Stop Intermittent Fasting, Eat More Protein and Carbs to Build Muscle

  • A 35-year-old man submitted an average day of eating to be reviewed for Insider’s Nutrition Clinic.
  • He told Insider he does intermittent fasting but is struggling to gain muscle.
  • A nutritionist said eating more regularly would help him consume enough protein and overall calories to hit his goal.
  • If you’d like to have your diet reviewed by an expert, fill out this form
  • The advice in this article isn’t a substitute for a professional medical diagnosis or treatment.

Joseph, 35, submitted his eating routine for Insider’s Nutrition Clinic, where qualified dietitians and nutritionists offer advice on readers’ eating habits.

He told Insider his goal is to “gain lean muscle,” and he lifts weights 4-5 days a week.

Joseph said he’d lost 77 pounds by intermittent fasting and kept 66 pounds off for over a year, but he has trouble gaining muscle.

Registered nutritionist and personal trainer Becs Sandwith told Insider that

weight loss

occurs due to being in a calorie deficit, not fasting itself. 

She suggests Joseph reflects on whether he actually enjoys intermittent fasting, because if he doesn’t, it might be easier to hit his goals by eating in a larger daily window.

Joseph eats his first meal at noon

Joseph fasts for 16-18 hours every day then eats a “large lunch” of rice, a protein source, and beans at 12 P.M.

Sandwith said Joseph is training the right way, but if he works out fasted (ie. before having eaten anything) and a few hours before his first food of the day, his performance and progress will be limited.

“Joseph should be consuming a meal prior to the training session, as well as consuming another meal as soon as possible afterwards,” she said.

To build muscle, Joseph needs to ensure he’s no longer in a calorie deficit, Sandwith said. When the body doesn’t have enough energy, it taps into muscle stores, which Joseph wants to avoid.

“On the flip side, if we increase calories too much too quickly, we risk not just gaining muscle mass but also gaining additional unwanted body fat,” Sandwith said. “Joseph is trying to keep off the weight that he previously lost, so the process cannot be rushed, and he needs to ensure he is eating the right amount of calories every day.”

Joseph eats dinner at 6 P.M.

Linguine and meatballs.

Joseph eats a dinner involving protein and carbs.


For dinner, Joseph eats a “varied meal” which includes protein and carbs at 6 P.M.

Sandwith said it’s great that he is eating protein at each of his meals, but he may not be getting enough.

Joseph should make sure he’s eating protein over the course of the day, which is optimal for muscle growth, she said. Fasting for less time could also help him get the nutrients he needs, according to Sandwith.

Eating enough carbs and fats is also important to ensure the body doesn’t break down muscle for energy instead, she said.

Eating more regularly would aid muscle growth

Sandwith recommends Joseph eat more regularly to promote muscle protein synthesis (growth) and reduce muscle protein breakdown (loss).

Eating meals spread out during the day can help him ensure he’s consuming enough calories and remaining in a positive protein balance, she said.

“It is important to note too that the body can only digest a certain amount in one sitting, which is why smaller meals, spread more frequently throughout the day, rather than Joseph’s current diet of just two large meals, may help him reach his goal,” Sandwith said.

To increase muscle mass, Sandwith recommends asking a qualified nutritionist to help calculate Joseph’s calorie target personally to make sure he’s eating enough overall.

Aish Barbara

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