The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting in Sports Practice

You certainly know what fasting is. This practice of not eating for several days or even several weeks for various reasons, whether spiritual, health, or well-being. But do you know about intermittent fasting (IF)?

Much more accessible than complete fasting (water or dry) and provides many health benefits and weight loss. In particular, it is a practice that is becoming more and more widespread. Francesca and I have been living this lifestyle for several months now and the benefits are obvious. Our quality of life has improved.

To show you the benefits of IF, I let a specialist talk about it in this guest article. The nutritionist, psychologist, and slimming coach Hugo Blanc, editor of Sagesse Sante.

IF and sport

The two are irreconcilable, you inevitably lose muscle, performance drops, it is not at all practical… If you have considered the issue of IF, you have most probably heard many criticisms and preconceptions.

Until recently, it was very difficult to clarify the subject because of insufficient research and scientific studies on the subject. However, recent studies have observed the effects of IF on the bodies of athletes under intensive training programs.

More than a trend, a real tool for general well-being

First of all, a little clarification for those who may never have heard of fasting. There are generally two approaches to fasting or at least two approaches that are often recurrent in studies. The classic fasting that defines the scenario of reducing your caloric intake by having only one meal a day for 1 to 3 days a week.

IF, which consists of depriving oneself of food for a period of 16h to 20h each day. This technique consists of providing daily feeding windows of between 4 and 8 hours per day. Note, however, that for ease of reference, the terms intermittent fasting and fasting are very often used interchangeably.

Fasting owes its popularity to the media hype about its presumed and proven effects on health and well-being in general. For example, it has been observed from an animal study that the caloric restriction-induced by fasting would lead to an increase in life expectancy.

Fasting is therefore particularly recommended in the fight against overweight and obesity. In particular, there is a host of articles on the Internet that explain how to fast well to lose weight.

In overweight people, fasting is particularly recommended for its beneficial effects on metabolism. It lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and results in a higher fat loss than weight-loss diets.

All this logically leads to the following question: what is the interest of fasting for a healthy individual and weight situation? What is more, what are its effects on the body of an athlete?

What about the athletes?

It would be perfectly normal to think: “To play sports you need energy. And to have this energy you have to eat.” This would logically mean deducting that fasting is most probably not the ally of an active athlete. The reality, which is far more complex, is completely at odds with this reasoning.

Italian researchers have taken an interest in this issue through a study of 34 bodybuilders who do not use steroids. Throughout the study, the latter were randomly assigned to two groups. One group follows a normal diet while the other is fasting intermittently with a feeding window of 8 hours per day. At the end of the 8 weeks of study, participants who had fasted showed a loss of body fat of around 16.4%.

In the group that followed a normal diet, the loss was only 2.8%. Among other changes, there was also a decrease in the respiratory ratio in the fasting group. A low respiratory ratio indicates greater metabolic flexibility and a better ability to transform body fat into energy.

No need to eat more and more often to improve performance

In general, there were greater improvements in fasting individuals. The results of the study suggest that an intermittent fasting program could improve some biomarkers related to good health. It would also reduce fat mass and maintain muscle mass.

Caloric restriction induced by intermittent fasting triggers a series of complex events. Such as activation of cell stress response elements, improved autophagy, improved apoptosis, and hormonal balance.

Intermittent fasting is certainly very beneficial for individuals who are overweight. But it is even more so for healthy people who regularly participate in sports activities. Fasting or intermittent caloric restriction has many somatic and potentially psychological benefits.

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