Illustration showing a 16:8 intermittent fasting meal schedule (with no breakfast).

Is Intermittent Fasting Good For Gaining Muscle?

Intermittent fasting is a common technique that people use to lose weight. But what happens if we use it for muscle gain? What if do it while bulking? How will it affect our muscle growth and fat gain? After all, intermittent fasting raises growth hormone production, which purportedly helps with muscle growth; it increases insulin sensitivity, which could help make your muscle gains leaner; and research shows that intermittent fasting may help preserve muscle when losing weight. This could theoretically make intermittent fasting a good bulking diet… right?

On the other hand, most athletes gain their muscle mass and strength by eating several meals per day. The classic bodybuilders with the most famous physiques in history were famous for eating frequently—every few hours. And that’s true of modern natural bodybuilders, too. They eat more meals than the average person Why is that? Is eating more meals per day better for building muscle?

Finally, us skinny guys are notorious for having tiny stomachs, raging metabolisms and small appetites—all of which can make bulking up much harder. Does intermittent fasting make it harder to eat enough calories to gain weight?

So, should we use intermittent fasting for gaining muscle?

Before and after results of a skinny guy using intermittent fasting to gain muscle.

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Muscle Gain

First of all, intermittent fasting does have some proven benefits. For example, here are four high-quality studies showing an increase in growth hormone in men while intermittent fasting: study, study, study, study.

It’s now mainstream scientific knowledge that intermittent fasting has several proven benefits that can improve your health and body composition:

  • Reduction in appetite leading to a comfortable decrease in total calorie intake.
  • Increased production of human growth hormone.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity.
  • Less risk of muscle loss compared to a standard diet.
  • Greater cell repair (autophagy).
Illustration showing the benefits of intermittent fasting for muscle gain.

These claims aren’t being disputed whatsoever in the scientific community. Here’s giving a mainstream definition and summary of the research on intermittent fasting:

Our bodies are well equipped for long periods of time without food. Generally, a bout of feeding and digestion is followed by an episode of digestive quiescence (i.e., fasting). In modern days, feeding is rather frequent and fasting tends to be limited to our sleep, plus one or two hours on either end. In other words, no more than 8–12 hours for most people. Intermittent fasting (IF) simply extends this fasting period.

Fasting can be defined as voluntarily abstaining from food (or from certain types of foods) for a given period of time. IF can take many forms, such as alternate-day fasting (ADF), 5/2 dieting (eating at most 500 kcal on two non- consecutive days each week), and time-restricted feeding (TRF; eating only within a set daily time window, which usually lasts 8–12 hours). Ramadan fasting (the Muslim holy month, during which food and drink are consumed only when the sun has set) is a religious form of TRF.

Compared to eating normally, TRF reduces fat mass without affecting fat-free mass or strength from a concurrent resistance training program. Compared to daily caloric restriction, ADF produces greater reductions in fat mass and smaller reductions in fat-free mass. In addition to its proven efficiency, IF has the advantage of only restricting when you eat, not necessarily how, meaning that it can be integrated with other dietary approaches that you enjoy.

However, as you can see, most of these benefits are being researched for how they affect fat loss, not muscle gain. What we’re interested in is how intermittent fasting affects bulking—weight gain.

Because we’re only interested in bulking, we can immediately discount the main advantage of intermittent fasting: appetite reduction. After all, we aren’t trying to eat less food. Quite the opposite, actually. This is a bulking disadvantage, especially for naturally skinny guys, as most of us already struggle to eat enough to gain weight. (If you’re struggling to gain weight, here’s our article about how to eat more calories and gain weight more easily.)

But let’s ignore that disadvantage for a moment. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that even while intermittent fasting, you’re able to eat enough calories to gain weight. If you can eat enough calories, then you can make leaner gains, right?

Does Intermittent Fasting Prevent Fat Gain While Bulking?

Intermittent fasting is an extreme example of calorie cycling. To understand how intermittent fasting affects our fat gains, first, we need to understand how regular calorie cycling affects our fat gains.

Illustration showing the results of using intermittent fasting to prevent fat gain while bulking.

How Calorie Cycling Affects Muscle Gain

The first thing we need to do is make a distinction between bulking and cutting. You can use calorie cycling to help with either goal, but the effects are rather different. When you’re bulking, you’re in a calorie surplus, and your body is totally primed for muscle growth, allowing you to build muscle quite rapidly. Mike Israetel, PhD, summarizes the benefits of a calorie surplus as follows:

  • More testosterone and insulin
  • Enhanced cellular signalling
  • Massive nutrient influx

So while we’re bulking, we have quite a bit of potential to build muscle. Let’s imagine it with a simplified graph like this, where the empty area under the dotted line is how much muscle your body is capable of building over time if you do everything perfectly:

Graph showing that weight lifting stimulates muscle growth.

As you can see, it’s not a flat line. Your body will be primed for muscle growth after a good workout, and then that muscle growth will gradually slow down as time passes, usually grinding to a halt within 48 hours.

The other thing to keep in mind is that any calories which cannot be invested in muscle growth will be stored as fat. This means that if you eat a large calorie surplus (blue line), you’re going to gain a maximal amount of muscle (red) but you’re also going to gain quite a lot of fat (yellow). This called a “dreamer bulk,” and it looks like this:

Graph showing that gaining weight without weight training results in more fat gain.

Most people don’t want to gain that much fat, so they do what’s called a “lean bulk,” where they eat a smaller calorie surplus, like so:

Graph showing that weight lifting without eating enough calories afterwards can reduce muscle growth.

By bringing down your calorie intake, you’re still gaining almost as much muscle, but you’ve slightly reduced the amount of fat that you’re gaining. However, this is a compromise. You’re not eating enough calories to fully maximize muscle growth after your workouts, and you’re also gaining some extra fat because you’re not tapering off your calorie intake as your muscle growth potential slows.

You can improve your gains by lining up your calorie intake with your muscle growth potential, eating extra calories in the couple meals following a workout, and then easing back on the calorie surplus afterwards. This is still a “lean bulk,” but now with the help of calorie cycling, we’re getting a little more muscle growth:

Illustration showing that eating a big meal after lifting weights can improve muscle growth.

The first thing to note here is that even though you’re calorie cycling, you’re still always in a calorie surplus. The degree of the surplus varies, but that blue line representing your calorie intake is still always above the baseline (the black line at the bottom). There’s a constant influx of nutrients, your body is always pumping out tons of testosterone, and you’re always benefitting from enhanced cellular signalling. This ensures that you’re building muscle all day long, taking full advantage of your growth potential. (This is how we structure the diet in our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program.)

The next thing to note is that even though your calorie intake follows the curve of your muscle-building potential, there’s still that thin yellow strip of fat gain. You could try to get rid of that yellow strip by reducing your overall calorie intake… but you probably shouldn’t. In order to get all of the muscle-building advantages that come along with a calorie surplus, it actually helps to have a little bit of padding there. Bulking isn’t about eating enough calories, bulking is about eating extra calories.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should be getting noticeably fatter as you bulk. If you start bulking at 15% body fat, then so long as you’re gaining 85% muscle and 15% fat, your body fat percentage is going to remain at 15% as you continue gaining weight. Furthermore, because your muscles are growing so much bigger, you may even look leaner as grow. (We have a guide about body-fat percentage here.)

That would be the ideal situation, anyway. Realistically, you’re probably going to gain a few body-fat percentage points. Maybe you anticipate this, so you start your bulk at 11% and then stop bulking when you notice that your body fat percentage has climbed to around 15%. For example, here’s Jared gaining 33 pounds in 90 days, with his body-fat percentage rising a little bit as he bulks:

Illustration of muscle gain results from a traditional meal schedule.

Intermittent Fasting is Extreme Calorie Cycling

Intermittent fasting doubles down on calorie cycling. During the feeding windows, you have more than enough calories to build muscle at full speed, and during fasting periods, you’ll actually dip into a calorie deficit, losing fat. This creates the misconception that you can lose fat even while you’re bulking up.

The misconception comes from the fact that in order to gain weight you need to be in an overall calorie surplus, and that means that during your feeding periods, you need to make up for all the calories you missed while fasting. This means eating so many damn calories that there’s no way to invest all of them into muscle growth, causing the extra calories to spill over into fat storage. So what happens is that you lose a bit of fat while fasting, then gain a bunch of fat during the feeding window, like so:

Graph showing the possible benefits of calorie cycling for reducing fat gain while bulking.

How to Make Leaner Gains with Intermittent Fasting

If you’re bulking very slowly, gaining just a pound or two each month, then your calorie surplus doesn’t need to be very high. In this case, with such a small overall surplus, you miss out on the extra testosterone, nutrients, and cellular signalling, so your growth potential slows down, like so:

Graph showing that eating in a calorie  surplus allows us to gain muscle faster.

You won’t be able to build muscle as quickly, but you may still prefer this approach. For example, if you’re a fitness model trying to maintain yearlong leanness, and you’re happy making very slow gains, you might prefer this method.

Guys like Martin Berkhan (LeanGains) and Gregory O’Gallagher (Kinobody) do a good job of this. They might be able to get results that look something like this:

Illustration showing how calorie cycling might be able to help us making leaner gains while bulking.

However, to say that their programs are designed for this would be to sell them short. Even the LeanGains intermittent fasting protocol is designed for fat loss and muscle maintenance, not for bulking. To quote the guy who created it, Martin Berkhan:

The “gain” in Leangains can therefore be a bit misleading, as most of my clients wants to lose fat, while retaining as much muscle as possible in the process.

Martin Berkhan, creator of LeanGains

Using Intermittent Fasting for Cutting

I don’t want to make it seem like I’m thrashing intermittent fasting. The evidence is quite clear that intermittent fasting is fantastic when you’re trying to lose weight. It allows you to dig into a massive calorie deficit for most of the day, and then you can pop up for a bit of muscle growth in that prime post-workout window, like so:

Graph showing body recomposition from calorie cycling.

Yes, the amount of muscle you build will be small compared to when you’re bulking, but with traditional cutting, you wouldn’t be building much muscle anyway:

Graph showing that when we're in a calorie deficit, we lose fat.

Again, I should point out the exceptions. Total beginners, obese people, and guys on steroids can build muscle and lose fat at the same time more easily, so they can expect better results than are shown in these graphs. This applies to all of the graphs equally, whether or not they are calorie cycling or intermittent fasting. On that note…

Calorie Cycling Isn’t Very Powerful

Calorie cycling pales in comparison to the quality of your workouts, the quality of your diet, your overall calorie intake, your overall protein intake, and how well you’re sleeping. Because the effects of calorie cycling are so minor, I would consider it a bonus technique, not a foundational technique. However, it does work, and because it’s so easy to add into your routine, we recommend it to almost everybody—including all of our members, both when cutting and bulking.

Does Intermittent Fasting Allow for Leaner Muscle Growth?

So does intermittent fasting allow you to make leaner gains while bulking? No. If you’re trying to build muscle quickly, you’ll likely make leaner gains with regular calorie cycling instead of intermittent fasting. However, it won’t impact your gains that much either way (study), and the difference may not even be noticeable, so you should also factor in your personal preferences.

Okay, now that we’ve seen what intermittent fasting can and cannot do, let’s see what frequent eating has to offer.

The Benefits of Eating More Frequently While Gaining Muscle

There used to be rumours about “stoking the metabolic fire,” where in order to maintain a healthy metabolism, people thought they had to eat every three hours. That was disproven, and it was more of a fat-loss concern anyway.

When it came to bulking, bodybuilders worried that if they spent a prolonged period of time fasting, then their bodies would begin to eat away at their muscle mass (catabolism). That was also disproven. Intermittent fasting is fantastic for maintaining muscle mass, even in an overall calorie deficit.

However, research has turned up some genuine advantages to eating frequently:

  • If you eat twice as often, your meals can be half the size. This allows guys with small stomachs to comfortably eat enough food while bulking, and it prevents the feelings of lethargy after large meals. One good way to take this principle even further is by having snacks between meals.
  • More testosterone. Being in a calorie surplus allows you to build more muscle by improving testosterone production, cellular signalling and providing a constant influx of nutrients. The more time you spend in this muscle-building surplus, the more muscle you will build over the course of the day.
  • Less cortisol? A recent study looking at 16:8 (LeanGains) intermittent fasting found that the group who skipped breakfast not only produced less testosterone, but also more cortisol—even while eating a comparable amount of calories overall. This would lead to less muscle growth and more fat gain. However, some of these hormonal changes, while not good for building muscle, might be good for improving your longterm health. So it would seem that intermittent fasting would perhaps be better for day-to-day muscle maintenance, but worse in terms of trying to build muscle leanly.
  • More muscle-protein synthesis. Researchers have proven that every time you eat a meal that’s rich in protein, you trigger muscle growth (aka muscle-protein synthesis). This means that the more often you eat (up to a maximum of 5 meals per day), the more muscle growth you can stimulate.
Graph showing the benefits of not using intermittent fasting for muscle gain.

Let’s dive deeper into that fourth point, about trigging muscle-protein synthesis. If we’re intermittent fasting, are we sabotaging our gains by missing out on opportunities to trigger muscle growth?

Stimulating Muscle Protein Synthesis

Dr Layne Norton’s research is the most relevant here (study, study, study). We’ve already shown how lifting weights triggers a period of muscle growth that lasts for up to 48 hours, but to take advantage of that opportunity, you also need to be on point with your diet. Norton found that when we eat a meal with enough protein in it, it triggers a surge of muscle growth that gradually slows down over the course of around six hours, like so:

Graph showing how eating a meal that contains protein stimulates muscle growth.

This isn’t just “potential” muscle growth, this is your body actually constructing muscle. That means that if you eat three meals per day, you’d be having muscle growth spurts that look something like this:

Graph showing that eating more meals allows us to gain more muscle.

Already we can see that skipping a meal is a missed opportunity for muscle growth:

Graph showing that using intermittent fasting for muscle gain means a slower rate of muscle growth.

This Nortonian model of muscle growth brings up some questions. First of all, if you miss a muscle gain opportunity, can you make up for it later by eating a meal that has extra protein in it? For example, what if we could do something like this:

Graph showing that intermittent fasting slows down muscle growth.

Unfortunately, catching up is not possible. Norton’s research has proven that muscle growth is maximally stimulated with around 40 grams of protein. If you have more than 40 grams of protein in a meal, no additional muscle growth is triggered. So if you skip a meal, or eat a meal with too little protein in it, there’s no way to make up for it by eating more protein in the next meal. This means that it’s better to spread your protein intake out over the course of the day.

Note: it’s fine to eat more than 40 grams of protein per meal. If you have more than 40 grams in a meal, that’s perfectly fine, and that might be needed in order to hit your daily macro goals, but it won’t trigger extra muscle-protein synthesis.

Note: 20 grams of protein still stimulates a lot of muscle growth. While eating 40 grams of protein per meal will get you the absolute ideal amount of muscle growth (100%), eating just 20 grams of protein will get you most of the results (80%). If you don’t hit 40 grams of protein in every meal, that’s fine, just make sure to get at least 20 grams.

For example, it’s common to have more protein with dinner than with breakfast, so a common way to distribute your protein over the course of the day might look something like this:

Graph showing that how much protein we eat per meal affects how much muscle we build.

The breakfast will still produce good muscle growth, and that large amount of protein with dinner will still be fully digested. It’s not perfectly ideal, but it’s pretty good. If you wanted to 100% maximize your muscle growth, though, you’d move 20 grams of protein from dinner to breakfast, giving you at least 40 grams in each meal.

How Often Can We Stimulate Muscle-Protein Synthesis?

This raises another question. How often can we stimulate muscle protein synthesis? Could we eat protein all day long, perpetually maintaining peak muscle growth conditions? What about something like this?

Graph showing a fast rate of muscle growth.

Layne Norton tested this idea and discovered that we can only trigger muscle growth once every four hours or so. If we eat meals more frequently than that, again, the protein will contribute towards our daily macros, but the meals won’t stimulate extra growth via muscle-protein synthesis.

This leaves us with an ideal meal schedule that looks something like this:

Graph showing a steady rate of muscle growth.

How controversial is this research? Could it be wrong? While there are still some questions about this theory, most of them are finer details, not issues with what we’ve discussed above. One of those finer details is that these spurts of muscle growth seem linked to one specific component of protein (leucine), not our overall protein intake. Dr Stuart McGill’s research has shown that some protein sources have more leucine than others, so it’s not quite as simple as just making sure to eat 40 grams of protein (study). For example, you can get maximal muscle growth with just 27 grams of whey protein, whereas you might need more like 50 grams of rice protein in order to get the same effect.

However, Norton’s overall research isn’t controversial. In fact, it’s the dominant theory among the top researchers in the field, including both Dr Eric Helms and Dr Brad Schoenfeld. To quote Schoenfeld:

The anabolic effects of a meal last a maximum of 6 hours or so. Thus, consumption of at least 3 meals spaced out every 5 to 6 hours would seem to be optimal for keeping protein synthesis continually elevated and thus maximizing muscle protein accretion. This hypothesis needs further investigation in a controlled long-term study.

Now, one discrepancy to note is that Norton recommends eating every four hours, whereas Schoenfeld recommends eating every 5–6 hours. While their recommendations are slightly different, their understanding of the research is not. Norton is simply erring on the side of eating more often, whereas Schoenfeld is erring on the side of eating a little bit less often. They’re both giving advice based on the same understanding of the science.

How Do Lifting and Protein Distribution Fit Together?

Both lifting and consuming protein increase muscle protein synthesis. We’re talking about the same phenomenon in both cases. After a good workout, muscle-protein synthesis will shoot up and then slowly decrease over the course of a few days. Eating a meal that’s rich in protein has a similar but milder effect that lasts for just a few hours.

Illustration showing a bodybuilder who is doing intermittent fasting.

If you consider that you’re going to have extra growth potential immediately after training, does that mean you should be eating extra protein post-workout? Yes. Some recent research is showing that after a hearty full-body workout, there’s a benefit to having some extra protein.

So you might consider your ideal workout day to look something like this:

Graph showing ideal protein distribution for muscle growth.

This is a pretty classic bodybuilding diet, where you eat 4–5 meals per day and have an especially big post-workout meal. Fairly simple, and fairly ideal.

Does this mean you should be eating 4–5 meals per day? Yes, but keep in mind that they don’t all need to be massive meals. You can trigger muscle growth just as easily with snacks, such as a bit of greek yogurt, a protein bar, a protein shake, or some cottage cheese. These snacks should actually make your overall diet easier, as they will allow you to have a smaller breakfast, lunch and dinner.

However, don’t worry if you can only eat three meals per day. Just have breakfast early, have dinner late, and make sure that all of your meals have at least 20 grams of protein in them. It won’t be perfectly optimal, but that way you’ll spend most of the day with boosted muscle growth.

But what about growth hormone? The main muscle-building advantage of intermittent fasting is often said to be growth hormone, and if we’re eating steadily throughout the day, we’re missing out on having elevated growth hormone during our fasted periods. So, should we eat more often to get more muscle-protein synthesis, or should we fast to get more growth hormone?

Let’s compare the two overall approaches.

Intermittent Fasting vs a Traditional Muscle-Building Diet

We’ve looked at the muscle-building advantages of intermittent fasting, with the main advantage being that you’d produce more human growth hormone. We’ve also looked at the muscle-building advantages of eating more frequently, with the main advantage being that you’d stimulate more muscle growth more often.

Which advantage is greater? Researchers have compared different meal schedules and concluded that having several meals spread out over the course of the day builds more muscle than intermittent fasting (study). In fact, a new study shows that even when overall protein and macronutrient consumption is identical, having breakfast can increase muscle growth by 37%.

Illustration showing that it's better not to use intermittent fasting for muscle gain.

Eating 3–6 meals per day is ideal for muscle growth, especially if you’re skinny. However, once again, the difference is going to be very small. So small that it may not even be noticeable. In fact, some studies comparing intermittent fasting against a more normal meal schedule found identical amounts of muscle growth (study).

Eating more frequently may result in leaner gains. Since the amount of calories you eat determines the amount of weight you gain, and since intermittent fasting reduces muscle gain, this means that while the overall amount of weight you gain in either situation will be the same, you’d theoretically gain less muscle and more fat with intermittent fasting.

Before and after photo showing the results of gaining muscle without using intermittent fasting.

Eating more frequently makes it much easier to eat enough calories. And keep in mind that if you have a smaller stomach or faster metabolism, eating more frequently is absolutely essential while bulking. Your stomach simply won’t be able to handle the massive meals of an intermittent fasting bulking protocol. (We’ve had members attempt this and wind up giving themselves acid reflux.)

The Best Types of Intermittent Fasting for Muscle Gain

By now it should be clear that we don’t consider intermittent fasting to be ideal for bulking. However, nutrient timing isn’t that big of a factor when it comes to muscle growth. At most, skipping breakfast could reduce our muscle growth by around 37% (study). That might sound like a lot, but over the course of the twelve-week study, that’s a difference between gaining four pounds of lean mass versus gaining 5.5 pounds. It clearly shows that if our workouts, diet, protein intake, and sleep habits are on point, we can make good gains while eating anywhere from 2–7 meals per day.

This means that intermittent fasting is still a valid option, even while bulking. Furthermore, some intermittent fasting diets take some of our criticisms into consideration.

Using BCAAs to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. The main disadvantage of fasting while bulking is the lack of muscle protein synthesis. However, what if it were possible to stimulate muscle protein synthesis while fasting? This would allow you to get the best of both worlds, right?

Supplementing with leucine or branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) sort of allows you to do that. They contain enough of the amino acid leucine to trigger muscle-protein synthesis, but they contain so few calories that Martin Berkhan still considers it fasting. The downside is that since you’d still be in a calorie deficit, there wouldn’t really be any muscle growth going on. (The strategy works better while cutting, as the BCAAs prevent muscle loss and improve workout performance.)

Fasting just once per week? There are also types of intermittent fasting where you only fast for one 24-hour period each week. The most famous version of that is Brad Pilon’s Eat, Stop, Eat approach, and that’s also the approach Dr John Berardi used when testing out an extreme bulking plan on the fitness blogger Nate Green (Bigger, Smaller Bigger).

There are three benefits to doing 24-hour fasts. The first is that they give your digestive system a total break from the stresses of overeating; the second is that you get to burn a little bit of fat right in the middle of your bulk; the third is that if you’re only fasting for one day each week, then you’d be growing at full speed 86% of the time. That’s a big improvement compared to 16:8 fasting, where you’d only be growing at full speed for around 67% of the time.

There are also two downsides to 24-hour fasts, though. First, you won’t be gaining muscle on the day that you’re fasting, and so this will reduce your overall rate of muscle growth. Second, it can be extremely unpleasant for some people.

If you want to experiment with 24-hour fasts, I recommend scheduling them as far after your workouts as possible, where there wouldn’t be much muscle growth taking place anyway. For example, your week could look like this:

  • Monday: full-body workout
  • Tuesday: rest
  • Wednesday: full-body workout
  • Thursday: rest
  • Friday: fully-body workout
  • Saturday: rest
  • Sunday: fast

So. daily 16-hour fasts or weekly 24-hour fasts? From a muscle gain perspective, I think 24-hour fasts might give slightly better results than 16:8 intermittent fasting. Your digestive system will enjoy the break, you can schedule it far away from your workouts, you might actually lose a decent amount of fat, and it won’t slow your muscle growth by very much.

However, from a lifestyle perspective, most people—especially guys in their 20’s—seem to prefer 16-hour fasts. They quickly get used to skipping breakfast, and they often find that it helps them be more productive in the morning. The 24-hour fasts, on the other hand, can be quite unpleasant, even for young guys who are good at following intense diet protocols.

The Skinny Guy’s Muscle-Building “Fast”

Okay, so we can see that there are two significant advantages to intermittent fasting while gaining muscle, namely:

  • Our digestive system gets a break from overfeeding. Bulking diets can be brutal on skinny guys. There are just so many damn calories that it can feel like a relentless assault on our stomachs and energy levels. Taking a day off each week where we don’t eat any calories can be a welcome break.  
  • Skipping breakfast is pleasant and productive. Most skinny guys wake up without much of an appetite, making breakfast more of a chore than a treat. Moreover, eating a big breakfast can use up our morning energy on digestion, especially if we have weaker digestive systems (and many of us do).

However, there are also two major downsides to intermittent fasting:

  • Less muscle growth, more fat. When you’re fasting, your muscles aren’t growing. This will not only slow down your muscle gains, you’ll also gain more fat.
  • Intermittent fasting makes eating enough to gain weight way harder. It’s hard enough to eat a bulking diet when you’re eating 3–5 times per day. Cram those calories into a couple of meals over the course of a few hours and it becomes downright brutal. Who wants to eat a 1,500-calorie lunch? Lots of people, sure, but I’d rather stick a fork in my eye.

So, how can we min-max our muscle-building results based on all of this research? I have two protocols that you might want to experiment with. Keep in mind that you’re always free to follow a traditional bulking diet, eating 3–5 regular meals per day. But if you find yourself wanting to experiment with intermittent fasting for muscle gain, here’s what I would recommend instead:

Illustration showing the benefits of eating more meals for building muscle.

The Mini-Meal Reverse Cheat Day

24-hour fasts allow your digestive system to take a break, and it might give you a chance to lose a little bit of fat right in the middle of your bulk. That’s great, but we can accomplish all of that without any fasting whatsoever.

Instead of fasting once per week, we recommend having a “cheat day.” But instead of doing the fat-person cheat day, where you eat extra food, we recommend doing the skinny guy’s cheat day, where you eat less food. You can still eat several times per day, just keep your protein intake high and your calorie intake low. Your digestive system will love the break, and you’ll lose some fat. (This is how Jared gained 33 pounds in three months, as shown above.)

You’d have a meal schedule something like this:

Monday: full-body workout, eat big
Tuesday: rest, eat big
Wednesday: full-body workout, eat big
Thursday: rest, eat big
Friday: fully-body workout, eat big
Saturday: rest, eat big
Sunday: take a break from eating big

Illustration showing that eating protein more often can speed up muscle gain.

The Light Breakfast

Skipping breakfast increases morning productivity, but you miss out on an opportunity to stimulate muscle growth. One solution is to have a protein-rich breakfast that’s smaller and lower in calories.

This light breakfast could be a protein shake and some fruit, a protein bar and a latte, or even just a smoothie. All of those will be quite easy to digest, they aren’t very filling, and they can contain at least 20 grams of protein. The meal will be light enough that you’ll still be productive, you won’t fall too far behind on calories, and you’ll kick-start some morning muscle growth.

These half-fasts are what Dr Layne Norton recommends to bulkers who are curious about intermittent fasting:

If you want some of the benefits from intermittent fasting but want to optimize muscle mass, I would advise a different type of fast. Rather than cutting out all calories, simply restrict carbs and fats during your fasting window, but continue to evenly distribute your protein intake throughout the day.

Take this approach, and you are still going to get a large volume of food in the feeding period and spend a large portion of the day in a low-insulin fat-burning state, but you’ll be able to distribute protein in such a way that is better for muscle growth.

Layne Norton, PhD

This is what we recommend to our members, and this is how I managed to gain 55 pounds over the course of a couple of years:

Before and after photo showing the results of avoiding intermittent fasting for muscle gain.

New Intermittent Fasting Research

2020 Study on Intermittent Fasting for Muscle Gain

A new study by Tinsley et al. looked into the results of using intermittent fasting for muscle gain. They compared muscle growth between different groups of women, some of whom were eating steadily throughout the day, others who were intermittent fasting (using a 16:8 protocol). What’s interesting is that these women were bulking on a modest calorie surplus of around 200 extra calories per day, and there were no differences in muscle growth between the groups. This seems to show that, at least with slower rates of weight gain, intermittent fasting doesn’t reduce our ability to build muscle while bulking.

I reached out to Eric Trexler, PhD, for his thoughts on what to make of this for guys doing a bonafide bulk (eating in a larger calorie surplus and gaining closer to a pound per week). He told me the following:

It’s certainly possible that results could’ve been different if they pushed for a particularly rapid rate of muscle gain, but we can’t be sure. There are certainly some downsides of IF, and I don’t see a ton of utility when it comes to bulking. The primary benefit seems to be satiety management when caloric intake is low. I can’t imagine intentionally nudging somebody toward time-restricted feeding unless they were struggling with hunger, or simply couldn’t accommodate more meals into their eating schedule due to timing/logistics.

As noted in the [Monthly Applications in Strength Sports] article, it is interesting that interventions don’t seem to show a detrimental effect on hypertrophy. Based on the research to date, I’m left to assume that the robust effect of resistance training on 24-hr protein synthesis is essentially “washing out” the small benefit of more carefully scheduled protein feedings for initiating frequent spikes in muscle protein synthesis. However, I think the “default approach” for bulking would still be shooting for 3-5 meals spaced throughout the day.

And as more research comes out on the topic, I feel less and less confident telling someone that they’re making a huge mistake by adopting a time-restricted feeding window, from a muscle retention/hypertrophy perspective.

As far as my own take on this, I think I might need to adjust my graphs to show a larger boost in muscle-protein synthesis from lifting weights and a smaller boost in muscle growth from individual meals. I think that’s going to give us a clearer visual representation of how intermittent fasting affects muscle growth while bulking.

I’ll keep my eye on the research to see what else happens. Intermittent fasting remains popular, so I think we’re going to have plenty of new studies coming out, hopefully with some of them conducted on men who are bulking up more quickly.

2020 Study on Protein Distribution for Muscle Growth

We have a brand new study comparing the effects of protein distribution on muscle growth. What’s nice about this study is they measured how much lean mass was gained, giving us an idea of what the differences are likely to add up to in the real world.

In this study, the participants were put on a twelve-week weight training program. Half the participants were given a breakfast that was extremely low in protein, whereas the other half were given a normal breakfast containing an average amount of protein. Both groups ate the same amount of protein overall, and both diets had the same macronutrients. The only difference was the schedule.

Graph showing differences in muscle growth with intermittent fasting versus regular protein distribution.

What we see is that eating protein in the morning increased muscle growth by around 37%. It also yielded larger increases in strength.

This lines up with previous research and expert recommendations fairly well, giving us more confidence that intermittent fasting isn’t ideal for building muscle. It can work, but this study suggests that we’d be able to gain muscle 37% faster simply by eating a protein-rich breakfast.

2020 Study on Intermittent Fasting for Cutting

A new intermittent fasting study just came out, and what makes this one special is that it’s one of the largest and longest ones ever conducted, improving the strength of its findings.

Both the intermittent fasting and the control group were given instructions about how to eat a good diet. Both groups lost a similar amount of weight—around 2 pounds. And both groups lost a similar amount of fat. The differences weren’t dramatic. But the intermittent fasting group started to subconsciously move a little bit less, slightly reducing their metabolism.

The main finding, though, was that the intermittent fasting group lost more muscle mass. Protein wasn’t tracked, so maybe the intermittent fasting group lost more muscle because they were eating less protein. Maybe it was because they were moving less, stimulating their muscles a little bit less. It’s hard to say for sure, and so it’s hard to say how these findings might apply to you.

What’s interesting is that the lead researcher, Ethan Weiss, was a fan of intermittent fasting. Up until running this study, he was doing intermittent fasting himself. But after seeing these results, he decided to go back to eating more meals.

2021 Meta-Analysis on Intermittent Fasting for Cutting

A systematic review and meta-analysis by Ashtary-Larky et al. (2021) found that intermittent fasting might help people lose more fat while cutting. Plus, there was no effect on muscle maintenance. The participants maintained nearly as much muscle mass as the people who had a more typical eating schedule. So, overall, if someone wants to use intermittent fasting for cutting, it appears to be a great option.


So, overall, should we use intermittent fasting for gaining muscle? Probably not. It won’t ruin your results, but it will make it harder to get into a calorie surplus, it will probably slow your rate of muscle growth, and it might result in a bit of extra fat gain. It’s not the end of the world, but intermittent fasting isn’t ideal for bulking.

Illustration showing the before and after results of gaining muscle while intermittent fasting.

Diving deeper into the details, most of the rumours about intermittent fasting are false. Fasting doesn’t cause instant muscle loss, skipping breakfast doesn’t harm our metabolisms, and we can digest eighty or more grams of protein per meal without issue. Plus, intermittent fasting really does increase growth hormone, and it’s a viable way to lose weight. It’s popular for a reason.

But intermittent fasting isn’t ideal for gaining muscle mass. Not only does it slow muscle growth by as much as 37%, but it also makes it harder to gain weight, and harder to keep our gains lean. Plus, the supposed benefits, such as increased growth hormone production, don’t seem to have any impact on muscle growth (study). So although intermittent fasting doesn’t make it impossible to gain muscle, it does make it harder and slower.

If you want to gain muscle as fast and as leanly as possible, it’s better to eat 3–5 meals per day, as bodybuilders have been doing for the past hundred years. It’s not the only way to build muscle, but it makes for a good default, especially if you’re a skinny guy who has a hard time gaining weight.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has nine years of experience helping over ten thousand skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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  1. SoSkinny on July 10, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Bulking takes consistent work and financing. Almost every guy falls because it’s too hard to get all of that support and stay motivated long-term. The body reverts back to its original shape and form within 2-months of stopping the bulking focused work. Don’t waste time.

    • Shane Duquette on July 10, 2018 at 11:09 am

      Hey man, bulking is indeed hard work. Many guys do fail, and that’s why those who succeed are rewarded so highly for it: they prove to themselves and everyone else who sees them that they can accomplish difficult tasks. When you see a guy in great physical shape, you know that he can work hard, that he can handle his finances, that he can stick with his goals long-term, and that he has the support he needs to succeed in life.

      The body doesn’t revert back to its original shape and form, though. The more important adaptations that your body makes from building muscle are permanent. For example, your muscle fibres bring in myonuclei from satellite cells, making your muscles more insulin sensitive and your body able to support greater muscle mass. This is colloquially called “muscle memory,” and it will last your entire life, making you forever leaner and more muscular. We’ve written more about that here:

      (We still recommend keeping up with a healthy diet and exercise routine, though, of course, but that’s important whether you build muscle or not.)

      • SoSkinny on July 13, 2018 at 8:13 pm

        Inspiring that you found YOUR confidence and some passion through doing this, Shane. Many do not. Many cerebral guys have no interest in dead-lifting 300 or 400lbs and becoming more of a meat-head. However, bodies do revert or become ‘fattier’ in lieu of the muscle that once was perhaps more pronounced when the program or routine ceases…consider it an appropriate reaction and homeostasis to the *inflammation* that the work causes when the routines can’t be upheld. In addition, age is a factor! Testosterone declines every year after 30. I don’t know which world you live in, but most physically-fit men I know become too into themselves, cheat on partners, shark their way in corporate and cut pushed back down, or even end up in the sex industry as masseurs and escorts, etc. That is not ‘financial support’. That is desperate hustling to keep the vicious cycle going that only proceeds in a negative feedback loop. Why? Because we’re human, not machines, and our lives are finite that slow in pace over time.

        *fall* verses *fail* in original post. People fall from grace. Becoming a surly, obsessed, angry health-nut or exercise fiend is a fall from grace and intellectual cultivation. Mild exercise is ok, especially for ‘Depression’ which academics suffer from frequently. High intensity like HIIT or Cross-Fit often yield injuries.

        • Shane Duquette on July 14, 2018 at 9:37 pm

          All of the research I’ve seen has shown a positive correlation between lifting weights, confidence, intelligence, and emotional well-being. Many benefits come from doing cardio as well, but both lifting and cardio give separate benefits, so doing both is even better than doing one or the other.

          I can’t imagine why being stronger, healthier, and successfully accomplishing a difficult task would make someone less confident or less happy, but I’m sure it happens to some people. I’ve never encountered one of those people. I suspect they’re rather rare.

          Building muscle has a positive effect on brainpower, so being a meathead is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, there are dumb people who lift weights, but they’re smarter than they would have been if they didn’t lift weights. It’s helping, not hurting. (Again, similar but different effects from cardio. Best to do both.)

          You don’t have to deadlift 300–400 pounds in order to build muscle or be healthy. You’re strawmanning me here. I’m personally glad that I was able to accomplish my goal of lifting 405 pounds, but I have no doubt that when I was lifting 315 I was just as healthy. (My bone density reached the optimal level before I deadlifted 405 pounds.)

          Muscle does not in any way transform into fat. If anything, having formerly been muscular makes one more resistant to gaining fat, and more likely to gain muscle when overeating. The formerly strong guy who becomes fat will have a better physique than the formerly sedentary guy who becomes fat.

          As for cheating… don’t cheat? Not sure what that has to do with going to the gym. Yes, guys with naturally high testosterone may be more likely to cheat, but again, that has nothing to do with going to the gym or building muscle.

          Anyway, none of this has anything to do with intermittent fasting while bulking.

        • achinatl on July 30, 2018 at 2:13 pm

          What in the holy hell are you going on about? Sex industry? Cheating? Are you having a stroke or just trolling?

          • Davey B on October 25, 2018 at 10:04 pm

          • Davey B on October 25, 2018 at 10:06 pm


        • Thomas Frije on October 9, 2018 at 2:46 pm

          Obvious troll is obvious

        • That guy on December 6, 2018 at 9:45 pm

          If you’re done trying to use as many big words as you can to try to seem smart the rest of the readers here would like to actually have meaningful conversations. I don’t know what world you live in….. but the amount of stereotypes you just threw out basically highlights that you have very little life experience, and choose to generalize your narrow view of successful bodybuilders being sex crazed vein losers with no focus, to the rest of the world. Well we all live in different places and I don’t know a single person like that. Do I dare say a person like that doesn’t exist? No I don’t because I won’t generalize a group of people (fitness and bodybuilding) to a faceless stereotype. You sound sad, discouraged, defeated and like you have no motivation left. If your experiences haven’t been good o hope they will be in the future. In the mean time keep your toxic crappy opinions to yourself.

      • Arthyr on January 7, 2019 at 8:21 pm

        This is true. I have followed a very similar workout and diet approach as what is recommended by bony to beastly(based off Dr. Schoenfelds work). I went from 148 to 185 lbs over a 3 month period. I was able to gain another 10 or so lbs after that. Due to work and diet changes I lost weight, but the smallest I have ever dropped to is ~170. That is with low protein and no exercise. So my set point has changed.

  2. Vincent on July 10, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Very interesting article! But I have one question:
    – What is the importance of hitting your daily protein goal?
    Let’s say you are a 160lb guy and you skip some meals but you get all you protein in later that day in huge portions (e.g. 2 meals with 80g of protein) and hit your daily protein goal.
    What’s the benefit of that over eating 2 meals with 40g of protein that evening and only hitting half of your daily protein goal?
    Because you can’t catch up and won’t stimulate more muscle protein synthesis with those 80g protein meals if I understand correctly?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Shane Duquette on July 10, 2018 at 5:36 pm

      That’s a good question, your logic seems sound to me, and I’ve wondered the same thing myself. Let me walk you through what I know and what I think, but this is something I’ve been looking into as well. So, while I feel confident in the “what” and “how,” I feel like I’m missing part of the “why.”

      1. Studies find that those who eat less than 0.8 grams of protein per pound bodyweight per day don’t build as much muscle as those who eat more, regardless of when they eat it. So we know that this is important. In fact, it’s more important than when you eat the protein.

      2. Studies also find that the best way to distribute that protein is relatively spread out, with at least 20 grams in each meal, rather than having it all at once. This is newer research and seems to have less of an impact, which is why people can gain muscle even while following extreme intermittent fasting protocols, such as the warrior diet, where you have just one giant meal each day.

      3. Furthermore, the research shows that no matter how much protein we eat in a meal, our body is still able to digest and use all of it. This means that if you have 180 grams of protein with dinner, and that’s the only thing you eat all day, your body is still going to get the benefit of eating 180 grams of protein.

      However, if you’re hitting your daily protein goal but you aren’t spreading out that intake throughout the day, you wouldn’t get the EXTRA benefit of stimulating these boosts in muscle-protein synthesis.

      Perhaps we can look at our calorie intake the same way. Let’s say you need to eat 3,200 calories per day in order to gain a pound per week. Option A is to eat four 800-calorie meals, keeping you in a hearty surplus all day, with your testosterone high and your cortisol low. Option B is to eat one 3,200-calorie meal, meaning that most of the day you’re in a calorie deficit, your testosterone is low, your cortisol is high, and you don’t have an influx of nutrients. In both cases, you’ll absorb all of those calories, and therefore in both cases you’ll gain weight. Your total calorie intake is priority #1. However, if you spread those calories out throughout the day, your gains will be leaner, as your body can constantly build muscle all day long.

      I suspect something similar is happening with protein.

      Does that help at all?

      • Harry on March 25, 2019 at 1:46 am

        Just wanting to check out one point you make Shane- thank you so much for these articles! – deeply appreciate the ongoing work you guys are doing!

        You say that gains are leaner by spreading out protein and not fasting…but that goes so against many things I have read suggesting that gains are substantially leaner whilst implementing a fasting Regiment….less of them of course…but certainly leaner…due to various factors from increased insulin sensitivity to growth hormone etc….what do you say to that?…are you really of the opinion that you will stay leaner whilst not fasting?…and if so what’s the point of every fasting at all?…

        Thank you – harry

        • Shane Duquette on March 25, 2019 at 2:55 pm

          My pleasure, Harry! Glad you liked it.

          Yes, your gains will be leaner if you eat 4–5 meals spread out throughout the day. Intermittent fasting would actually be a little bit worse for gains than even the traditional 3-meals-per-day schedule of breakfast, lunch and dinner with no snacks.

          If you gain weight more slowly while following a bulking program (good lifting, diet, and sleep), then that weight gain has a better chance of being lean. That’s simply due to the calorie surplus being smaller, though. You could do that by intermittent fasting, but your gains would be even leaner if you ate more meals and spread them out over the course of the day.

          There are some interesting long-term health benefits to fasting, but the main reason it’s so popular is because it helps people eat fewer calories with less suffering, allowing them to drop into a calorie deficit and burn fat. For most people, that’s a HUGE benefit. After all, keep in mind that trying to eat MORE calories in order to gain weight is a niche issue. Most people are trying to eat LESS calories in order to lose weight.

          If you mean “what’s the point of fasting while bulking?” then, ah, there isn’t really much of a point. It’s not very good for bulking. Although I suppose if your appetite were so enormous that you had trouble keeping your calorie surplus under control, then maybe you’d prefer intermittent fasting?

          I hope that helps!

          • Evan on June 10, 2020 at 9:49 pm

            Thanks for all the info! Great article.

          • Shane Duquette on June 11, 2020 at 11:37 am

            My pleasure, Evan!

  3. RR on July 10, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Very thorough article as always. Makes sense mostly. However there are a couple of key points to highlight.

    1. IF really works only with a high (good) fat diet with moderate protein and low carbs. This helps comfortable fasting for 16+ hours where the body switches from glucose to fat for energy and all the fat loss happens. So the following paragraph declaring that IF causes fat gain by assuming one eats the same amount and type of calories is a gross mischaracterization:
    “Since the amount of calories you eat determines the amount of weight you gain, and since intermittent fasting reduces muscle gain, this means that while the overall amount of weight you gain in either situation will be the same, you’ll gain less muscle and more fat with intermittent fasting.”
    As a side note, such a (keto-like) diet is good for anyone even if not fasting and helps hit the right macro ratios.

    2. There are other benefits of fasting you’ve missed like immunity system boost, improved liver functioning, better sleep etc all of which help in long term muscle gain and fat loss.

    3. The bit on fasting increasing cortisol is a red herring. I found this on a good IF website that addresses this thoroughly:
    “Exercise also raises cortisol, so should we not exercise? Dieting will lead to more cortisol, as will low carbohydrate diets, coffee, etc. – do we warn people about that? We like cortisol during exercise as its release leads to mobilization of fatty acids from fat stores thus providing us with energy. After a workout where glycogen is depleted, cortisol is raised to spare glucose and then when you eat post-workout, it will offset this. Cortisol is NOT bad – it’s just a hormone. It is released in a pulsatile fashion and its release in the morning is part of what helps us get moving. CHRONIC high levels of cortisol can certainly be a problem and negatively impact the immune system, but acute responses are normal. Please stop vilifying hormones like cortisol and insulin simply because you read a headline and don’t understand all of their functions in the body. Transient increases during a short time of fasting or exercise or fasted exercise or a stressful situation, are not too much for our body to handle. If such a minor stressor (fasted exercise) was so detrimental, we would not have evolved to where we are today. As a matter of fact, one of the main benefits of intermittent fasting is its ability to boost the resiliency of cells in response to “stress.” Cortisol and fasting are often pitted against each other in certain fitness circles. Those who preach, “Beware of cortisol increases in fasting,” are typically using cherry picked studies that don’t accurately depict the discussion at hand or simply ignore the entire picture. For example, some of the common studies for those in this camp include one where the participants fasted for 5 straight days and cortisol increased. Well of course, why wouldn’t it? Your body is trying to spare glucose. This leads to clickbait-esque thinking…fasting = more cortisol and cortisol = bad therefore fasting = bad.”

    4. I agree with calorie cycling and ensuring that there is a higher intake after workout. But the following paragraph is very questionable:
    “However, don’t worry if you can only eat three meals per day. Just have breakfast early, have dinner late, and make sure that all of your meals have at least 20 grams of protein in them.”
    If you are eating 3 meals a day, you are much better off doing the opposite! Eat a late breakfast, early dinner and make sure that you eat the 3 meals four hours apart (say 11am, 3pm, 7pm) and fast the remaining to get the best of both worlds.

    • Shane Duquette on July 10, 2018 at 7:16 pm

      Hey RR, thank you for the long and thoughtful answer! You’ve raised some good points. Let me go through them.

      1. When doing these articles I think it’s more helpful to take the best possible argument on either side. You’ll notice that on the intermittent fasting side, I’m referencing guys like Martin Berkhan, Brad Pilon and Dr John Berardi, all of whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I’m familiar with their plans and when comparing intermittent fasting against eating more frequently, I’m assuming that in both cases the macros and nutrition quality are fully optimized. I’m comparing the very best intermittent fasting diet against the very best traditional bulking diet. Even then, intermittent fasting is not ideal for bulking. I don’t even think the best intermittent fasting advocates would disagree with that, as they tend to recommend intermittent fasting for cutting and general lifestyle, not bulking.

      2. I did mention that intermittent fasting has some interesting possible longterm health benefits. However, bulking is a short-term endeavour. I’ve spent around 18 months of my life bulking, gaining roughly 55 pounds of muscle during those months, and even those 18 months were split up with breaks. Now, goals accomplished, I do rather enjoy intermittent fasting… but still I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who was interested in building muscle quickly. If someone asks me how to bulk, I’m going to teach them how to bulk. When they’ve gained the 20+ pounds they’re after, then we can transition into a healthy long-term routine. Those two routines are somewhat different. Bulking means eating too much, lifting too hard, and prioritizing protein. Longterm health is about going back to eating the right amount, lifting a bit less intensely, adding in some cardio, more focus on fruits/vegetables, etc.

      3. It’s good to point out the misconceptions surrounding cortisol. It’s not a “bad” hormone, it’s a stress hormone, and just like with stress, the goal isn’t to get rid of it completely, it’s just to strike that proper balance. Yes, we want to stress ourselves both in the gym and elsewhere in life. No, we don’t want to be chronically stressed all the time. Where is the proper balance point for our specific goal? In this case, spending an extra 8-ish hours each day with elevated cortisol probably isn’t ideal, at least not for muscle growth.

      4. Intermittent fasting isn’t ideal for building muscle, so we don’t want to introduce intermittent periods of fasting into our bulking routine. You’re correct that after a few hours we can boost muscle growth by having a protein-rich meal, but that doesn’t mean that the previous boost has fully ground to a halt within four hours (as shown in the diagrams). It’s likely still better to spread those meals apart.

      Thanks again for the thoughtful comment, and let me know if you find any of those answers unsatisfactory or if you have any other objections 🙂

      • RR on July 10, 2018 at 8:06 pm

        Thanks for the quick and detailed response, Shane.

        On #1, I agree with you on the bulking part. IF likely causes muscle gain to be slower. I just disagreed on the part where you said IF causes more fat gain than eating frequently. It goes against the premise which you’ve also stated that IF is best for cutting.

        On #2, I totally agree. IF is not ideal for a short term endeavor of quick bulking. It’s more a long term health routine with slow and steady muscle gain as long as we eat caloric surplus. I’ve gained 10 pounds in 6 months of IF and I am okay with that pace given the health benefits. It depends on one’s priorities.

        On #3, I don’t think cortisol stays elevated for 8+ hours with IF. It’s more a case of acute short term increases while the hunger pangs come (which are less frequent as one does more IF). IF is proven to cause better sleep and that wouldn’t be the case if there was chronic cortisol spike.

        On #4, yeah I see your point. Goes back to #2 above as to what one’s priorities are.

        • Shane Duquette on July 10, 2018 at 9:08 pm

          My pleasure, RR!

          On #1, I think we’ve found the disagreement and mended it. I’m just talking about bulking in this article. Since there’s a calorie surplus when bulking, and the degree of the calorie surplus dictates the rate of weight gain, then if muscle gain is slower, more of that weight gain will come from fat. For example, if you’re gaining 1 pound per week due to your calorie surplus, better to be gaining muscle more quickly so that more of that pound is muscle. When someone is cutting, there’s no calorie surplus, and thus no risk of fat gain anyway. In this case, where there’s a calorie deficit, intermittent fasting is fantastic (and my personal preference).

          On #2—excellent. I hope I made it clear in this article that much of this comes down to personal preference. There are some fundamental aspects of muscle gain where there’s really no room for compromise: you need a good resistance training program, enough calories, enough protein, and enough quality sleep… but meal schedule is not a big deal. You can bulk just fine while intermittent fasting. This article was more for people looking to min-max their bulking plan, trying to get the most bang for their buck. But I wanted to make it clear that if someone is okay with slower results and prefers intermittent fasting, that’s no problem whatsoever. I don’t even think it will substantially slow progress.

          On #3, the study I referenced found that overall levels of cortisol were higher in the intermittent fasting group. That could be from a series of spikes. Either way, I’m not sure that’s a great thing while bulking. Probably better to limit added stress while your body is already making such a monumental effort to pack on muscle. Again, though, not the end of the world.

          Like I said earlier, I think we’ve largely solved the disagreement. In this article I’m writing about the best way to bulk—and not just to bulk, but to really build muscle as quickly and leanly as possible. For different goals, or for people with different timelines or priorities, things change 🙂

  4. Matteo on July 11, 2018 at 7:46 am

    This skinny guy wakes up every morning simply ravenous, so I would never be able to fast until noon. “Most skinny guys wake up without much of an appetite, making breakfast more of a chore than a treat.” Now if only I could match my stomach capacity with my appetite, I could eat a lot more than I do.

  5. Jason D on July 15, 2018 at 4:33 am

    This site is a favorite, and incredibly thorough! As a life-long ectomorph (slowly moving towards meso :P), and a certified personal trainer, I can see this info is spot on and very well analyzed! I’ve even picked up a few tips on meal strategy from you guys. I got your eBook; keep up the fantastic work, dude!

    With that said, I can’t tell you how many people – ecto or not – try to BS diet and just gloss over what calories do. It’s just as hard for us to hold weight as it is for the rest of the world to lose it! My clients laugh when I’m eating so much all the time…but they’re the first to ask “WOW! Are you on steroids now?!” 😛

    Keep up the good fight, gents!

    • Shane Duquette on July 15, 2018 at 4:41 pm

      Glad you’re loving the site, Jason! Thank you so much for the kind words.

      Always know you’re doing everything right when the steroid accusations roll in 🙂

  6. sam on August 1, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    This is EXACTLY what I needed. Thank you SO much for putting this together…
    I’ve been testing out intermittent fasting for my first month of bulking and my muscle gains are tiny and slow going! This all makes perfect sense…
    The last time I tried bulking I had several meals throughout the day and gained weight like crazy (until I went back to running long distance and lost it lol)
    What put me off previously was I put on belly fat and it just put me off the whole bulking thing because I didn’t FEEL great despite the muscle gain, after 3 months I hated all the extra fat!
    Now I feel like I could just intermittent fast for maybe a week or so whenever I want to cut down the fat and keep my muscle on! And continue to workout…

    One question I still have thats unanswered on a separate topic..
    Is it better to work out 3 or 4 times per week for ectomorph bulking Shane??
    Putting lifestyle and any other timing stuff aside. Which is actually better?



  7. sipharo on September 19, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    with maturity I’ve come to a point where I ask myself differents questions. I am really wondering how healthy it is to litteraly force yourself into a bodyweight that every part of your body deseperetly trying to fight back.
    I have become intereseted in longevity diet and how those 100y old people who lives in the “blue zones” almost all advocates some form of caloric restriction. I know that caloric restriction hasnt been fully proved scientifically for longevity, and also that this website doesnt focus on longevity, but I just wanted to say that maybe if cerebral people happen to be so skinny, its maybe because they are meant to use their body and their brain in another way instead of just trying to look like the “standard” wich is a biologic non sens.

    Just my 2 cents!

  8. RapidFail on October 5, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    I’ve been a skinny-fat guy for a while – very much an ectomorph (6’1″ and 169lb with 19% body fat) but I’ve always had a healthy appetite.

    I did 16:8 IF for three months and was down to 155lb, but still with 17% body fat – dropped a trouser size, but also a fair chunk of muscle.

    I’ve since started weight training and increased my protein intake to prevent the muscle loss. Mirror test tells me I’m around 15% body fat now, but my weight had gone back up to 158lb. I plan to continue lean bulking until and go back to IF when I need to cut.

  9. Jonathan on November 14, 2018 at 10:12 am

    Hi, great article!
    During a long time I’ve been trying to decide if I should several times a day or do the intermittent fasting but after this article I decided to do the first one.
    The only problem is that I kept reading other articles you wrote and in this one ( it says you are actually just eating 2 times a day so I guess IF.
    Why is that? Is is then the same if I eat 2 or 3 times a day in a 8 hours window (16:8)??

    • Shane Duquette on November 14, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Hey Jonathan, it just depends on your goals.

      I’ll often skip breakfast (16:8), and that’s great for maintenance, it’s great for losing fat, and it’s even okay for building muscle slowly. However, if I’m really trying to emphasize muscle growth, it’s better to eat several times per day, it’s better to spread those meals out throughout the entire day, and it’s best to have protein in each meal.

      That could be something like:
      -Breakfast at 8am
      -Lunch at noon
      -Snack at 4pm
      -Dinner at 8pm
      -Snack before bed at 11pm

      (The snacks aren’t essential, but they would help.)

      As explained in this article, intermittent fasting is great for many goals, it just so happens that it’s not ideal for bulking.

  10. myers on November 22, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Shane,
    Incredible source of knowledge. Thank you very much.

    Here is what i wonder: Is there a caloric limit as well to trigger muscle growth? or Is eating more than 20gr of protein enough to start muscle growth period? So what if we just have one scoop of whey protein with some water?

    All the best

    • Shane Duquette on November 28, 2018 at 10:34 am

      Hey Myers, good question. You need to be in an overall calorie surplus in order to reliably gain muscle, not to mention it will radically improve your hormone production. However you can certainly have some lower-calorie meals that are high in protein, and those will still stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Just make sure to be in a surplus overall, i.e., gaining weight at the intervals you’re aiming for.

      In the b2B program, we recommend hitting daily calorie goals and measuring your weight weekly to ensure that you’re gaining weight. However, some members cycle their calories, aiming for more calories in the meals following their workouts and fewer calories in the meals that are more distant from their workouts. You’d take that same daily calorie target (say 3,000 calories) but spread it out unevenly over the course of the week, for example having 2,500 calories on rest days (4 days per week) and 3,667 calories on workout days (3 days per week), still giving an average of 3,000 calories per day over the course of the week. That produces phenomenal gains in muscle so long as they hit their daily goals and gain weight at the end of the week 🙂

      (Intermittent fasting is also a form of calorie cycling, it’s just that the timing of it wouldn’t align as well with the workouts, and the protein distribution doesn’t align with optimal muscle-protein synthesis.)

  11. Otter on December 10, 2018 at 6:58 am

    Hi Shane,
    Tysm for thorough information!

    I just wonder one thing: Say, during 8-hour feeding period, I eat a caloric surplus of 40/40/20 carb/protein/fat in order to gain muscle mass (since carb is more necessary when bulking than cutting) and spreading it over 3 meals (each with 3 hours apart), is it possible to gain more muscle mass? Or most of them will turn to fat instead, to which IF will balance out the result? I am now doing IF, trying to lose fat to below than 15% before bulking up again. And since I like the benefits of IF so much, I just wonder how to fit IF in a daily life when bulking. The idea of eating snacks throughout the day doesn’t fit me for eating is not allowed in class lol.

    Thank you for your reply! And if I misunderstood anything (maybe a lot lol), don’t hesitate to correct me!

    • Shane Duquette on December 10, 2018 at 9:10 am

      Hey Otter, no, as far as I can tell, you haven’t misunderstood anything 🙂

      It’s okay to eat three meals within that eight hour period. It’s not ideal, but it’s okay. If you’re willing to sacrifice some results in order to have a better lifestyle, that’s totally understandable. What matters the most is sustaining your efforts over a long period of time. Getting results quickly can be motivating, which can encourage you to keep pushing, but you should still be able to bulk fairly well even while intermittent fasting provided that all of the other bulking details are on point (a good workout program, enough calories, enough protein, and so on).

      However, you may want to experiment with the “skinny guy’s bulking fast” that we recommend near the end of the article. That would involve just a small meal in the morning, and that would speed up your muscle gains with little additional effort. It will probably FEEL like you’re intermittent fasting, too, since you won’t be full and it won’t take more than a minute to eat breakfast.

      I hope that helps, and good luck!

  12. Timbo on January 3, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    I’m curious if in your research you found anything about protein before bed/in the middle of the night? Or I guess the bigger question is are the behaviors you focus on in this article changed at all during sleep? Great article, thanks!

  13. Eric on January 9, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    Dear Shane

    37 y.o. male,ectomorph through and through.
    193cm high and 76kg’ heavy (167,5lbs) a all time low as an adult.

    After a lifetime of training, “adultlife” came knocking.
    With work, stress, illness, death and all kind of bad things that can break a persons spirit.

    For the last 10 years, I have only been training for 1 year,
    Since my body was well used to training, I was gained alot, but then life set in again… Which resulted in the loss of all gained weight and even more so (I fell below my starter weight (it always seems to balance at 82kg) and became scared of what my health might do to me if i do not change it quickly.

    I am now beginning a new regime to get back to my comfort zone weight of 92-95kg’s and I am concidering bulking vs or with TRF (due to the seemingly great health benefits, while maintaining a slow, steady growth).

    I do see the reason behind bulking first, then adding IF’ as I go along for added benefits, and then going for TRF when my weight is getting better.

    BUT, I am also concidering; that the health benefits > musclegrowth due to having had high stress, bad diet, bad sleep, no training (except for some stretching to counteract neck, back, glute, hamstring and achillees problems. (you know, sitting too much infront of a screen with a bad posture)).
    Also I need to adress diminishing testosterone, fatigue and really no motivation what so ever to do, well… Pretty much anything…

    It has gone so far that I am starting to feel less of a man, and more of a “unisex” or asexual… ofcourse this will have a negative effect on the lovelife, so I really want to “get back to” myself.

    So far stretching and finding motivation to do anything about it before it all goes too far, has been my first accomplishment.
    Now I need to get back on a slow and steady training/eating/habit to be sure to get enough core strenght, flexibility and well, routines.

    So for my questions..
    Will bulking for say 3 months (which usually gives me a gain of 16pounds), focusing on eating enough, training enough and rebuilding step by step.
    Then going for TRF be advisable?

    Or would a TRF regime, with slow but sure gains, managing hormone levels for better mental focus and health as the main goal, then starting bulking say after 3 months (the time it takes for my body to really react to any change), be a “safer route” for me?

    I can eat enourmous meals, but usually not too hungry in the morning.
    But after I eat the first meal, I can eat pretty much eat every 2nd-3rd hour throughout the day. I need a very high food intake to make gains.

    So, are there any suggestions?
    I’m more in need of a healthboost than gains (although I want to bulk up to feel better), so what would be advisable?

    Best Regards

    • Shane Duquette on January 10, 2019 at 9:56 am

      Hey Eric, I’m sorry to hear about your rough run of luck, man. Props for committing to improve even in the midst of it all. And it sounds like you’re planning on taking a fairly balanced approach to it all, too.

      Okay, so, intermittent fasting / time-restricted feeding do alter our hormones, but perhaps not in the way you’re thinking. Intermittent fasting raises cortisol and loweres testosterone overall. This isn’t really a bad thing in the context of general health, but if you’re already concerned that your testosterone is low, that would just make it worse. Being in a calorie surplus (i.e. gaining weight) while having many meals spread throughout the day is what’s going to improve your testosterone.

      What I would say is that if you want to build muscle and get your masculine hormones raging again, then go for the bulk. It will take a great deal of effort, but you’ll make tremendous progress, and you’ll feel like a true Beast of a man again. But if you want a break from the effort of it, or if you want to ease into it slowly, then perhaps start with intermittent fasting simply because it’s easier and you like it. Then when you’re ready to step it up, start bulking with more meals spread more evenly throughout the day.

      You’ve got a lot of life left. Pick the goal that’s best for you right now.

      Even just getting into the habit of lifting again, eating more protein, sleeping better—all of these things will help even if you aren’t doing a dedicated bulk.

      I hope that helps, and good luck!

      • Eric on January 17, 2019 at 8:40 pm

        Thank you for your answer! Sometimes you just need some confirmation of being on the right track.
        I will be bulking, but first I just got to start moving and I’ll set some alarms to remind me to eat!

        Btw. A last question..
        What can cause an abdominal muscle to vanish? Leaving almost a dent where it usually bulges out? Only the Muscle on the Upper left side ab, and it happened over night.

        Is it pure “body burns muscles if no fat, protein?” thing and will the muscle improve with training? Or might it be some sort of injury?


        • Shane Duquette on February 18, 2019 at 7:36 pm

          Hey Eric, did you figure out the mystery of the missing ab, yet? That’s a bizarre case for sure. Not sure what that’s about. It’s not anything to do with burning muscle as a source of energy, though. That would cause you to lose a tiny little itty bit of muscle in a variety of places, not for a particular muscle to vanish into thin air.

  14. […] guy trying to bulk up, you should be eating more often to help you get calories in. (Check out this intermittent fasting and bulking article on Bony to Beastly for more […]

  15. David on February 27, 2019 at 12:00 am

    Well-written site. Thank you!

    I’m working out two days a week, lower body on Fridays and upper body on Monday. I’ll start taking my 20 g protein shakes 4 hours before and after my normal meals.

    Fasting. I’m considering doing a 36 hour fast once a week, starting after my Tuesday meal. There are some bigs benefits to fasting for this amount of time. I don’t understand how growth hormone works and the benefit of having a huge boost during this period. There are also benefits from authophagy. I’ll experiment and see how my body feels.

  16. […] If you want to learn more about bulking and intermittent fasting, check out this article that Shane wrote on Bony to Beastly. […]

  17. […] Intermittent fasting isn’t designed for guys who are trying to bulk up. Even LeanGains isn’t designed for bulking, it’s designed for cutting. If you want to learn more, here’s our full article breaking down the research on whether intermittent fasting is good for…. […]

  18. […] intermittent fasting is like shooting yourself in the foot. You can read a great article about intermittent fasting and bulking on Bony to Beastly. But, because gaining weight will mean getting into a calorie surplus, and the main benefit of […]

  19. Arthur on July 14, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Shane,
    First, I’m a total newbie about nutrition, muscle hypertrophy and all this stuff . I was trying to understand how I should spread proteins assumptions through the day and I’ve found out this research article :
    I don’t have the technical knowledge to evaluate it with a critical eye but it it looks to me that it challenges (maybe only partially) the conclusions of what you called the Nortonian model. You have a lot of personal experience in the field, what is your opinion about it?

    • Shane Duquette, BDes on July 14, 2019 at 9:18 pm

      Hey Arthur, I think that paper is arguing against the need for equal distribution of protein. An example of equal distribution would be having 60 grams of protein for breakfast, lunch, and dinner day to hit a target of 180 grams.

      In this study, they’re saying that if you have a meal with a higher amount of protein, it’s not like that extra protein will got to waste, so you don’t need to worry about keeping that distribution equal. They give the example of having a protein-rich breakfast (e.g. 40 grams), a protein-rich lunch (e.g. 40 grams), and a dinner that’s super high in protein (e.g. 100 grams). In this case, since you’re getting a good muscle-growth response from each meal, it’s fine that the distribution isn’t equal. You’ll still get all the benefits even though the majority of your protein is coming from dinner.

      I don’t see any flaw in that line of thinking. That lines up with all of the research I’ve read. We even mention that way of doing it in the article. I think so long as you get 20 grams of protein per meal, you have 3–6 meals (including snacks) per day, and you hit your daily protein target, you’re doing great. I don’t see any problem with eating a ton of protein at dinner to make up for other meals that only have a moderate amount of protein in them.

      I don’t think this makes a case for skipping meals entirely, such as you’d do with intermittent fasting. But again, it’s not like it’s the end of the world if you do, it’s just not ideal.

  20. […] “Try intermittent fasting.” Huh, and skip breakfast, meaning we need to eat an even bigger lunch and dinner? No thanks. (Here’s our full article about whether intermittent fasting is good for bulking.) […]

  21. […] Eat protein 4–5 times per day. Eating 20+ grams of protein will boost muscle growth for several hours . If you eat protein-rich meals 4–5 times per day, you’ll be building muscle at an accelerated pace all day long. We explain all of this in our article about why intermittent fasting is bad for bulking. […]

  22. […] build more muscle more leanly. It also helps to have at least 20 grams of protein with each meal, and to have 3–5 meals each day. Milk can definitely help you boost your protein intake higher. Low-fat milk is higher in protein […]

  23. […] the opposite of what you’ll want to do as an ectomorph trying to build muscle. Here’s our article about intermittent fasting for bulking, but long story short, it’s not ideal for building muscle, and it makes it much harder to get […]

  24. […] diets are associated with weight loss (study). This is the same problem that we see with intermittent fasting and ketogenic diets. People tend to lose weight when they restrict food groups. And obviously, as […]

  25. Carel on August 29, 2019 at 1:47 am

    Shane, many thanks for quality info.

    I really struggle to find that perfect balance. I Really believe in the wonders of IF, but I’m at the point of saying 14 hours fasting every day and no more. I would really appreciate you gut feel opinion please.

    My problem is I’m very skinny, but healthy, and prediabetic, so I went Keto route to keep my bloodsugars/insulin down.

    But I’m most days struggling with energy. I’m not even trying to bulk. I just want my energy back.

    So it’s about balancing low carbs and some IF, with adding some energy and weight… heck I battle to find that sweet spot man!

    I MUST go low carbs for my BS
    I WANT to do IF, even just 12hours a day
    I’m not even worried being skinny, (though I’d love to add some fat/muscle) but hell, energy is non negotiable.

    Thank you.

  26. […] you can lose up to a found of fat per week simply by skipping breakfast. Because of this, intermittent fasting tends to be bad for guys who are trying to gain weight, but great for guys who are trying to lose […]

  27. […] period is thought to be a way to stimulate muscle growth without breaking the fast. However, intermittent fasting makes it harder to gain weight, so it’s the same issue all over […]

  28. […] Whenever I would try to eat more calories, I always felt bloated, sick, and lethargic for hours afterwards. Worse still, after a few weeks of trying to eat more, I started getting acid reflux. My stomach just wasn’t big enough to handle large meals. (I made this issue worse by trying to bulk while intermittent fasting.) […]

  29. John on December 7, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Hey Shane! Great article, I love your site it has helped me tonne!

    There has something that has been going through my mind for a couple of days now: can you get an approach that is best of both worlds?
    For example, today I though I would try out:
    – Breakfast at 9am
    – Workout
    – Protein shake + meal at 12pm
    – Lunch at 3:30 pm
    – Dinner at 6:30 pm

    That way you have the benefits that come from aligning your eating window to the day/night cycle and therefore your circadian rhythm but you still have quite a few meals per day. I sleep like 10 hours a day on average.

    I’d love to know your opinion on this!

  30. Mr T. on January 11, 2020 at 7:46 am

    Great article!

    I have a question about the “4 hour” muscle protein synthesis.

    “If we eat meals more frequently than that, again, the protein will contribute towards our daily macros, but the meals won’t stimulate extra growth via muscle-protein synthesis. ”

    Can you hit the optimal growth with 5 meals a day and a 3 hour break between them? Or is it better to eat less meals with at least a 4 hour break between them?

    I want to eat like this:
    08:30 1st meal
    12:00 2nd meal
    15:00 3rd meal
    18:00 4rd meal
    19:00 gymtime
    20:30 / 21:00 last meal

    Looking forward to hear from you!

    • Shane Duquette on February 8, 2020 at 7:44 am

      It’s technically better to give you body a bit of time to digest and reset before eating another meal, but 3 hours should be about long enough for that. I think you’ll do fine with the extra meals 🙂

  31. Giovanni on August 17, 2020 at 12:36 am

    Brilliant article, always science-based and pragmatic. Instead of a protein bar, I have a casein protein shake for breakfast, then much later a very light lunch (I’ve found that lunch saps my energy much more than a big breakfast, so I’d love to be able to skip it, then a big dinner (plus some after-dinner snacks).

    I think a casein protein shake is great for substituting breakfast.

    • Shane Duquette on August 19, 2020 at 2:47 pm

      Thank you, Giovanni! 🙂

      Casein can be super handy to have around, yeah. I’ve been having it with some oatmeal and greek yogurt before bed 🙂

  32. Kevin on August 22, 2020 at 11:01 am

    Hey! When I clicked on this article I thought I’d never read it completely. But I did. It was extremely good and thanks for that. I was wondering If I could bulk with intermittent fasting, because I really like big meals in order to be more satiated.

    However, reading your article, based on the studies, I prefer to optimize muscle growth but make a balance between lifestyle and that growth. So, I have been having a tuna can with some vegetables, which is a bit more than 100 calories with a good intake of protein (26 grams). Then I have 2500-2600 calories for the rest of the day. Is that a good idea? Or could you suggest a better diet?

    Thank you very much. My English was probably not the best to read. Greetings from Venezuela 😉

    • Shane Duquette on September 8, 2020 at 9:00 am

      Hey Kevin, greetings from Mexico!

      Yes, you can bulk while intermittent fasting. Is it absolutely optimal? Probably not. But even if it’s not, it’s not a huge disadvantage, and it may not even be noticeable. Plus, if you’re having a decent serving of protein along with some vegetables for breakfast, then you’ve solved that problem entirely, and you CAN expect optimal growth. That sounds like a perfect solution.

      The problem that a lot of naturally skinny guys run into when trying to bulk while intermittent fasting is that it becomes hard to get into a calorie surplus, but if you aren’t having that problem, then no worries 🙂

  33. X.M. on September 14, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    Hi Shane. What would you recommend as a more optimal feeding schedule if you’re trying to build muscle without gaining fat:

    Option 1 (16:8 fasting):
    1pm – Lunch (30g of protein)
    3:30pm – Snack (24g of protein)
    5pm – Workout (M,W,Fri only)
    6pm – Snack (52g of protein)
    8pm – Dinner (45g of protein)
    9pm – Snack (13g of protein)

    Option 2 (no fasting):
    11am – Breakfast (24g protein)
    1pm – Lunch (30g of protein)
    5pm – Workout (M,W,Fri only)
    6pm – Snack (52g of protein)
    8pm – Dinner (45g of protein)
    9pm – Snack (13g of protein)

    The caloric and protein intake for both options is exactly the same, and the goal is to make lean gains. I would be eating at a caloric surplus that results in approximately 1 added pound per week. Thanks!

    • Shane Duquette on September 15, 2020 at 9:40 am

      Hey XM, given the current research, we don’t really see any benefit to intermittent fasting for lean muscle growth when in a calorie surplus, so I’d imagine that the second option would be slightly better, given that the protein distribution is a little wider. With that said, I think the difference would be negligible, so and both sound perfectly fine. If it were me, I’d pick based on personal preference instead 🙂

      • X.M. on September 15, 2020 at 11:07 am

        Thanks Shane, that’s what I figured. 🙂

  34. Adawg on October 29, 2020 at 11:02 am

    After reading this I now wonder… Let’s say you have only protein shake(s) for ‘breakfast’ and you do all of your day’s cardio before your first real meal of the day(lunch)… Would your body still be in “fat burning” mode while also building muscle?

    I mean like, if I drink 2x protein shakes while literally briskly walking on a treadmill for 2 hours (drink while walking at the same time) – you’d consume like 220’ish calories(54g of protein).. Would your body be burning fat from the cardio and also building muscle from last night’s lifting session + the protein you’re giving it now, at the same time??

    • Shane Duquette on October 29, 2020 at 6:16 pm

      Hey Adawg, that’s a good question.

      It doesn’t seem like there’s really much fat burning benefit to doing fasted cardio. It’s true that you might burn more fat in the moment, burning it for energy as you do go on your walk, but it will balance out again later when you inevitably go back to eating. It’s the same as if you go into a calorie deficit overnight, burning fat, and then go into a calorie surplus again during the day, gaining it back. So if we compare longer term changes in body composition, adding up the results of a few weeks of doing fasted cardio, there’s no extra fat loss overall.

      So I wouldn’t think there’s really any downside at all to having some protein before doing your cardio. It shouldn’t affect fat loss at all. And you’ll get that extra spike of muscle-protein synthesis. You’ll build a bit more muscle.

  35. Siim on January 27, 2022 at 5:51 am

    Really great blog and content! Love it. What about the carbs ratio? Are they really necessary for bulking? Can keto or low carb produce similar gains when caloric surplus is the same?

    I can’t eat 40-50% carbs for 3200+ kcal. I will be super dizzy. It is impossible for me to get any work done during the day and be focused.

    Thought about eating some carbs near evening workouts and otherwise very minimal. Not sure how much this affects bulking.

    • Siim on January 27, 2022 at 6:30 am

      PS I don’t have any issues going over 3200kcal on low carb. I read that this is the main issue why most fail to bulk. I can probably do 10-20% carb on those calories but no more.

      • Siim on January 27, 2022 at 7:13 am

        Or maybe 30%

      • Shane Duquette on January 27, 2022 at 9:03 am

        20% carbs is probably enough to get you many of the benefits of eating carbs. With 30%, you’re getting almost all of the benefits. Most bodybuilders get more like 50–60% of their calories from carbs, but they’re deep into the law of diminishing returns by then. If you’re getting 30% of your calories from carbs, I suspect your results will be damn near ideal.

    • Shane Duquette on January 27, 2022 at 9:02 am

      Hey Siim, thank you so much!

      How important are carbs while bulking? We’ve got an article on carbs here.

      Are ketogenic diets good for building muscle? We’ve got another article on keto here.

      I’m not sure why carbs are giving you a bad reaction. Where are you getting your carbs from? Maybe if you switch to more fibrous carbs, such as fruits and legumes, that would do the trick. Or maybe not. I’m not sure what’s going on there.

      Personally, I feel bad when I eat a high-fat diet. Many people don’t. There’s some individual variation there. Plus, we adapt to digest the diets we’re used to eating.

      You’re right. The main problem with trying to bulk on a ketogenic diet and/or while intermittent fasting is that it’s hard to get into a comfortable calorie surplus. If you can get into a calorie surplus, you’ll be able to gain weight. And if you’re gaining weight, you’ll be able to consistently build muscle.

      One potential problem is that dietary fat is easily stored as body fat. It’s also true that when you eat more fat, you burn more fat. So it all comes down to whether you’re in a surplus or a deficit. In a deficit, you’ll burn more fat than you store. In a surplus, though, high-fat diets cause us to store the surplus dietary fat as body fat. It’s not a huge effect, and you’ll still do great, but it’s worth mentioning. Worst case, you just burn the small amount of extra fat off afterwards.

      Another potential problem is the lack of glycogen. When we eat more carbs and calories, our muscles inflate with glycogen—with the glucose from the carbs we eat. This makes our muscles look fuller and harder, but the real benefit is that glycogen is fuel. The more glycogen we have in our muscles, the more fuel we have for our training. Not having a lot of glycogen isn’t a big deal with low-rep powerlifting, since you aren’t doing very many reps, but when you’re doing moderate-rep bodybuilding workouts, it really pays to have more glycogen. Plus, having more glycogen in your muscles also directly speeds up your rate of muscle growth. But again, it’s a relatively small effect. You’ll do fine.

      Finally, carbs often come packaged with fibre. Fibre is super healthy. It’s great for our blood lipids and digestive health. Mind you, you could eat fibrous carbs that aren’t high in calories—carbs like spinach, broccoli, peppers, and so on.

      So to make a long story short, carbs definitely help with muscle growth. But if you don’t handle carbs well, no problem. Eat the amount of carbs that suits you best. You can still get great results.

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