Does Intermittent Fasting Lead To Muscle Loss?

Many of us who do Crossfit, lift weights, or play another high intensity sport believe that intermittent fasting leads to muscle loss. That this belief is so common makes sense. We’ve heard it since grade school in one way or another. I can recall our teachers telling us breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that you need to eat throughout the day – even if your goal is to lose weight – or your hard earned muscle will waste away.

This article reveals the results of recently published research that flip this idea on its head. After reading it you’ll see just what happens to the muscle mass of guys like us – who like to lift weights and train hard – practice intermittent fasting for a couple of months.

You will also learn how skipping one meal a day affects other important things like fat loss, your strength, and overall health.

intermittent fasting muscle loss

How The Study Was Conducted

This study divided a group of men with several years bodybuilding experience into 2 groups. One followed their regular diet and eating schedule (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). The other skipped one meal a day (breakfast), shrinking their eating schedule into an 8 hour window.

This increased the time they were fasting from 12 to 16 hours every day. Other research finds this to be the amount of time required to see benefits from this way of eating.

Tests were performed on all of the guys at the beginning and end of the experiment. They included blood work (cholesterol, triglycerides, testosterone levels, metabolic function).

Most important to us hard working athletes, their body fat percentage, muscle mass, and strength (squat, bench press, etc.) were also measured.

How Did Intermittent Fasting Compare To Eating 3 Meals A Day?

The most revealing thing about this diet is that by skipping one meal a day and fasting for 16 instead of 12 hours between your last meal and first of the next day you can lose twice as much fat.

That’s right; the fasting group lost twice as much body fat by not eating breakfast! They didn’t count calories, carbs, or do anything else. Pretty cool huh? I bet you never thought losing fat could be so simple. While it still isn’t always easy, it really can be as simple as skipping one meal a day. Without any negative side effects.

Those aren’t the only important things to come out of this study. Listed below are several other reasons intermittent fasting can be good for us to do when we want to lose fat quickly and improve our health.

Additional Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

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  • You won’t lose muscle. The fasting group kept all of their muscle, just like the guys eating 3 meals a day.
  • Intermittent fasting won’t make you weak. Strength in the bench and leg press increased over the 8 weeks of the study among the guys who were doing intermittent fasting.
  • It Lowers your triglycerides. High levels of this fat in our bloodstream, is associated with heart disease. The fasting group decreased theirs significantly while the guys eating 3 meals a day did not.
  • It decreases chronic inflammation. As you know, excessive and chronic inflammation within our body is linked to many diseases including cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. The guys in the study who fasted were able to decrease this inflammation in only 8 weeks.
  • You’ll burning your excess fat for energy.This is how intermittent fasting helps us lose weight without sacrificing our hard earned muscle. The guys in this study who fasted were shown to be burning fat for their energy whereas the other group remained carb burners. This is the same thing that makes low carbohydrate or ketogenic diets effective.
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    These Benefits Aren’t From Eating Less Either

    You may think that the reason the guys who skipped breakfast every day lost fat because they ate less. That isn’t the case, which is awesome. The guys who ate one less meal a day still ate the same amount of calories as those eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
    They just did it over a shorter period of time. Simply not eating for 4 extra hours a day can help you lose twice the amount of body fat. And, you get to eat the same amount of delicious food as you would eating a third meal.
    Don’t take this as a license to binge. That’ll backfire on you, big time. Just know that you can eat as many calories as you would if eating 3 meals a day.
    I personally love this. It’s like getting to really eat when it’s time to eat. None of that eating a small chicken breast with vegetables and a little rice several times a day. Instead, you can eat what you normally do and get leaner, as long as you don’t go overboard.
    Since I started intermittent fasting I’ve learned to enjoy food more, not want to binge, and instead eat enough food to fill me up and keep my body healthy.
    This means I eat a lot of red meat, pork, eggs, and fatty fish on occasion. I don’t shy away from fatty foods. I love avocados and cooking with olive oil, bacon fat, and butter.
    Thing is, the guys in this study who fasted didn’t even count carbs.
    What they did do was eat enough protein. You should too. Aim to eat 1 gram of protein per pound if your desired body weight every day.
    Eating this much protein is easy. Below is a list of foods you can eat to meet it daily.
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  • Beef – ribeye, chuck roast, strip steaks, ground beef are all awesome.
  • Eggs – make sure you eat the yolks!
  • Pork – pork shoulder, bacon, ribs, tenderloin, etc.
  • Protein Shakes – when you don’t have the time to cook a meal.
    Eat lots of healthy fats too. If you’re going to cut anything make it carbohydrates. Especially those you get from grains and simple sugars. Think bread, pasta, muffins, and cookies.
    Back to delicous, rich, fat. Eat plenty. Fat actually makes up between 60-80% of my daily calories. Depending on how much protein I’m eating.
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    Healthy fats include

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  • Animal fats – beef (tallow), pork (lard), etc.
  • Grass fed butter
  • MCT oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil

    Avoid or really limit fats from corn and vegetable oils. This includes corn, peanut, and canola oil.


    If you’re looking to lose fat without losing muscle, skipping either breakfast or dinner every day can work for you. As long as you’re eating enough during your 8 hour eating window (2 meals) your health will not suffer. If your results are similar to the guys in this study it will most likely improve in some very important areas.
    You can also learn more about the benefits of another type of intermittent fasting by reading this article. In it I discuss the benefits of taking it up another notch and eating one meal a day. I promise, it’s not as crazy as it seems and that the benefits are well worth the effort.
    Tatiana Moro, Grant Tinsley, Antonino Bianco, Giuseppe Marcolin, Quirico Francesco Pacelli, Giuseppe Battaglia, Antonio Palma, Paulo Gentil, Marco Neri and Antonio Paoli. Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. Journal of Translational Medicine 201614:290.

    2. Tinsley GM, Forsse JS, Butler NK, Paoli A, Bane AA, La Bounty PM, Morgan GB, Grandjean PW. Time-restricted feeding in young men performing resistance training: A randomized controlled trial. Eur J Sport Sci. 2016:1–8.

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