other types of protein. Keep in mind that your body cannot viably use more than about 50 g of protein at any one time – even immediately after some serious resistance training. Although much of it will go to protein synthesis, the rest will be stored as fat calories if you take more than this.
Creatine: The third and final supplement that we recommend for post workout consumption is none other than creatine. Although your body does create some of this substance naturally in the cells of the muscle, research has shown stunning benefits from imbibing more creatine from external sources. If you take between three and five g of creatine daily, then you will notice dramatic improvements to the size of your muscles, lean body mass, your strength and your ability to exude power and resistance training activities.
Although creatine is excellent as a pre-workout, there’s actually scientific research that shows it to be even more effective when used as a post workout supplement when it comes to strength gains and body mass games.