“Should I be doing Intermittent fasting for bulking?”
That’s one question I’ve been asked a few times.
Supposedly it helps with some kind of growth hormone and has many other benefits.
I have no idea where these ideas came from, but I thought it’d be a good idea to answer this question.
Anyway, let’s see if skipping breakfast can help with muscle growth.
What is bulking?
Bulking is the process of eating and weight training in the pursuit of muscle growth. It’s you build more muscle mass.
I’m not a fan of the word bulking. The word has a tone of excessiveness to it.
Let’s be honest we us it as an excuse to get fat. I prefer to say building muscle or muscle gain.
I guess you could say lean bulking.
Otherwise you end up with conversations like this….
Me: “Dan you’ve gained 60lbs”
Dan: “I’m bulking”
Me: “No. You’ve used it as an excuse to eat everything in sight, now you’ve gained 60lbs of body fat.”
Disclaimer: I wouldn’t genuinely say that to someone.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
It’s eating within a specific time window.
The most popular form is the 16/8 hour window. This is where you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours.
So you could skip breakfast, then eat from 1pm – 9pm.
I call it skipping breakfast, but Intermittent fasting sounds sexier I suppose.
Does Intermittent Fasting have any benefits and how does it relate to bulking?
The main benefit is, it shortens the amount of time you eat. This means you are likely to eat less calories. This is very beneficial in weight loss, within a calorie deficit.
There are claims, fasting can increase lifespan and other magic, such as cell repair.
I’m not convinced yet. I haven’t seen any concrete evidence in humans to suggest any of that is true.
I think it’s used to sell books if I’m being honest.
Don’t get me wrong, fasting is a great diet tool for fat loss. But I’m very skeptical of the other claims.
I know the middle ground isn’t sexy, but it’s usually right.
Nutrition requirements for bulking – Does Intermittent fasting help?
- Calorie surplus – This is based on someone who considers themselves skinny. A 5% calorie surplus, is the best place to start. This should lead to a weight gain of 0.25-0.5% bodyweight per week. Use my Calorie calculator, if you want to work out how many calories you burn per day. So, if you burn 2000 calories a day aim for 2200-2400 calories per day.
- Adequate daily protein intake – Eat 1.6g-2.2g of protein per kg of body weight every day. If you weigh 70kg aim for 112-154g of protein per day
- Protein distribution – From the protein above. Split that intake 3-6 meals per day. Then each meal should contain 0.40–0.55g per kg each meal and split throughout the day. So if you’re a 70kg guy aiming for 3 meals a day. 3 meals of 40g of protein would work. It’s up to you how you split it, so long as it’s within these confines. This helps maximise muscle protein synthesis
What is muscle protein synthesis?
It’s the process of building and repairing muscle tissue.
Each time you weight train, your break downs the proteins in your muscles. This is when they are most primed for protein feedings. It’s shown you have 24 hours after training, where your muscles are most primed for feedings. (1)
Each time you consume enough protein (0.40g–0.55g per kg), the more muscle protein synthesis happens. This means more opportunities to build muscle. This is why it’s recommended to space out your protein feedings, throughout the day.
Do I think Intermittent fasting is a good idea for bulking?
Il keep this straight to the point. No.
Fasting is usually used to for weight loss. People looking to bulk, are trying to gain weight. You need to find ways to eat more calories. Skipping meals isn’t going to help.
To maximise the number of times our muscles can grow, we need to split our protein feedings evenly. Skipping a meal or going 16 hours without eating, leaves a lot of gains on the table.
This then means you have to get all your protein in a shorter window, which is then quite wasteful.
If you want to try bulking whilst intermittent fasting, I’m not saying it won’t work. But you’ll be far better off using the whole day to maximise your protein feedings.
Josh is a Registered Associate Nutritionist, with the Association for Nutrition (AFN). He completed his degree in Nutrition at the University of Roehampton in 2021. He passed with a First Class with Honours.
Josh is also a tutor for up-and-coming Personal Trainers, where he teaches a Level 4 Advanced Nutrition course. This is for Personal Trainers looking to upskill their nutrition knowledge. This is done at Norfolk Health & Fitness.