The continuous presence of intermittent fasting in professional sports circles suggests that it is either still very misunderstood or most likely delivering the benefits athletes and trainers want to get.
But what is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is the restriction of an individual’s food intake window to a fixed amount of time.
For most people, as they get used to (albeit in difficulty), they continuously decrease the eating window, allocating more time of their day to fasting.
Why intermittent fasting?
Maintaining a healthy fat to muscle mass ratio is very important for athletes, whether for endurance, resistance, muscle up, or speed training. To be lean is the goal of every athlete (except for those who are in disciplines that do not require weight watching).
Fasting forces the body to drain nutrients, including fat, protein, glycogen, carbohydrates, etc. This consumption is accelerated and larger as time increases, which means that the body is burning calories and nutrients at a higher rate.
What the practice says
A growing number of athletes and trainers are turning to intermittent fasting to get the best out of their body, especially for sprinters or speed training. The whole reason is hinged on hormone optimisation, which boosts growth hormone (HGH) levels, increases insulin sensitivity and lean-ness.
According to prospectmedical.com, the optimal time for intermittent fasting is within the 16-18-hour range. For athletes doing sprint training or HIIT exercises, the combined effect of fasting and sprint training boosts HGH and testosterone levels above the usual mark from just sprint training alone.
When doing cardio, the plan is to give your body time to adjust to the new fuel source and consider how fat-adapted your body is. Does it burn fat better, faster than it does glucose?
Expect your performance to drop for a few months as your body acclimatises to a new rhythm, method, and routine.
What the science says
According to studies carried out by Chaouachi et al. (2009), on the effect of Ramadan intermittent fasting on professional athletes, there is a marked drop in performance for athletes fasting during the Ramadan period. While extra and extensive studies into how the fast may affect the different aspects and types of training have produced uneven results. The one constant is that other than weight loss, intermittent fasting has no marked improvement on performance.
So, unless your current nutrition plan is not delivering on its goals, there is really no need to switch to intermittent fasting. But, if you must really do, the offseason or a time not close to actual competition would be an excellent time to get started.