There’s one lesson that most superhero origin stories tell.
It’s not “with great power comes great responsibility”, even though that’s a pretty good one.
The lesson is this – Sometimes our greatest strengths emerge in the middle of the toughest battles.
This message is certainly strong in Netflix’s recent addition to their Marvel lineup “Iron Fist”, in which the main character Danny Rand aka Finn Jones fulfills his duty to defend K’un-Lun and his home against the destructive actions of the ancient crime syndicate, The Hand.
However, one of the defining qualities of Danny’s role as The Iron Fist is his ability to actually gain strength the longer a battle wages.
He actually says something to the effect of “It’s not until the middle of the fight that my true power emerges.”
Intense… but why do I bring this up?
You May Be In the Middle of a Battle Right Now…with Your Diet
We all know that nutrition and diet play a huge role in building a strong and visually-impressive body, but… not everyone has the luxury of knowing when they’ll have time to eat their next meal.
I consider myself one of the fortunate ones with a typical 9-5 desk job (or am I the sucker), but if you have a hectic schedule like a firefighter or nurse, having a few minutes to scarf down a chicken breast can be hard to predict.
Does that mean all your hard-earned muscle will fall off and your burned body fat will return with a vengeance?
Please refer to this Jabba the Hutt workout for examples. Of course not!
In many ways, NOT eating all day has been shown to produce far better fat-burning and muscle-building results than those with a more regimented meal plan.
(Let me lead you to enlightenment my young monk warriors) By now, you must have been exposed to intermittent fasting.
(Strategically skipping meals throughout the week to make your diet easier to follow and create caloric deficits instantly.)
But what you may not know is that the research behind it is actually a lot more intense than most people think…
Most Scientific Fasting Studies Make Participants Fast for a LOOONG Time
When you ask most experts how to get into intermittent fasting, they usually recommend starting very basic.
● Limit your fasting window to 16 hours
● Start your fasting period when you go to sleep
● Limit your feeding window to 8 hours
Now that’s great advice for most people, but it might not work for you if you don’t even know when you’re eating next.
What about if you can’t eat all day?
What if 24 hours or more goes by and you haven’t had time to even chug some protein powder in a glass of water?
What if you’re training in K’un-Lun and there are full-grown monks beating you for hours with sticks?
Scientific research typically conducts studies on participants with most of the fasting periods spanning WAY longer than most of us would attempt without being beaten by monks.
And this research has discovered some pretty amazing benefits from those extended fasts for example…
Long Fasting Periods Increase Growth Hormone (GH) Leading to More Lean Body Mass
In case you didn’t know, more growth hormone in your system means more muscle.
For example, a study was done by subjecting adult males to training and injected growth hormone into one of two groups. Spoiler – the GH group gained roughly 9% more lean body mass than the control group.
Once these kinds of results about GH became more common, more research was done to find out how it could be stimulated naturally in the system. One method being… fasting.
For instance, there was a study where the GH levels were monitored in adult males who kept a consistent eating protocol (eating every day) and others who fasted for 5 days in a row (no baby-stepping into it apparently).
The result? When levels were measured on the 1st and 5th days for the fasted group, they saw a 300% increase in GH over the fed group. Insane! A similar study was done and found that even a shorter 2-day fast can increase GH by up to 500%!
That’s real superhero muscle growth if you ask me, but that’s not all…
Long Fasting Periods Still Lose Body Fat Faster than Not Fasting At All
Another argument against long fasts is usually the idea that going beyond the typical 16 or 24 hours might somehow trigger the dreaded “starvation mode” that causes your body to clutch even tighter to your body fat and make fat-burning practically impossible!
Kind of like when Danny gets stabbed in the side by Bakuto and suddenly his chi completely shuts down and you’re all like “Danny, what the heck are you going to do without your glowing fist, bro?!”
Well research shows that fasting every other day for 24 hours at a time has improved fat-burning benefits, but what about even longer periods?
So there are no worries about “starving yourself” if you go past the typical 16 hours. It actually might help your progress even more in some cases.
But how does this affect your ability to build muscle in the gym…
Fasting All Day Can Make Your Training Sessions More Effective
One of the most impressive episodes of Iron Fist, “Immortal Emerges from Cave”, Danny basically spends all day fighting in order to rescue the daughter of a heroin chemist.
Each adversary is more impressive than the other and with each battle… a little more of his chi is drained away and you can tell that he’s truly fighting for his life.
However… even after dragging his bruised, cut, and mentally drained body to the final challenge, he still manages to kick some major butt and defeat his final opponent.
That’s all pretty awesome, but what does this have to do with fasting?
Another common piece of advice is making sure that you’re adequately “carbed up” for your workouts before you even think about lifting a single dumbbell.
Well, now there’s evidence that training fasted increases an important muscle growth indicator called p70s6 kinase. In fact, in this study, participants who trained immediately after sleeping (without any breakfast) had 2x the normal amount of this indicator than those who trained on a full stomach.
They were able to turn on additional muscle stimulation simply by depriving their bodies of the “ever-important fuel” that personal trainers and nutritionists preached for years.
Use Longer Fasts to Emerge Stronger from Your Diet Battles
Danny Rand didn’t become the Iron Fist by simply showing up in the Himalayas. In fact, one might argue that he still hasn’t filled the role at the end of season 1.
…but what has made him truly develop and evolve has been his ability to emerge even stronger in the heart of a brutal battle.
When you began reading this article, you may have thought of your erratic eating habits as a curse rather than a strength.
Well, now you should have some confidence to let your meals fall where they may and even push the limits of how long you can actually go without feeding.
And yes… some days will be more difficult than others and in the middle of an extended fast, your hunger may swell and test your willpower.
Just remember that in those moments, your body’s processes are revving up to build even strong muscle fibers and rip away that body fat even faster.
Kyle Hoffman is the founder of Campus Gains where he helps college students build muscle and get lean during their time in university. He believes in a minimalistic approach to fitness to save his audience time and money so they can focus more of their attention on the important things like studying and curing their weekend hangovers.