Like all areas of social life, sport is not immune to the constantly changing zeitgeist. In particular, when it comes to nutrition, which is both the basis for the reduction of body fat and for the significant buildup of muscle mass, numerous new and less new nutritional concepts are included in the collective fitness memory in regular cycles. Years ago, the simple combination of raw amounts of turkey meat and white rice was considered the ultimate savior, equally suited to the definition and mass phase. A nutritional form, which is currently causing a sensation, especially among weightlifters, and completely counteracts the theory of meal timing, is that Intermittent Fasting, in English "interrupted fasting". Although this radical approach seems to violate all popular conventions of the classic concept of nutrition, it has the potential to become a serious alternative.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Admittedly, it seems strange that fasting, the long absence of food, should have a positive effect on the metabolism of lipids and the anabolic processes of the human body. However, the intermittent fasting differs greatly from classical variations such as the fasting cure, which already practiced the ancient Egyptians and consequently waived for several days on food. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, involves the deliberate interruption of this cycle through fixed time windows in which food intake takes place. In this context, the day is divided into two strictly separated sections, the fasting phase and the so-called food intake phase, in which the total daily calories must be consumed. However, intermittent fasting is not a diet in the strict sense, as the concept merely dictates when to eat and thus leaves the athlete free to choose food. Accordingly, the method is versatile and also suitable for muscle building, such as a diet based on the theory of meal timing, which states that numerous meals taken at regular intervals have a positive impact on muscle growth. However, the exact definition of the two phases depends on the form of intermittent fasting used.

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The different faces of fasting

Since the introduction of intermittent fasting at the beginning of the twentieth century for therapeutic purposes under scientific conditions, a number of variations have emerged that form the basis of what is currently known in the field of fitness sports. Above all, the so-called "Lean Gains variant" ranks high on the popularity scale of the trainees. This most commonly practiced form of intermittent fasting prescribes a 16-hour fasting phase, during which only fluid may be ingested, and an 8-hour food intake phase. Consequently, the Leans Gains variant can be adapted by skilful planning so to the individual daily rhythm, so that it differs only slightly from that of the "normal" diet. The so-called "Warrior diet", however, changes the time window considerably compared to the former form of the intermittent fasting. Based on the daily rhythm of the hunters and gatherers who spent the majority of the day hunting and consequently had little time to feed, the four-hour food intake phase is short according to the model. Consequently, the implementation of the Warrior diet is much more strenuous, as it is necessary to starve for a long time and to consume the entire daily calories within four hours. However, the so-called "Eat-Stop-Eat variant", in the course of which two days a week completely dispensed with food, could not prevail in bodybuilding circles.

The benefits outweigh

At this point, the dogmatic collective memory of fitness sports speaks up with the objection that the lack of food intake over such a "long" period inevitably culminates in the loss of lean muscle mass. However, given that human beings lived tens of thousands of years according to this scheme and certainly did not suffer any decline in skeletal muscle due to short periods of fasting, this argumentation is not only illogical, but could also be confirmed by a study by physiologist dr. John Berardi be refuted. In addition, the body benefits above all from the low insulin level, which sets in as a result of fasting. This allows the organism to build up an anabolic environment, because of the low insulin level increases the growth hormone output. Consequently, it should be noted that the intermittent fasting has a positive effect on muscle growth. Furthermore, the proportion of the body's own fatty acids, which are used for the purpose of energy production, increases by the increased cortisol release in the fasting phase. In addition, the organism benefits from a health point of view, as the body is detoxified during fasting and the blood concentration of "bad" LDL cholesterol decreases in this context, which sports science studies have already proven. Heavy athletes, in particular, who are accustomed to a high energy intake, can be faced with problems in the context of intermittent fasting, as more than 4000 kilocalories must be consumed within a few hours, which can lead to complications with the digestive tract. Also, the long fasting phase is usually a mental problem, since the subjective lack of food can tire body and mind in the first days of intermittent fasting.

The practical application

In order to implement the principle of intermittent fasting optimally, it is necessary to adapt this to your own daily routine. In general, the "Lean Gains variant" is best integrated into everyday life due to the relatively large food intake window of eight hours. Since many people forgo lack of time anyway, the time can be bridged by noon with black coffee and other non-calorific drinks. Just in time for the lunch break, the food intake window opens at 12 o'clock and remains open until 8 o'clock in the evening. During this period, it is important to consume the total daily calories, the amount of which, of course, depends on the previously defined target. The great advantage that this time management offers is obvious, as meals are relocated to the time of the day when modern man is most active. Furthermore, the advance of the food intake window, for example at 8 o'clock in the morning had the disadvantage that it closes again at 16 o'clock. However, since most people no longer align their daily rhythm with the course of the sun, this would mean that the growling stomach announces itself at the latest at prime time, which promises a restless night. In addition, the training should preferably take place within the eight-hour period, in order to have sufficient power in the gym as well as to be able to supply the nutrient-thirsty body with sufficient power.


Thanks to its versatility, the Intermittent Fasting is ideal for all athletes who are ready to try something new. Only competitive athletes, who are forced to exercise extremely hard despite dieting several times a week, will find it difficult to refrain from eating, since optimal regeneration in this case is no longer entirely guaranteed. Furthermore, the health aspects, such as the detoxification of the body as well as the lowering of the LDL cholesterol level are convincing. Although it is difficult to adapt to the new eating habits at the beginning, once this phase is over, intermittent fasting is a serious alternative to traditional diets. Presumably, some time will pass before the intermittent fasting has achieved similar importance in the bodybuilding scene, such as rice and turkey, but the potential for it is there.

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