So if you are like me (and everyone else in this world), you have been told since you were a kid that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, sit back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a new (ish) idea called Intermittent Fasting. How fasting each day for around 16 hours or a couple times a week for 24 hours can have amazing effects on your physique, hormones, life span and fitness goals!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (or IF as some call it) may be the most discussed topic and diet concept on the internet right now. It takes what everyone typically recommends (such as 5 – 6 small meals) and throws it out the window!
Let me first throw this out there, Intermittent Fasting is NOT A DIET, it is a pattern of eating. Intermittent Fasting is basically alternating intervals of not eating (aka fasting) with times where you are allowed to eat.
There are a few different techniques in the IF arena, each of which deal with expanding the fasting window. Typical fasting periods are anywhere from 16 hours all the way up to 36 hours and each plan has a different benefit.
The most popular type of IF was pioneered by a gentleman by the name of Martin Berkhan of Lean Gains. Lean Gains protocol (which is what I practice) follows a intermittent fasting schedule of a 16-hour fast followed by an 8-hour eating period. Take a look at his website I have linked to. If you don’t believe IF works, just look at his ridiculous physique in this picture below!
Remember this: Eat, Stop, Eat <— That is the basics of Intermittent Fasting…
The Word Fasting…
Ok, so the word fasting makes me believe that most people do not understand really what fasting is… They may relate it to some sort of religious experience, or starving children in Africa… Well think about it this way, everyone fasts, EVERYDAY! Whether you like it or not, you fast… YEAH YOU! Any time you are not eating, you are fasting…
Most of us sleep for around 6-8 hours per day, during that time of sleep, we are fasting… There is a reason they call it BREAK-FAST, because you are literally breaking your overnight fast.
Have you ever gone out with friends on the weekend, went to bed that night, and then slept in until 11pm, thus skipping breakfast? Well folks, you just performed a type of intermittent fasting!
Won’t I die of starvation?
Yes, you will die of starvation… But probably not due to Intermittent Fasting!
Chew on this… At the age of 74 and a very slim build, Mahatma Gandhi, survived 21 days of total starvation while only allowing himself sips of water. Most studies show you will die of starvation within 46-73 days without food.
We are talking about 16 hours here!!
Why Would You Fast?
Most notably, it is a great way to get lean without going on a crazy diet, cutting your calories down to nothing, or starving your self in other dumb ways… With intermittent fasting, most of the time you will try to keep your calories the same when you start intermittent fasting. Most people eat bigger meals in a shorter time frame.
Intermittent fasting is also a great way to keep muscle mass (or even gain it) while leaning out.
Suffice it to say, most people are going to use Intermittent Fasting to lose fat.
Intermittent Fasting is simple enough that you will actually do it, but effective enough that it will actually make a difference!
But Wait… Breakfast is the Most Important Meal!!??
Breakfast is, and always will be a hot topic. Many studies show the major benefits to breakfast, physicians smack you on the wrist for skipping breakfast, and damn it cereal is a way of life in this country!!
Some studies show that eating a calorie dense breakfast in the morning cause people to lose more weight than those that don’t… Well, the major idea behind that study is that most people, if they eat a calorie dense breakfast, tend to snack less than those people who don’t.
Think about this… Roughly 90% of Americans eat breakfast and close to 50% of Americans are overweight. Something else is wrong here… I say that most people are eating THE WRONG breakfast, such as doughnuts, bagels, and sugary cereals!
Insulin Sensitivity… WTF is it?
The main argument most have about breakfast is what they call “insulin sensitivity”… The more sensitive your body is to insulin, the more likely you are to lose fat and gain muscle. An increase in insulin sensitivity almost always leads to more efficient dieting.
Basically, breakfast eaters declare that in the morning your insulin sensitivity is higher. Everyone has heard “eat your carbohydrates at breakfast if you want to lose weight.” The idea is that since your body is more insulin sensitive in the morning, taking in a breakfast full of carbohydrates is going to have the greatest balance between taking in a large amount of energy without the danger of weight gain.
To this idea, most experts say bullshit…
Insulin sensitivity is actually not higher in the “morning”; it is higher after the 6-10 hour fasting periods you end up experiencing when you sleep. The real deal on insulin sensitivity is this; insulin sensitivity is highest when glycogen levels are depleted. Liver glycogen somewhat depletes during your sleeping fast.
Intermittent fasting says that extending your “fast” beyond the sleep period and possibly to 12-2pm will increase insulin sensitivity even further. To top it all off, insulin sensitivity is also increased post-exercise due to further glycogen depletion. This means; training in a fasted state and then having good carbohydrates post workout will maximize your performance and physique!
Fed State vs. Fasted State
There is a difference between your body’s fed state, and fasted state… (Obviously…)
- Your body is in the fed state when it is digesting and absorbing food. The fed state begins when you begin eating and lasts 3-5 hours as your body digests and absorbs the food you just ate.
- It is very hard for your body to burn fat in the fed state because your insulin levels are very high.
- Your body then goes into the post-absorptive state, which is just a fancy way of saying that your body isn’t processing a meal.
- The post-absorptive state lasts until 8-12 hours after your last meal, which is when you finally enter the fasted state.
- Your body enters the fasted state approximately 12 hours after our last meal.
- When you are in the fasted state, your body can burn fat that it previously couldn’t during the fed state.
- It is rare that we are ever in this fat burning state, but very valuable…
What’s so Great About This Fasting Thing?
- It makes life simpler! IF provides simplicity to any fat loss plan. You no longer need to time and prepare your 5-6 meals and snacks throughout the day. You wake up, grab water (or black coffee), skip breakfast and start your day!
- It makes for an easier behavior change than normal dieting! The main reason diets fail is because we typically don’t follow the diet over the long term. The lifestyle change is very difficult for most. IF is a much easier behavior to change than completely ridding yourself of foods you love.
Dr. Michael Eades says, “Diets are easy in the contemplation, difficult in the execution. Intermittent Fasting is just the opposite – it’s difficult in the contemplation but easy in the execution.”
Pump Yo’ Brakes!
They say I need to eat every few hours to keep my metabolism revving!
Many people say you need six small meals a day. There is something called the Thermal Effect of Food (TEF). When you eat, your metabolic rate increases because of the energy required to break down the food you have just taken in.
Their thought process behind meal frequency is that your body burns calories when it’s processing food. The idea is that the more frequently you eat, the more calories you would burn…
The reality is that the amount of calories you burn (or TEF) is proportional to the size of the meal your body is processing. Digesting six small meals throughout the day that equal 2,000 calories will burn the same amount of energy as processing two larger meals of 1,000 calories each…
Experts say that eating six meals, or one, will put you in the same place.
Intermittent Fasting guru Martin Berkman of Lean Gains has summarized this study for us which can be found HERE.
Different Types of Intermittent Fasting?
24-Hour Fast (aka Eat-Stop-Eat)
Summary: A 24-hour fasting period. Yes, that’s it… Exactly what it sounds like! If your last meal is at 8pm on Monday, then you simply do not eat again until Tuesday at 8pm. This can be done 1-3 times per week with 2 times per week being the most common…
A gentleman by the name Brad Pilon wrote a book called Eat-Stop-Eat which is the best resource on this model.
Benefits: It is easy and adaptable for any person’s lifestyle. The simple rule of “don’t eat for 24 hours” is simple enough for everyone to follow.
Let’s say you eat 2,000 calories every day. That is 14,000 calories over a week. If you implement this protocol 2 days per week, then you have effectively removed 4,000 calories. Thus, without any other changes to your lifestyle, you’d be on pace to lose one pound per week.
Calories aside, fasting works very well because of the effect that fasting has on your hormones. More specifically, insulin and growth hormone. You can buy the book by CLICKING HERE
My Opinion: This type of fasting is more suitable for “damage control.” This would be a great protocol to put in place when you have a cheat day or know you will have a large social meal/outing and then perform a 24 hour fast the next day.
20-Hour Fast (aka Warrior Diet)
Summary: The Warrior Diet is a book written by Ori Hofmekler. The diet is a 20-hour fast followed by a 4-hour feeding period; as the name would imply, this is inspired by the nutritional habits of primal warriors.
Benefits: Much like the 24-hour fast, a 20-hour fast allows you to reap the hormonal benefit of increased growth hormone. Like all fasting, it generally will result in fewer calories getting consumed. Having only one meal will definitely make life more simple…
My Opinion: The Warrior Diet would be easy to follow, but not my cup of tea… The book lacks the scientific backing…
16/8 Fasting (aka LeanGains)
Summary: Martin Berkhan is the man behind Leangains or 16/8 style of IF. In this type of intermittent fasting, you would conduct a 16 hour fast period and the feeding window would be limited to 8 hours. During these 8 hours, users can eat as many or as few meals as they would like. The most common way is to eat 2-3 meals in this 8-hour time frame.
This program is designed specifically with training in mind. The 16/8 protocol has specific post-workout suggestions and recommendations. It is by far the most sophisticated form of intermittent fasting. The research is there, the case studies are plentiful, and science backs most of it up.
Benefits: The 16/8 protocol stands out because it offers an advanced level of hormonal management. While 24-hour fasts offer the same benefits, they are not meant for daily practice. 16/8 intermittent fasting is for every day practice. It is easy to schedule, you eat from 12pm-8pm and fast from 8:01pm-11:59am…
My Opinion: This is they type of fasting protocol that I am practicing as we speak. It can be somewhat difficult to time your meals due to the fact that Martin Berkhan recommends you train while fasted and then break your fast with a Post-Workout meal. So, it all depends on WHEN you workout.
- The feeding window could start at 6:30am (if you workout before work) and last until 2:30pm (which may cause issues socially and negates some of the beneficial hormone stuff).
- The feeding window could start just after noon (if you workout at lunch time) and last until 8pm (which is easiest and allows you to be more social).
- The feeding window could start at 6pm (if you workout after work) and last until 2am (which just wouldn’t work for most, unless you work night shift).
You need to be able to plan your workouts around your fasting and vice versa. This type of fasting typically works best for those that are serious about training and may already be physically active. LeanGains has a ton of research behind it and Berkhan is one of the guys that is most responsible for the whole “IF movement.”
While there are many types of intermittent fasting, they all have their place in a nutritional lifestyle.
Each will fit differently into your own lifestyle and you will need to try IF to see if it is something you can deal with and enjoy doing. IF makes life and meal planning much easier, plus allows to eat without restricting your calories down to nothing.
Again, intermittent fasting is not a diet, it is a way of eating. It lends itself well to nearly anything that is a diet. If you are a low carb-er, a Paleo dieter, vegan, vegetarian, or anything in between, it doesn’t matter… You can apply the IF system of your choice.
Here are some things that will NOT break your fast:
- Black Coffee
- Green Tea
- Diet Soda (although a gray area)
- Bulletproof Coffee (which I enjoy quite often) check it out here –> Bulletproof Coffee
Before you go, leave me a comment in to boxes below! Let me know what you think about intermittent fasting. Let me know if you try it and how you like it!