There’s an old saying that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. These 21 days can be the start of something great, like losing fat for good.
It’s normal to have a bunch of questions when you first start something new. Intermittent fasting is no different, and part of the reason for this is because a new eating schedule is hard to adapt to.
Throughout this article, I will be covering common misconceptions regarding intermittent fasting, ex: can you drink coffee while fasting? Essentially I will clear the air on many questions that beginners (and even veterans) tend to have about fasting.
Perhaps you may have stumbled upon this article and are completely new to the idea of fasting. If that’s the case, feel free to check out my introduction to intermittent fasting before reading this article.
Fasting and Working Out
Generally speaking, it is perfectly acceptable to workout when fasting. Your typical 16:8 fasting plan is not going to be intense enough to make you lose muscle mass in your window. Fasting and working out is hands down one of the best combinations to lose weight. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind if you’re going to workout fasted.
If you’re going to workout in a fasted state, you should be prepared to break your fast immediately after your workout. Optimally, you would want to do so with some sort of complete protein source. Depending on how big your fasting window is, this may not sound too appealing to you. If this is the case, I suggest supplementing with a BCAA complex intra-workout to fuel your body and prevent atrophy.
Like I said, fasted workouts are fine, but the reason why you should supplement with protein after your workout boils down to glycogen depletion. Glucose makes glycogen which is then stored in your liver and muscles. The main function of glycogen is to store energy long-term.
When you’re not consuming any calories for a lengthy amount of time, your glycogen levels are going to be depleted. Glycogen levels also fall with intense exercise. Pairing intermittent fasting and strenuous exercise will have a rough impact on your glycogen levels.
Keep in mind that glycogen depletion helps you lose fat, but you don’t want to over do it. Glycogen is fuel for your brain and will provide you with the energy you need to get through the day. At the bare minimum, supplement with protein post workout to prevent muscle loss.
Can You Drink Coffee While Fasting?
The simple answer to this question is yes, as long as it’s black.
Don’t worry, you’re not getting your caffeine fix taken from you. Coffee is perfectly acceptable to drink if you are partaking in intermittent fasting, but only straight black coffee. Regular old coffee has zero calories, and caffeine works as an appetite suppressant to calm your hunger.
Black coffee during fasting is actually a miracle worker, and there’s science behind it. Coffee works by decreasing the amount of ghrelin in your stomach. Ghrelin is a stress hormone that is primarily released by the stomach and is responsible for producing the feeling of hunger. Coffee’s naturally ability to reduce ghrelin in the stomach will suppress your appetite.
You may have heard that coffee during fasting works wonders, but that does not mean you should splurge at Dunkin’ Donuts. Adding cream, sugar, or any of the flavored syrups will instantly break your fast and contain a lot of fat and simple carbs.
There’s a great video shown below that explains how flavored coffee drinks could negatively impact your gains. The calories from added creamers and sweeteners add up quickly, so keep this in mind if you consume coffee everyday.
Coffee during fasting is perhaps one of the best ways to cool your hunger if it seems unbearable. Always opt for black coffee because of it’s natural appetite suppressant properties, but caffeine pills or pre-workout also work.
Does Intermittent Fasting Cause Muscle Loss?
Intermittent fasting itself does not cause muscle loss. Despite this, poor nutrition and poor lifestyle choices combined with fasting could cause muscle loss. You can take the following theoretical scenarios as an example.
Person A – Running a 16:8 intermittent fasting plan with moderate intensity workouts 3-4 days each week. Person A consumes a minimum of .7-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day. They also make it a habit to consume complex carbohydrates and good fats. Their approach puts them at a 1000 calorie deficit each day, allowing them to lose 2 pounds each week.
Person B – Also running 16:8 intermittent fasting. However, instead of moderate intensity workouts 3-4 times each week, they workout every day with high intensity. Protein intake is subpar at .5-.7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight each day. Because of the intense workouts paired with fasting, Person B is eating slightly below maintenance. Person B is excited because they’re losing weight every week.
Comparing person A to person B, you can probably guess who is going to retain more muscle when all is said and done. Person A is consuming an appropriate amount of protein, getting enough rest, and maintaining a caloric deficit. This is the correct way to approach intermittent fasting. A high protein diet paired with resistance training only has the ability to preserve or build new muscle mass.
If you set yourself up like Person A, you will notice very little or no muscle mass lost by the time you’re content with your weight loss.
Person B, on the other hand, is still going to lose weight, but they will lose more muscle. The high intensity workouts everyday combined with intermittent fasting will create a larger caloric deficit than expected. This on top of the already designed deficit will be detrimental to muscle loss, especially if you don’t get enough protein.
Bottom-line is that intermittent fasting does not cause muscle loss when your nutrition is on point. Protein is crucial for preserving muscle mass and you should make it a habit to consume more when you’re fasting. If you happen to be very active, take note of your total calories burned each day so that you can eat accordingly
Do Bodybuilders Partake in Intermittent Fasting?
I cannot speak for all bodybuilders, but most bodybuilders choose not to fast. The reason for this ties into glycogen depletion which we talked about previously in the article.
Most bodybuilders prefer to keep their glycogen stores high throughout the day to promote muscle synthesis. More glycogen means more ATP is being produced which allows more work to get done in the gym. For bodybuilders competing at a high level, ATP production is essential and glycogen is where it all starts.
Perhaps the most obvious reason as to why competitive bodybuilders don’t fast is because of the risk of muscle loss. When you carry a supraphysiological amount of muscle mass, it becomes a lot easier to lose mass. Consuming zero calories for 16 hours out of a day means 16 hours of no protein. This is simply too much to risk for many IFBB pros.
Many professional bodybuilders eat 5-6 meals each day if not more. The constant consumption and high protein intake ensures that glycogen levels stay high and no muscle mass is lost.
IFBB pro Greg Doucette has a great video regarding this topic which you can watch below.
Can You Drink Water During Intermittent Fasting?
Yes, yes, please drink water when fasting, and if anything drink more than you normally do. Water of course has zero calories, so there is no harm being done in terms of breaking your fast. In addition to having zero calories, water will make you feel satiated if you continuously drink it throughout the day.
I recommend drinking anywhere between 64-128 fluid ounces of water each day to stay hydrated. It is generally accepted that 64 fl oz each day keeps you optimally hydrated.
Fasting without any sort of water is referred to as a dry fast. Dry fasting is not healthy or sustainable, you should be drinking water daily regardless of the circumstances. This is perfectly acceptable during religious holidays, however.
Intermittent Fasting Not Working? Let's Troubleshoot.
I often receive comments from people who complain about intermittent fasting not working. There are millions of people worldwide who have seen tremendous results from fasting. To say that intermittent fasting does not work implies that you’re doing something wrong.
First of all, are you really consuming zero calories throughout your entire fasting window? It’s common to accidentally break your fast early with food items you thought were zero calories. Always remember to check your food labels, and remember my pointers about coffee listed above.
Second, make sure that you’re actually creating a caloric deficit. You likely decided to start intermittent fasting with the idea of weight loss in mind. The only way you’re going to lose weight is if more calories are being burned than consumed. Intermittent fasting is not the magic potion to avoid a caloric deficit, it simply helps maintain it.
Lastly, you might just have to give it more time. Especially if you’re not making any other lifestyle changes, the results you get from intermittent fasting can be slow developing. When you’re losing weight, it’s ideal to lose anywhere between 1-2 pounds each week. Going overboard can cause you to lose muscle, which is not ideal. As a general rule of thumb, you will notice body composition changes with 4-6 weeks of consistency.
Next time you worry about intermittent fasting not working, keep these three pointers in mind. It’s easy to slip up, but just like with anything else you must trust the process.
How Sustainable is Intermittent Fasting?
Generally speaking, intermittent fasting is very sustainable. This question is one that is very subjective, however, and varies from person to person.
To me, intermittent fasting is best if utilized short term. I recommend that you use intermittent fasting to break weight loss plateaus or when cutting overall. Despite the fact that IF is simply a pattern of eating, it can be hard for you to sustain long term.
The best nutrition plans are balanced and easy to sustain. Perhaps my biggest piece of advice is to use intermittent fasting to get the ball rolling or break plateaus. Following this, you can use your results from intermittent fasting to maintain a healthy, more sustainable nutrition plan afterward.
There are many people who intermittent fast year round. If you’re one of those people, then more power to you, it’s certainly possible with a solid plan.
Conclusion - Misconceptions Regarding IF
Throughout this article, I have covered several misconceptions regarding intermittent fasting. I highlighted the benefits of coffee during fasting, discussed fasting and working out, muscle loss, and more. Furthermore, I noted the overall sustainability of IF and delved into how you can troubleshoot issues you’re having.
Do a simple search on google and you will learn of thousands of people who incorporate intermittent fasting. If you’re still debating on whether or not it’s right for you, I encourage you to at least try it out.
For me personally, intermittent fasting was the breakthrough I needed to change my body composition. I lost roughly 20 pounds at the age of 18 when I started fasting. Since then, I have learned to maintain a healthy nutrition plan and keep the weight off. Although I do not intermittently fast year round, I fast in cycles throughout the year if I want to cut weight.
Side Note: Additional Fasting Resources
Maybe you did not find what you’re looking for in this article. If you are completely new to the idea of fasting, I suggest checking out several other write ups on our website that discuss the fundamentals of fasting.
Additionally, there are plenty of diet plans on the market that incorporate fasting. You can check out one of these plans here, or simply do your own research. As always, I suggest finding all the information you need for free. There is a lot of great content on the web pertaining to these same topics.