Yesterday I wrote a blog post outlining why it’s possible to gain muscle while following Eat Stop Eat style intermittent fasting.
In that email, I made mention of the fact that your ability to gain muscle while losing fat has more to do with your total ‘reserve’ then it does the exact amount of calories you are eating.
It also has a lot do with inhibition theory and the concept that your body’s natural state is growth, and it is regulated by ‘brakes’. If we didn’t have brakes we would have almost unlimited growth potential (think tumors)…but more on that later.
(You can check out the post here if you missed it)
The concept of a ‘reserve’ is based on the theory of fat availability… which coincidentally is the basis for the Reverse Taper Diet.
And this brings me to a very important point: The trend of giving all encompassing ABSOLUTE answers in diet and fitness has to stop.
The only correct answer to any diet/nutrition question you have will almost always be ‘It Depends’
It’s based on you.
And, it’s based on you RIGHT now…the answer maybe different a month from now.
You get leaner, or more muscular, or lose muscle and gain fat, change your training, or your job, less sleep, more sleep, you take up running, you stop running, ALL of these things affect your nutrition recommendations.
And that’s really the giant pink elephant in the room when it comes to Intermittent Fasting.
We can all build muscle up to a certain point, and we can all lose body fat up to a certain point too…the things that are holding us back can be (and usually are) unique to our own life-circumstances.
Imagine that you are a 6’2″, 220 pound man and 4% body fat and you train hard for 2 hours a day and you attempt a 24 hour fast only to find it to be extremely difficult? Well that’s not surprising. Anyone in this condition simply doesn’t need to fast and at extremely low bodyfat levels you can bet fasting is going to be difficult…and might I add rather pointless. As I have said before (feels like over a hundred times) the goal isn’t zero percent body fat.
Or imagine that you used to be able to fast twice a week and eat 1,000 calories/day on the remaining days of the week, but after losing 50 pounds you are finding it difficult to keep up the pace? Again, this would not be surprising. Things change. You have less body fat, you have less reserve.
Another example would be someone who recently took up mountain biking, and hit the trails for 3-4 hours a day, 2 to 3 times a week, and is now having problems maintaining muscle mass?
ALL OF THESE THINGS MATTER. Every little detail.
I once counseled a person who was extremely lean and was getting very tired during their fasts. After talking with him I realized the issue wasn’t the fast, but the 10 GRAMS of Leucine he was taking during his fast. He was taking a highly insulogenic compound at a time when he was lean and over-trained and almost 20 hours into a fast. Removing the Lecuine supplement solved the problem.
Now, I know what you are thinking – so Leucine and BCAAs cause people to be tired during their fasts?
They caused THIS person to be tired during his fast. Countless other people take BCAAs during their fasts with no ill effects.
And herein lies a major problem
We continuously jump to conclusions – IF it didn’t work for me, it wont work for ANYONE.
It worked for me, so this must be what will work for everyone.
It simply does not work that way.
Things have to be tailored to you.
That’s why Eat Stop Eat style Intermittent Fasting is so flexible.
That’s why I don’t give specific dietary advice with my intermittent fasting advice.
That’s why the Reverse Taper Diet INCREASES the amount of suggested calories as you get leaner.
So please keep this in mind the next time you see someone giving blanket suggestions like “never eat less than 1200 calories” or “You must eat a minimum of 200 grams of protein”
Unless they were working closely with you these are just guesses – not exact numbers.
Always be aware of what is and is not working for you, and never be afraid to adjust as necessary.