This has been
a very controversial topic as of late with some of the hot dieting methods such as carb cycling and intermittent fasting. I have always been under the belief that eating every few hours is best for maintaining muscle mass, especially while in a caloric deficit. I also have been a firm believer of a high protein/moderate carb or high protein/moderate fat pre-workout meal to reduce muscle catabolism and fuel the body during training. There is some evidence out there that suggests this might not be as concrete as we have been led to believe. These studies suggest that training in a fasted state, such as when you wake up before breakfast, may create an increased response to your post workout meal creating a more anabolic state after exercise. In this article I will explain these theories. In fact, the arguments are so convincing, I have started experimenting with fasted training myself.
In this study,
there is scientific support explaining the effects from two types of training; training fed, and training fasted. When we lift weights, the body responds by activating myogenic (inside the muscle) genes that control protein synthesis. P70s6 is referred to as an activator of muscle growth and often used in studies to determine the latter. In this study, they used two groups of young men and put them through a basic full body workout in a fasted state and in a fed state. The subjects that were given breakfast ate a meal consisting of 722 cals consisting of 85% carbs, 11% protein, and 4% fat. After they trained, both groups rested for a 4-hour period and drank a recovery supplement. The results show the fasted group, I will call them group F, had twice the levels of p70s6k in comparison to the other group at the 1 hour post workout mark. As time continued through until the 4-hour mark, levels started to equal out between the two groups. Here is a quote from the study:
“Our results indicate that prior fasting may stimulate the intramyocellular anabolic response to ingestion of a carbohydrate/protein/leucine mixture following a heavy resistance training session. ”
In laymen’s terms,
the increased levels of p79s6k may lead to a more pronounced and rapid anabolic effect by shuttling amino acids into the muscle at a faster rate. We all know that training fasted causes some degree of muscular catabolism. These findings would suggest that the body has a response that compensates the possible muscular catabolism that may outweigh the losses and cause actual gains in the long term. This is fascinating. I think that it has to do with insulin sensitivity as it is increased as glycogen stores are depleted. When your body has enough glycogen stored in the muscle, it does not respond as efficiently to insulin as not as much glucose needs to be shuttled to replace a deficiency in the muscle. When you eat a meal pre workout, your glycogen is restored. After working out fed, the rebound isn’t pronounced as you supplied much of what you need already. This results in a flat line response where nutrients are not needed for the muscle to reboot. Training fasted results in high insulin sensitivity so your post-workout meal is shuttled very efficiently and glucose and other nutrients are soaked up into the muscle like a sponge.
I do not suggest
training on an empty stomach from here on out. If you train at night, this can be very hard to do while still getting in the calories, protein, fats, and carbs you need for the day. I suggest trying fasted training in the AM before you eat breakfast and see what you think. Drink 5-10g of BCAAs pre-workout to counter the muscle catabolism that comes from training fasted. More is explained on BCAAs positive effect on p70s6k here. I have been experimenting with this for the past week and can honestly say that I feel great. I thought I would have no energy in the gym and that my lifts would suffer but that has not been the case. I actually had a stronger deadlift the other day….go figure. Some people will take a week or so to get adjusted but my experience has been quite pleasant. It is too early to report physical results but I did take measurements prior to this experiment so I can measure my results. I will report back on what I find in a month or so. So far I feel a bit more alert in the morning and not as foggy throughout the day. I drink my H-DRL in the morning and starting this week will be supplementing with BCAAs prior to training. See what you think. You can always go back to what you are doing now, but you can’t get results from something you never try.
Gain Muscle While Staying Lean. Train Fasted.