It would appear that intermittent fasting can do more than help you lose weight and manage your calorie intake. Research suggests it can also stimulate testosterone production and enhance your strength.
Yet how does it work? What is the connection between intermittent fasting and testosterone? More importantly, is there any basis to its claims? Let’s find out…
- What is intermittent fasting?
- Intermittent fasting and testosterone
- How intermittent fasting improves testosterone levels
- Other intermittent fasting benefits
- Effective intermittent fasting plans
- Intermittent fasting and working out
Would you believe the biggest obstacle we face when losing weight is our everyday diet? We have all been brought up on the idea that the best way to eat is three times a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – with some light snacks in-between.
Yet it is this very same diet – and all those sugary temptations – that has led to issues with obesity, overeating and metabolic problems (extra body fat, insulin resistance, etc.). When paired with a more sedentary lifestyle – due to our jobs – this combo has made it harder for us to keep the pounds at bay.
Related article: Testosterone fuelled breakfast ideas
It is little wonder then that fasting has become a go-to solution to help combat weight gain.
Intermittent fasting, for instance, forces you to revise your eating pattern so that you go for extended periods of time without eating – this is usually between 16 to 48 hours.
And you don’t just do it once in a while…
Intermittent fasting encourages you to do it regularly, to help you break out of this cycle of eating AS WELL AS enabling your body to use fat for fuel instead of sugar.
The science of fasting
Our bodies run on sugar (i.e. glucose). This means if you constantly munch on sweet things, your body won’t use any of your fat stores to keep your body functioning, and eventually, you WILL put on weight.
Fasting changes all of that as it makes you eat the same amount of calories but within a restricted time frame.
Now, there are several types of intermittent fasting plans. However, for optimal results people tend to follow the 16/8 method, where they only eat for an 8 hour period (usually from lunch to early evening) before fasting for the rest of the day.
This eating pattern allows you to have non-caloric drinks during these fasting periods, whilst helping your body to enter into a state of ketosis (where your body doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy, so it uses fats AND makes ketones instead).
Okay, you’ve now got a fair idea of what intermittent fasting is and how it can encourage weight loss – but what about testosterone? What is the connection between the two?
Well, increases in testosterone and strength appear to be a side effect of intermittent fasting, as this method seeks to increase your body’s ability to secrete LH (luteinizing hormone).
Combine this with a conscious diet that is filled with whole foods, and together they can help to boost testosterone production.
The science of intermittent fasting and testosterone
The key to harnessing these particular intermittent fasting results, seems to lie in the way fasting triggers the production of hormones – LH and FSH that are primary to testosterone levels e.g. are precursors to testosterone.
In one study, when researchers examined the sex hormone and gonadal functions in rats; intermittent fasting was found to increase testosterone levels (but only in the male rats).
Yet, these elevations in testosterone do appear to be dependent on the length of your fast. For instance, there have been other studies where longer fasts have resulted in decreasing testosterone levels:
Study One: during this fasting study, by the third day of their fast, participants’ testosterone levels started to decline.
Study Two: following an 84 hour fast, researchers noted falls in LH secretion (a precursor to testosterone and essential for its creation).
This suggests that if you keep to short fasting periods – as suggested with intermittent fasting – then it is possible to use fasting to help naturally raise your testosterone levels.
It is all about getting the balance right, as proven by a study on non-obese men. When asked to adopt an intermittent fasting diet, participants saw a rise in LH of up to 67% and a staggering 180% increase in overall testosterone.
Admittedly, research is still being done to understand the intermittent fasting/testosterone phenomenon, but so far the following has been linked to its elevation:
You might remember us mentioning this hormone earlier. Well, this special hormone seems to be at the center of producing testosterone intermittent fasting results. As seen in the study we mentioned above, when you enter into a short term fast, you will see rises in both LH (67%) and overall testosterone (180%).
And given that LH is a precursor to testosterone and the fact that intermittent fasting boosts them both, this suggests that in the short term it is good for combating testosterone deficiency.
NOTE: this particular study was based on a short term intermittent fast. Researchers believe adopting a longer intermittent fast could produce even greater testosterone gains.
Increased fat burn
Another intermittent fasting benefit appears to be increased fat burn throughout the day. Which is great news for testosterone, as one of the fastest ways to raise your T levels is to lose body fat.
In fact, both free and SHBG-free testosterone have been linked to insulin resistance (insulin, C-peptide and HOMA-IR) and body fat levels, meaning the less body fat you carry, the easier it will be for you to create more testosterone.
Intermittent fasting can basically give you a fat burning edge, as it encourages your body to enter into ketosis and use fat for fuel instead of carbs.
Bolstered adiponectin production
A protein hormone that helps in the regulation of glucose levels and the breakdown of fatty acids. During fasting, adiponectin starts to level out, resulting in improved insulin sensitivity. At the same time, this encourages increased testosterone production.
During a study on mice, adiponectin was found to reverse insulin resistance and boost testosterone levels.
There is a strong tie between growth hormone levels and testosterone, as they’re both anabolic hormones which work to improve your muscles ability to absorb glycogen, as well as encourage protein synthesis and bolstered endurance.
During a study, 24 hour fasts were discovered to increase GH levels by 2000%. Now, given how closely correlated GH is to testosterone, there is the belief that when GH levels rise, so will testosterone.
Testosterone is believed to positively correlate with insulin sensitivity, meaning skipping breakfast is not a bad thing. You see, your body’s circadian cycle experiences a natural cortisol spike when you wake up i.e. when most of us are eating our breakfast.
Now, in somewhat fit/fit people, this insulin spike – alongside eating, high insulin sensitivity and high cortisol levels (at that time of day) – can all lead to rapid falls in blood glucose which in turn can trigger something known as ‘false hunger’. As you can probably guess, this false hunger leads to overeating and taking in more calories than necessary.
Yet by choosing to miss out breakfast, you can essentially regulate your blood sugar, insulin and cortisol levels at a time when they are most sensitive and likely to trigger excess eating.
Increased lean body mass
Given the influence this fasting method can have on growth hormone production; it should come as no surprise that intermittent fasting can also affect bodybuilding – more importantly the development of lean muscle mass.
You see, whereas in the past bodybuilders were advised to eat little and often, e.g. 4-6 meals a day, in a bid to lower fat, boost their metabolism and encourage lean muscle mass; studies now suggest that entering into a regular state of fasting (that is not calorie restricted) can be effective at increasing lean muscle.
Reduced risk of health conditions
Remember how we said intermittent fasting can lower your blood sugar and insulin levels? Well, these drops can also help to decrease your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other health issues.
There have been growing studies which suggest that intermittent fasting can help you to live longer.
Alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Some researchers believe this popular fasting method can reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and instead offer you improved mental health, clarity, focus and concentration.
The fascinating thing about intermittent fasting is that it allows you to elevate your testosterone levels without you having to go to the extreme with your fast. Instead, by simply choosing to skip breakfast and not eat until lunchtime, you can harness this fasting method and begin witnessing numerous intermittent fasting benefits.
In fact, by tailoring your dietary routine to any one of the following plans, you can instantly optimize your results and begin seeing increased fat burn from day one.
PLEASE NOTE: fasting is not as simple as choosing not to eat. To maximize its effectiveness you also need to consider your diet.
This is possibly the most popular form of intermittent fasting as it is based on you fasting for 16 hours of the day and then consuming your assigned calorie intake during the remaining 8 hour window.
Now, this is easier to implement than you think. In fact, a lot of consumers choose to complete the bulk of their fasting period whilst they’re asleep and assign their eating window from 12pm (noon)-8pm.
This fasting method is relatively simple as it encourages you to completely fast, i.e. consume no calories, for 2 days out of the 7 days of the week. For the remaining 5 days, you can stick to a more traditional diet.
Now these 2 fasting days shouldn’t be consecutive but spread out over the week. For instance, they suggest that you begin your first fast from 8pm of the Tuesday until 8pm Wednesday, and then repeat from 8pm Saturday until 8pm Sunday. This means you never fast for longer than 24 hours at a time.
Admittedly, going a whole day without food can be difficult to stick to. However, there have been numerous studies to support this kind of fasting pattern.
NOTE: it is possible to modify this fasting method to 5 days of you eating normally and 2 days where you only eat 25% of your daily calories (within a restricted time frame).
The Warrior diet
This fast differs from the others, as it asks dieters to follow their own instincts about food and to eat what they feel is best, e.g. what a warrior would eat. This includes animal meats, some fresh fruit and veg, and a small amount of grains that are high in fiber.
Aside from this, the warrior diet is structured around you having one meal a day, usually between 4pm-8pm. Otherwise, you should spend the majority of the day fasting (every day).
This fasting method relies on you fasting every other day of the week. On fasting days you can either choose to eat nothing or have a small meal (modified fasting).
Similar to the 5/2 method – that being that you don’t have to fast every day of the week. Period fasting differs because after fasting for 1-2 days, you wouldn’t have to fast again for another 1-4 weeks.
If you’re serious about losing weight/body fat and bolstering your testosterone levels, then you’ve probably already considered combining intermittent fasting and working out.
After all, given its ability to stimulate GH and lean muscle mass, it makes sense to blend them together. But is it safe? Should you risk intermittent fasting with bodybuilding?
Well, interestingly, unless it is for medical or religious purposes, most bodybuilders wouldn’t dream of entering into a fast, as their mission is to preserve as much muscle as possible.
Yet, fasting doesn’t necessarily have to equal muscle loss. In fact, it is considered quite beneficial for bodybuilders as it will allow you to detox your body – especially if you’ve abused or taken too many supplements for an extended period of time.
By adopting intermittent fasting, you can cleanse your body from these excess supplements, and ultimately help your body to start afresh (when you begin retaking them again) as your body will be able to absorb them easier – optimizing the effectiveness of its ingredients.
Pros to intermittent fasting and bodybuilding:
- It can cleanse/detox your body from harmful substances/toxins.
- It gives your body a rest, whilst allowing your stomach to heal from the effects of supplements.
- Can offer you HUGE muscle gains when you start eating normally again.
During one 8 week study involving 18 men undergoing a weight training program (who hadn’t done it regularly before) – when they followed a fasting plan of a 4 hour eating period on 4 days of the week; they managed to maintain their lean muscle and boost their strength.
YET those who ate normally gained 5lbs of lean muscle AND increased their strength. This suggests intermittent fasting isn’t entirely ideal for triggering muscle gains as it can be difficult to consume enough calories (particularly protein) to help build new tissues and fuel exercise (which can also contribute towards this growth).
- Can help you maintain muscle during fat loss
As proven by an 8-week study on 34 men (who weight trained 3 times a week). Split into two groups 1) that only consumed calories for 8 hours a day and 2) those who ate normally.
When they ingested the same number of calories and protein a day, neither group lost muscle or strength. HOWEVER, the time restricted group managed to shift 3.5lbs of body fat, whilst the normal group didn’t.
- It can help to clear your mind and improve focus/drive.
- It helps to lower blood pressure and heart rate.
- Bolsters fat burning whilst encouraging the development of lean muscle mass – perfect for cutting cycles.
- Improved protein synthesis, testosterone production and GH stimulation.
That being said, fasting isn’t always good for bodybuilding, as seen by the points below.
Cons to intermittent fasting and bodybuilding:
- Risk of potential muscle loss
This one falls into the ‘maybe bad’ pile due to reality that weight loss – without exercise – will trigger losses in fat and lean mass, including muscle.
Now this theory is based on fasting in general. When it comes to intermittent fasting, it is believed that this method will enable you to maintain lean muscle.
- Low energy levels – this can feed into the effectiveness of your workouts and your physical endurance levels.
- Can lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals – due to your body excreting them from your body. As a result it can cause spasms (low calcium levels).
- Can cause depression (if continued for too long).
- Can decrease your strength.
- Increases your risk of injury.
- Intermittent fasting and working out may decrease your metabolism.
NOTE: most of these cons will only occur if you fast for too long or if you do it incorrectly.
So can intermittent fasting and working out be paired together? The answer to this one is a double-edged sword as on the one hand there are studies which suggest it can help you to maintain and even build muscle.
Whilst there are others which say it can trigger muscle losses, fatigue, lack of strength and energy, and even depression.
This suggests it would depend on the type of intermittent fasting method that you adopt and the amount of exercise/weight training you undertake. For instance, participants have seen positive results when they only weight train 3 times a week.
Similarly, when they filled their 8 hour eating window with plenty of protein (20g after exercise) and enough calories, they had plenty to stimulate tissue growth, ensure muscle recovery and bolster endurance.
This point is emphasised by the connection between slow weight loss and the maintenance of lean muscle mass. Lose weight gradually – by not drastically reducing your calorie intake whilst fasting – and you CAN protect your muscles.
So does intermittent fasting lower testosterone, or is there more to the intermittent fasting/testosterone conundrum than meets the eye?
Personally, we feel that as long as you adopt the right fasting method – such as the 16/8 method – it CAN offer you the testosterone gains that you crave.
It is just a matter of ensuring that your body still receives enough calories and protein in order to function. Do that and you can enjoy the added intermittent fasting benefits of improved strength, metabolism, fat loss and overall better health.
However, if you’re concerned about your T levels dropping, then adding a proven testosterone booster such as TestoGen to the mix could help.
Formulated from 11 specially chosen natural ingredients; its potent formula can ensure that intermittent fasting NEVER interferes with your weight loss or muscle development plans.
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