Intermittent Fasting (IF) may be what you’ve been looking for to alleviate fat loss struggles. IF is defined as eating only during certain times of the day, or week. It’s more about WHEN you eat, rather than WHAT. However, it’s advisable to still have macronutrient guidelines to follow when you ARE eating – it’s not an excuse to eat ad lib. Let’s see what Intermittent Fasting is all about – hint: it’s MUCH more than just weight loss!
If this sounds extreme…our bodies were actually PRIMED to go long periods of time without eating, contrary to popular belief! Think about it, our cavemen ancestors certainly didn’t have stocked refrigerators or food on every corner, yet they survived (in much more extreme conditions, mind you). Additionally, fasting has been around for centuries in religious sectors.
Is this considered limiting? Sure. It comes down to your goals, and what works for you and your body. Some people thrive on having this type of structure, while others want to eat when they want and are perfectly happy that way. There’s no right or wrong here…just opportunity.
Why is fasting so helpful? Researchers propose it’s likely because your body’s cellular processes adapt to the “stressful” state of fasting, and therefore begin to work more efficiently.
- If you have a hard time sticking to a diet, the SIMPLICITY of intermittent fasting may help you! Less meals to think about, prepare and clean up
- Nutritional clients report finding it LIBERATING not to have to eat three meals a day! IF has the possibility to help you feel more in control of your body.
- Mechanism 1: Having guidelines when you CAN and CAN’T eat can more effectively help you stay underneath a specific caloric ceiling, leading to less calories consumed and weight loss
- Mechanism 2: Mobilization of fat stores via promotion of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) (more below)
Reduced Insulin Levels
- Insulin is a multifaceted chemical to say the least. One of its primary roles is to facilitate the uptake and storage of glucose (sugar) and fat by cells of the body
- If you aren’t eating during a certain period, insulin isn’t working as hard. To simplify a complex infrastructure, this allows fat that is already stored to be MORE accessible for breakdown (rather than being stored)
Longevity and Neuroprotection
- Aging leads to degeneration. Research proposes fasting can help prevent how damaging this degeneration can be to us
- Fasting increases BDNF in the brain: a protein crucial for learning and protection against age-related cognitive decline
Heart Health: Reduced Cholesterol and Blood Triglycerides
What role does Intermittent Fasting play in muscle production? Fasting has been shown to actually INCREASE HGH and Testosterone levels! Both chemicals are critical in muscle formation. Researchers show HGH levels rise after about 13 hours of fasting. Thus, plan your fast to at least include 13 hours (if you can’t hang for the full 16). This is personally how I structure my own daily intermittent fast.
The increase in HGH helps stimulate the breakdown of fat for energy (ketosis). Ketosis is a normal metabolic process where the body uses KETONES as fuel rather than carbohydrates. Where do ketones come from? Ketones are created when your body runs out of glucose for energy, and instead turns fat into ketones.
How to Fast
16:8 (fast for 16 hours, eat for 8 hours)
- In my opinion, this is the most feasible fasting option. The others are extreme and may lead to compromised performance and general quality of life. Let’s be honest…we’re all trying to eat!
- A simple way to make this less painful is to fast through the night and into the morning, then start your day of eating after the 16th hour.
- A modification of this is a 13:11 fast, so you at least get the benefit of elevated HGH. Some protective factors mentioned above do not kick in until the 17th hour, however.
Alternate Day Fasting (ADF): Eat one day within your macronutrient goals, don’t eat the next, and so forth
- That’s right..24 hours without eating!
- Calorie-free liquids are OK on fasting days.
5/2 or “The Fast Diet”: 5 days of normal eating, 2 days of constricted eating (25% of total caloric needs)
- Do not put the two constricted days back to back!
- For the constriction days, choose days that are less demanding and present less temptation, i.e. off-days from the gym or social outings where you’ll be tempted
How IF Can Be A Reality for You
- Skip breakfast (ah!) and eat from 12-8p or 1-9p, to yield a 8/16 split. This is very doable with a bit of willpower, then it’ll become a habit like anything else.
- If your training session falls within a fasted window, drink BCAAs before your workout to prevent muscle loss
- During your fast, non-caloric beverages are OKAY
- Water, Coffee, Tea
- Resist eating the world once your fast is up. Stick to a pre-set breakdown of protein/carbs/fat, in order to avoid a caloric surplus and weight gain (I can’t stress this enough)
Obese adults participated in an intermittent fasting diet (25% of caloric needs on fast day, more or less free eating the following day, alternating so on and so forth) and yielded the following results:
- High levels of dietary adherence (85%+)
- Increased weight loss
- Decreased body fat
- Decreased total cholesterol and LDL levels
- Decreased blood pressure
Effects of intermittent fasting on metabolism of men:
- Lower blood glucose levels (good from a diabetes standpoint)
- Increased fat metabolism
- Decrease in inflammatory response
Protective Against Cancer?
Additional studies indicate a decreased incidence of cancer, believe it or not! Even greater results were found when fasting was combined with chemotherapy. While most studies were done on mice and longitudinal human-based studies are still needed, it is promising to say the least! The mechanism involves starving cancerous and precancerous cells of its nutrient source, glucose, which again is facilitated by intermittent fasting.
We should now be clear intermittent fasting has a myriad of benefits. This includes a pivotal role in weight and fat loss, the increase in HGH and therefore muscle production/preservation, and possibly avoidance of cancer. I’m certainly intrigued. Are you willing to give this a try?