Intermittent Fasting and StrongLifts 5×5

Eating six meals a day is such a chore.

All the cooking. Always taking meals with you. Always having to watch the clock if 3 hours have gone by to eat again.

Guess what?

Around 2008 I discovered you don’t need to do all that to get stronger and build muscle.

I discovered Intermittent Fasting back then. I stopped eating breakfast. I only eat three meals a day. I didn’t lose strength – all my lifts increased. I don’t lose muscle, I’m more muscular and leaner than before.

Intermittent Fasting has saved me tons of time and stress.

So in this guide I’ll share lessons I learned about Intermittent Fasting, and how to do Intermittent Fasting with StrongLifts 5×5.

How I started with Intermittent Fasting

I was reading this book back in 2007. Rock Iron Steel by Steve Justa. He mentioned fasting in there.

Up until that point I had been eating six meals a day. I was no longer trianing like a bodybuilder. NO more training one muscle a day, six days a week. I had switched to strength training several years already. But I was still eating like a bodybuilder.

Being a minimalist, fasting got me curious. I could see how it could save me a ton of time (less cooking, less eating).

My first experiment was doing the Warrior Diet in 2008. His approach was to mostly fast for about 18 hours, then eat for 4-6 hours. I was always lifting weights at 6pm back then. So that meant I was always lifting weights in a fast state.

It didn’t work. I was weaker. And I would stuff myself with food afterwards and then struggle to sleep.

After that Brad Pilon came up with Eat Stop Eat. I started experimenting with that in May 2009. Eat Stop Eat main idea was to fast for 24 hours once or twice a week.

This worked better as I simply fasted on the days I didn’t lift weights. That gave me two days I didn’t have to think about food, but could just focus on what I wanted to do.

I lost some weight at first (2 days no eating is easily 4000kcal cut per week) but after it stabilized (I ate more on the days I trained, so started to cycle caloric intake).

The only issue with Eat Stop Eat is that I would often feel lethargic as I was getting to the end of the 24h fast. If I was just chilling at home, no problem. But if I was out, I would just not feel right. After about 18 months of Eat Stop Eat I started to look for something else.

(I still do longer fasts sometimes, usually on Saturday. But not for 24h anymore. Nowadays 20h is usually the limit).

Martin Berkhan published his Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked around that time, in 2010. I looked into his protocal more closely – it was similar to Warrior Diet except the fasts were shorter. I would be able to train in a fed state vs fasted which I knew didn’t work for me.

And that’s the fasting protocol I’ve been using since 2010 and still use in 2018.

  • I eat my first my first meal of the day at 2pm
  • I go to the gym and lift weights at 3:30pm
  • I eat my post workout meal at 5:30pm
  • I have another meal around 8pm

That’s it really. My Squat and Deadlift were around 350/440 before I started Intermittent Fasting. They increased to 419lb/500lb since then. I don’t attribute that to doing Intermittent Fasting. My point is that I didn’t get weak from fasting (a common thing guys think).

In the morning I usually only drink coffee (no sugar, just milk). I also have a scoop of whey protein with 5g creatine monohydrate (no milk, just water). This technically breaks my fast. I’m fine with that since my goal is not having to bother with eating until noon.

I’ve been doing Intermittent Fasting for long enough that I don’t really feel the hunger anymore. But some days there can be more hunger in the morning, especially as lunch time approaches. The trick is to drink a lot of water. Just fill your stomach with water.

The biggest benefit of Intermittent Fasting for me?

  • Time-saving: I don’t have to cook or eat or whatever in the morning. I just shower, grab a coffee, and can start my day. This is important for my work since you get the most done in the morning when willpower is high. I want to maximize that time.
  • Weight control. If you limit your eating window to eight hours a day, it’s harder to reach a caloric surplus. I’m not interested to gain more weight at this point. I’m happy with my current weight, and want to get as strong as possible at this weight, while keeping my body fat down. Intermittent Fasting allows me to do this.

I do not recommend training in a fasted state on StrongLifts 5×5. That can work the first weeks when the weights are light. But it will not work once the weights get heavier. You will be weaker, struggle to finish your sets, and miss reps. Your progress will suck. And you’ll get muscle breakdown.

There’s no advantage to training fasted. Forget about using fat for energy and all that crap. Your intensity is going to be lower, your weights are going to be lower, your progress is going to be inferior. Think of the big picture.

If you insist on training in the morning and doing Intermittent Fasting, at least have a scoop of whey protein. This will stop your fast, but it will also stop muscle breakdown during your workout. And you’ll train better.

Frequently Asked Questions

Doesn’t breakfast increase metabolism?

No. Breakfast doesn’t kick-start or increase your metabolism, or anything like that. Your metabolism doesn’t slow down when you fast.

Your body does burn calories to break down, digest and absorb the food in the meal you eat. This means you are burning more calories after a meal. But the amount of calories you burn is proportional to the size of the meal – you burn more calories to digest after eating a big meal than a small one. This should be obvious.

It therefore doesn’t matter if you ate two meals or five meals a day. The only thing that matters is your total calories you ate for the day. The total amount of extra calories burned to break down, digest and absorb those meals will be proportional to the total amount of calories for the day.

Eating breakfast only increases your metabolism, if that meal increases your total amount of calories per day. If you eat the same total amount of calories as when you didn’t eat breakfast, then breakfast will make no difference.

Doesn’t breakfast stop starvation mode?

No. Starvation mode is a myth. Your ancestors dealt with starvation all the time. For tens of thousands of years men hunted for food. Hunts often failed. They could have gone without food for more than three hours or even 24 hours. They could have gone without food for days.

It would have been inefficient for our metabolism to slow down when there was no food for only a few hours. Any human who would not be able to cope with starvation would have died, and eliminated from the gene pool. Your body can handle skipping breakfast fine.

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I’ll add more later :)

 

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