Dr. Peter Attia Explains Why Strength Training Is So Important While You’re Fasting

During a recent conversation with podcaster and author Tim Ferriss, Dr. Peter Attia shared his thoughts on intermittent fasting—or as he calls it, time-restricted eating—and one pitfall in particular. Namely, that fasting can lead to the loss of lean muscle, as well as fat, if you’re not putting in an appropriate amount of strength training at the same time.

“You’re going to lose muscle mass when you fast, you have to accept that,” he said. “So the question is, how do you minimize that damage, how do you lose as little muscle mass as possible?”

Attia was speaking from personal experience, having found that his body fat went from 10 percent to around 16 percent when he was fasting. “I always exercise in the morning and don’t eat,” he says. “To exercise, then not provide yourself with any amino acids, every single day, to undergo muscle protein synthesis, is a bit risky. So I’ve been looking at other strategies.”

“It has to be taken in the context of an individual,” he added. “If you’re 100 pounds overweight or you have diabetes, it’s a totally worthwhile tradeoff to lose muscle mass, because you’re losing more fat mass along the way. So you are going to technically get leaner with that approach. But if you take a relatively lean and healthy individual, you have to be a little bit careful and look for alternative ways to get the benefits of that fast.”

One way to do this is to ensure that your training sessions are not too far on either side of your feeding window. Eating a protein-rich meal before or after you lift will help to support muscle repair, aid recovery, and ensure you’re not losing those gains.

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