Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fastingOne topic that seems to be really popular right now is intermittent fasting.  I feel like I know quite a few people doing it and I’ve had a number of questions about it too.  It’s a very interesting theory so I wanted to write up some info on it that I’ve learned from my research.  I also gave it a try for about 6 weeks so I want to give my own personal point of view too.  This is by no means an all-encompassing article but wanted to give you an introduction to intermittent fasting.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

The obvious place to start is covering what intermittent fasting even is.  Maybe you’ve never even heard of it.  Intermittent fasting is just a different way of eating, more dealing with the timing.  There seem to be two main resources out there.  Most of my research has come from leangains.com, which is extremely popular, and the other main resource out there is the book Eat Stop Eat.  Most of my research came from leangains.com.

It seems like most resources support the paleo diet or something to that nature, but intermittent fasting really has more to do with when you eat rather than what you eat.  Fasting is really just a period of time when you’re not eating.  Most people already fast while they sleep over-night, but intermittent fasting really just makes that fasting period longer.  So instead of eating breakfast (break fast, get it?) right away in the morning, you wait to eat “breakfast” later in the day.

There are different protocols and fasting/feeding periods that you can follow.  A very popular protocol is a 16 hour fast, followed by an 8 hour feeding period.   That’s what I did.  So I broke my fast at 12:00 noon and finished my last meal by 8:00 PM.  I think this is pretty popular because it fits in with many people’s schedule well.  You don’t have to miss a dinner party with friends because it’s not in your feeding period.  But other people follow a 20 hour fast with a 4 hour feeding period, or an 18 hour fast with a 6 hour feeding period.  Other people will even fast for an entire 24 hours once a week.  So there are many different ways to follow an intermittent fasting protocol.

Intermittent Fasting – Why?

So now the natural question is, why use intermittent fasting?  Doesn’t traditional nutrition convention say to eat early and eat often?  Isn’t breakfast your most important meal and shouldn’t you eat every 2-3 hours in small chunks to keep your metabolism going?  That is pretty much what a majority of nutritionists out there will say.  The research on intermittent fasting is directly in contrast to that.  From leangains.com, here is a great article on debunking common nutrition myths.

Intermittent fasting is supposed to allow you to stay very lean while only eating 3 large meals in that shorter time period.  Basically, the research that is supported on leangains.com or Eat Stop Eat shows that when you are following intermittent fasting your hormones are affected in a way that helps you burn fat throughout the day without losing muscle mass.  The 3 large meals is not supposed to be any different when it comes to affecting your metabolic rate than eating multiple, smaller meals throughout the day.  In fact, the research they present shows that your metabolic rate increases during your fast instead of slowing down.  “Starvation mode” doesn’t really kick in until unless you’re not eating for almost 3 days.

So basically, intermittent fasting is supposed to help you lose fat and maintain your muscle mass.  It’s obviously a lot more complicated than that, but I don’t want to bore you with all the detailed research on that.

My Experience with Intermittent Fasting

So now that I’ve given you a little background on intermittent fasting, I did want to give you my experience.  During the last 6 weeks of Body Beast, I followed the 16 hour fast, 8 hour feed window intermittent fasting protocol.  At first it was pretty difficult to get used to, and Martin does talk about this on leangains.com.  Your body gets hungry when it’s used to eating if you do eat on a pretty regular schedule, so waiting until noon to eat left me very hungry in the morning for the first week.  But after about a week it wasn’t too bad.  It did also take a little getting used to eating larger meals.  I wasn’t used to eating 700-1000 calories at a meal which took a little getting used to as well.

But after getting over those two things I did really enjoy it.  It simplified things, only having to eat 3 meals and not worrying about eating every 2-3 hours.  So from that standpoint it was pretty nice.  I also feel like it did help me gain lean muscle mass while keeping my body fat pretty constant.   You can see my progress here: Body Beast results.

So for me, I felt like it worked really well.  And since my feeding period went to 8 PM, I didn’t miss out on any social events that involved foods which was nice.  But I’m not going to continue following the intermittent fasting protocol for one big reason.  I like to train early in the morning.  I typically workout at about 6 AM and my first meal wouldn’t be until 12:00, 6 hours later.

The advice here is to use a BCAA supplement, 30 grams  taken over that 6 hour period to help you recover.  I did take a BCAA supplement right after my workout, but 30 grams is about 6 servings.  At that rate you’re spending quite a bit on BCAA’s.  I just didn’t want to spend that much money on one supplement.  So what I found is that I did not recover as well from my workouts.  I noticed significantly greater soreness that lasted longer and I attribute that in large part to not having a meal in a short window after my workout.

It’s not that I don’t recommend you give it a try, I do believe it can work well, but for my schedule it just doesn’t.  Working out in the morning is the best time saver for me and I don’t want to start the feeding period so early, because I would be done by 3 PM, which wouldn’t let me eat dinner with my family.  If you don’t have that problem I think it’s a great thing to try.  It’s working well for many people and it does simplify things.  Again, for more detailed info, check out leangains.com.

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  1. […] So Often? Posted by Coach Tom on Dec 3, 2012 in Nutrition | 0 comments I recently posted about Intermittent Fasting, which seems to be a very popular way to eat right now for people looking to lean out, but what […]

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