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Not eating could make you stronger and leaner.
Take a look at your average powerlifter and you'd think they rarely stop eating. Powerlifting is based entirely around performance, rather than aesthetics, so many powerlifters eat high-calorie, high-carb, high-protein diets. While traditional knowledge would suggest that a regular eating pattern throughout the day would be best for sustaining energy and improving performance, intermittent fasting could be a viable option for powerlifters looking to reduce their body fat levels or even during a mass- and strength-gaining phase.
Intermittent Fasting 101
Intermittent fasting -- or IF -- involves periods of fasting followed by periods of eating, or feasting. The main types of IF are ADF, Eat Stop Eat, the Warrior Diet, Lean Gains and meal skipping. ADF involves cycling a 36-hour fast followed by a 12-hour eating window. Eat Stop Eat utilizes a 24-hour fast once or twice a week. The Warrior Diet and Lean Gains prescribe 20 or 16-hour fasts with four or eight-hour feasts respectively, while meal skipping is simply randomly skipping meals.
The Six Meal Myth
The notion that weight trainers, athletes and powerlifters should eat every few hours and up to six or seven times per day stems from the idea that frequent meals boost the metabolism. This is unfounded though, and there is no metabolic advantage from eating this often compared to just a couple of meals per day, as per intermittent fasting, according to trainer John Romaniello. If you feel bloated from eating frequently or find you have more energy on an empty stomach, you may find you train more productively when intermittent fasting.
Who Intermittent Fasting Is For
Not everyone is suited to IF. According to sports nutritionist Dr. John Berardi, fasting diets work for around 80 percent of men and 20 percent of women. Fasting works better if you're comfortable monitoring your calorie intake, have a flexible lifestyle and are an experienced lifter. During 2011, Dr. Berardi embarked on an intermittent fasting diet for the first time and dropped 20 pounds of fat while maintaining most of his muscle and strength.
Application for Powerlifters
The main consideration when starting an IF-style diet is whether you feel you'll benefit. IF holds no physiological advantage over any other eating schedule, but you may find it more convenient. You still need to monitor your calorie and macronutrient intake and adjust these depending on performance level and progress. Nutritional consultant Martin Berkhan recommends eating more carbs and less fat on training days and fewer carbs and more fat on rest days, as carbs will help give you energy for your sessions. When trying out IF for the first time, elite powerlifter and coach Brady Stewart advises sticking to healthy, nutrient-dense foods -- such as lean meats, fruits and vegetables -- and carefully tracking your progress to see how you respond to the diet.