Have you heard of 16 8 fasting? If you’re wondering why a way of eating that has the word “fasting” in the title can help you as an athlete, the answer is that there are many amazing benefits of fasting.
What Is Intermittent Fasting 16:8?
Martin Berkhan, who you can find on the website Leangains, came up with this particular method. The idea is that you have a 16-hour fast and then 8 hours when you are eating food.
Intermittent fasting 16:8 is a “pattern of eating” and it’s about the timing of your meals. Whether you like eating three larger meals each day or a few smaller meals, you’re generally used to eating every few hours. When you’re intermittent fasting and following the 16:8 method, you’ll eat two meals each day.
The thing to remember is this isn’t a diet. When you follow a diet or meal plan, you may be eating less than you were before. With intermittent fasting 16:8, you’re not eating breakfast, but you are still eating and it shouldn’t be approached as a diet. The general suggestion is not to count calories.
Intermittent Fasting 16:8: Insulin And Burning Fat
According to Heathline, intermittent fasting is so effective because it’s all about your body’s relationship with a hormone called insulin. When you don’t eat, your body’s “insulin sensitivity” will be better and this will allow you to lower your body fat. That is a goal for many. As Dr. Jason Fung says on Diet Doctor, insulin goes up when you eat and fat will go to your liver and other areas that are “fat deposits.”
James Clear talks about the difference between a “fed” and a “fasted” state which is definitely key for understanding why intermittent fasting 16:8 works so well. When your body gets into the fasted state, that happens 8-12 hours after you have eaten, and that means lower insulin levels which means you can burn fat. On the other hand, when you eat food and the digestive process begins and lasts for 3-5 hours, your high insulin levels means that burning fat isn’t the simplest thing.
Why Intermittent Fasting 16:8 Works In General
There are many ways that intermittent fasting can work so well. Dr. Jason Fung believes it leads to your body fat going down, you can have more energy, and you will have better focus.
According to Healthline, intermittent fasting will lower inflammation (which is great for reducing your chances of disease) and your cells are able to restore themselves. An interesting point is that this method can actually alter your genes which lowers disease risk and is said to help you live longer.
James Clear notes that you could have less of a risk of getting cancer along with an increased lifespan. How can you live longer by eating twice a day and waiting 16 hours to eat again? As he says, “Scientists have long known that restricting calories is a way of lengthening life. From a logical standpoint, this makes sense. When you’re starving, your body finds ways to extend your life.” The best news about intermittent fasting is you will be fasting for a time but also eating.
Let’s take a look at how intermittent fasting 16:8 can work specifically for athletes.
Why Intermittent Fasting Works For Athletes
There are some critics of intermittent fasting 16:8 for athletes who say that athletes should be eating at more regular times and fueling their bodies.
But athletes follow many different ways of eating. Some are Paleo, some are Keto, some are vegan, some are vegetarian. It’s absolutely possible to have success with intermittent fasting 16:8 when you are an athlete. After all, you aren’t dieting or eating less food (although you are eating one less meal a day). The idea is to eat enough calories to be full and satisfied and be able to function, which includes your workouts.
Dr. Jason Fung puts it succulently: “In essence, fasting allows the body to use its stored energy.” That is exactly why intermittent fasting 16:8 can benefit athletes.
In his post on “fasting and exercise” Dr. Fung explains that typically, your body uses sugar as energy for exercise. The key is to change this so your body uses fat when you work out. Athletes (and endurance athletes in particular) can intermittent fast and store higher amounts of energy that are fat, not sugar. This is really great if you are a runner or are using intermittent fasting on keto.
There is one key criticism of intermittent fasting 16:8 for athletes that is worth taking a look at: the idea that you will lose muscle mass or not be able to grow your muscle mass. Dr. Fung says that while athletes might see their performance dip, that will be a period of only two weeks, and then performance should go back. This is because your muscles have to take some time to get used to using fat for energy.
A study published in the March 2005 issue of The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry proves that intermittent fasting benefits apply to athletes as well. 12 male athletes ate normally one day and fasted the next. At the start and end of the study, their VO2max (maximal oxygen consumption) was looked at while they were on a treadmill. They said they were less tired and were better able to use their energy. Best of all, they saw only a small decrease in muscle mass and their body fat went down.
For James Clear, intermittent fasting 16:8 has worked great. He’ll eat at 1 p.m. (generally breakfast foods, which is good news if you enjoy that, too) and then dinner at 8 p.m. He has seen amazing results, such as going from 14% to 11% body fat, training 2.5 hours each week instead of 7.5, setting a personal record in the gym, and 10 pounds more of muscle mass (215 from 205). Sounds great, right?
In Conclusion: Intermittent Fasting: 16:8 Is A Good Idea For Athletes
If you’re an athlete, there are many benefits to intermittent fasting. As you have seen, you can still maintain your performance in the gym, lower body fat, maintain muscle mass, and eat two meals within this window of time.
Many people love intermittent fasting because it’s realistic and actionable. They enjoy eating one less meal each day but not being on a diet.
Give it a try and you could find that you are feeling stronger and better than ever before. Resources:
Clear, James. “The Beginner’s Guide To Intermittent Fasting.” James Clear, jamesclear.com/the-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting.
Coley, Holly J. “Is Intermittent Fasting A Good Idea for Athletes?” Competitor Running, 23 March 2018. running.competitor.com/2018/03/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-good-idea_169956.
Fung, Dr. Jason. “Intermittent fasting for beginners.” Diet Doctor, August 2018. dietdoctor.com/intermittent-fasting.
Fung, Dr. Jason. “Fasting and exercise.” Diet Doctor, 3 January 2017. .dietdoctor.com/fasting-and-exercise.
Gunnars, Kris. “Intermittent Fasting 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.” Healthline, 25 July 2018. healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide#what-it-is