Could Intermittent Fasting help you lose weight, boost your energy and improve your overall health, or is it just another fad? After doing some research and getting over my fear of ruining my metabolism by skipping breakfast, I decided to try it out for myself.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (or IF as many people call it) consists of alternating cycles of fasting and eating. There are many different ways of doing it but for females it is recommended to follow a 14 hour fast with a 10 hour feeding window as apposed to the men’s version of 16:8. For example you may choose to fast between 6pm and 8am and then consume your daily macros between 8am and 6pm. Which times you choose to fast and feed is entirely up to you!
I must say at first glance the thought of skipping breakfast didn’t appeal to me at all, but after being at a plateau for more than 6 weeks I decided it was time to shock my system. You may be sitting there wondering why anyone would want to fast for an extended length of time. According to some people it is the best way to lose fat and build muscle along with a bunch of other health benefits. Let’s take a closer look at some of those.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Normalizing your insulin and leptin sensitivity. One of the primary mechanisms that makes intermittent fasting so beneficial for health is related to its impact on your insulin sensitivity.
While sugar is a source of energy for your body, it also promotes insulin resistance when consumed in the amounts found in our modern processed junk food diets. Insulin resistance, in turn, is a primary driver of chronic disease—from heart disease to cancer.
A study conducted by the University Hospital of South Manchester demonstrated that weight loss using an intermittent fasting protocol resulted in greater improvements in insulin sensitivity than a traditional diet.
- Fat Loss. According to research conducted by the University of Leuven , exercising in a fasted state accelerates fat loss .
- Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as “the hunger hormone”
Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production: Research has shown fasting can raise HGH by as much as 1,300 percent in women, and 2,000 percent in men, which plays an important part in health, fitness, and slowing the aging process. HGH is also a fat-burning hormone, which helps explain why fasting is so effective for weight loss
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Reducing oxidative stress: Fasting decreases the accumulation of oxidative radicals in the cell, and thereby prevents oxidative damage to cellular proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids associated with aging and disease
Intermittent Fasting Protocol
The most popular method of fasting and the one that I recommend was created by Martin Berkhan, and it works like this:
- You fast for 14 hours per day. That means no food, but coffee, tea, and non-caloric beverages are fine.
- You have an 10-hour daily feeding window.
- You eat a lot of protein.
- You eat more carbs and calories on training days, and more fat and fewer calories on rest days.
- Your post-workout meal is the biggest meal of the day–about 50% of your daily calories.
The Leangains method was built specifically for weightlifters, and for people that care about their body composition .
If you want a full run down I recommend you just read Martin’s instructions in full to get the whole scoop.
What about Starvation Mode?
But wait, if we fast won’t our bodies go into starvation mode therefore decreasing our metabolisms and encouraging our bodies to store fat?
Sounds plausible, but this is actually false.
A study conducted by the University of Rochester showed that metabolic rate didn’t decline until 60 hours of fasting…and the reduction was a mere 8%. In fact, research has demonstrated that the metabolism actually speeds up after 36-48 hours of fasting .
True “starvation mode” occurs around 3 days (72 hours) of not eating, at which point the primary source of energy becomes the breakdown of proteins (and the biggest source of protein is muscle).
So don’t worry, Intermittent fasting isn’t going to wreck your metabolism.
What about Fasted Training?
As with intermittent fasting, training in a fasted state also has a bunch of health benefits and some people find it easier to lose fat exercising first thing upon waking. So if you are one of these people like myself that likes to get up at some crazy hour before the sun rises in order to get your workout in then the best way to work it is to make sure you have BCAA’s on hand pre and post workout to help prevent muscle breakdown until you are ready to eat. Here is an example of what your day might look like:
6 AM: 5-15 minutes pre-workout: 5-10g BCAA and a pre-workout (optional).
6-7 AM: Training.
8 AM: 5-10 g BCAA.
10 AM: The “real” post-workout meal. Start of the 10 hour feeding-window.
8 PM: Last meal before the fast.
For the sake of convenience, I recommend getting BCAA in the form of powder and not tablets. If you can stomach it, plain unflavoured BCAA’s are a lot cheaper (and healthier) than the flavoured ones.
If you are bulking or lean bulking then I don’t recommend training fasted.
Is Intermittent Fasting right for me?
It all comes down to trial and error. If you’re a healthy aduItthat exercises regularly, whether you should follow an intermittent fasting protocol or not really just boils down to how you like to eat, and what best fits your lifestyle. If your fat loss has stalled it might be just what you need to continue burning fat.
As I mentioned earlier, I decided to try out Intermittent Fasting myself. It took about a week for my body to get used to fasting, but once I got used to it I liked it. I did notice the first few days that I had headaches (which is rare for me) but they eventually went away. I followed IF combined with IIFYM for around 8 weeks before we left for our trip around the USA. BUT I ate around 4-5 meals per day rather than the recommended 2-3. I found if I ate 50% of my calories at breakfast, I was starving by the end of the day.
I noticed that I was able to lose stubborn body fat (while retaining muscle) faster than what I do when I’m not fasting, without any change in my exercise routine. I continue to alternate between Intermittent Fasting, Carb Cycling and IIFYM/traditional dieting (rotating them every few months to keep my body guessing). At the end of the day it is all trial and error.
Have you ever tried Intermittent Fasting? What was your experience with it? Comment below!