“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
No doubt you’ve heard this being said numerous times over the years, but have you ever stopped and taken time to find out if this statement is true? If you’re anything like me, you would have heard this so much and just accepted this as a fact like I did. Until one day when I came across something called “intermittent fasting” (IF).
After weeks of research I decided to give it a go. And the results were something not too short of amazing. I had added muscle mass, dropped a heck of a lot of body fat, my body felt more energetic, my mind felt sharper and I had increased explosive strength.
What is It?
Now you might be wondering what the hell is IF. And rightly so as I’ve come to find that surprisingly not many people have heard of it.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet. It is rather a scheduled pattern of eating.
When using IF, you eat your calories during a specific window of time, and chose not to eat during the rest of the time, your ‘fasting period’.
IF is a great way to get ripped without going on a insane diet that’s hard to keep up with. It allows you to be able to eat the right amount of calories without cutting them down to nothing, its also a good way to keep muscle mass whilst in a ‘cutting’ phase of training. IF is used mostly for fat loss. Although it is also used to add lean muscle mass.
Why Does it Work?
We should understand that our bodies have different reactions when we have consumed food to when we are in a fasting state. Our bodies are designed for survival since the primitive caveman days. That’s why we have a fat storage as a ‘back up’ energy source (mine seemed to be my lower belly!).
Although times have changed and most people in today’s society readily have food available, we have fridges and freezers where we can store food and supermarkets where we can buy our food; however our bodies mechanics have not changed.
Our body does not know if we will ever get to eat food again, so it acts accordingly; by reserving fat for those ‘rainy days’. When we eat our bodies use the calories it needs as energy and stores the rest as fat.
When we fast, our body doesn’t have a recently consumed meal to use as energy. So it starts to use the ‘fat storage reserve’ for fuel.
When we workout the same is true. As we have no fuel in our body from recent meals, so the body uses the next best fuel source available, which is the fat storage we have for reserves.
IF= Fat Loss.
What Happens When We Eat;
When we eat our bodies are absorbing food which typically lasts 3-5 hours. It is hard to lose fat at this time because insulin levels are high.
After your body goes into a post–absorptive state. This just means that your body is no longer processing the meal you ate. The post-absorptive state lasts for 8 to 12 hours after your last meal and after this your body enters the fasted state.
The fasting state allows for a period of fat burning instead of carbohydrate burning. This is when the body can access and burn the ‘reserve’ fat storage we hold for energy.
Due to the regular eating schedule most of us have, it’s rare that we are ever in a fat burning state because this state only comes 12 hours after our last meal. This is one of the reasons why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat, or how often they exercise.
- The fasted state is the time when your body can burn fat that has been inaccessible during the fed state. In this state growth hormone is also increased. With this increased growth hormone production and decreased insulin levels intermittent fasting leaves your body primed for muscle growth and fat loss.
- Scientific studies suggest that people who fast have more energy, better cognition and memory, and increased production of something called neurotrophic growth factor (a protein that promotes neuron growth and protection).
- Certain studies also suggest that IF may improve immunity, lower diabetes risk, and improve heart health.
- This study shows that IF can prime your cells to make them more resistant to stress.
How its Done;
There are different methods of intermittent fasting. I used the method by Martin Berkhan at leangains.com.
This involves a 16 hour fasting window and an 8 hour eating window.
So I fasted for 16 hours and consumed all my calories within an 8 hour period. This way my body was in a pure fat burning state (fasted state) for 4 hours during the day (12 hours to 16 hours).
It does not matter when you have your 8 hour eating window. However once you have decided your eating window it is important to stick to the times so your body can adjust and build a habit.
It can be from 1 pm-8 pm or 8 am-4 pm etc. I eventually stuck with the 1 pm -8 pm eating window after trying a few different schedules. I found this worked best for me as it allowed me to eat with family in the afternoon and evening. It’s pretty easy as your sleep will count for the fasting period also.
I would miss breakfast and eat something light at 1 pm. Then I would eat something pre-workout and train at 5pm. I would then eat the majority of my calories which was about 60-80% of my daily calories post-workout. Someday’s I would train early morning before the 1 pm eating time.
You have to you make sure you eat all your daily calories within this time frame, it can be done in as many meals as you wish. I ate my daily calories in 3-4 meals. It’s also important to note that you should stick to a healthy diet as usual too.
If you workout during a fasting period that’s fine. It will definitely help the fat burning process. I’ve heard some people say they find it difficult to work out when fasting. It may feel like that at the start but it’s commonly reported (and I experienced this myself) that IF before training leaves you enjoying working out more, feel stronger and have the ability to gain lean muscle mass.
If you think about cavemen (you know the big,strong bearded mofo’s) they would have had to hunt all day before eating a meal. They did not have fridges and freezers where they could eat something first thing.
They had to work for their food by hunting which involved running, jumping, climbing and fighting. So it’s in our nature to exercises before eating. The majority of your meals should be eaten post workout so the calories can go towards building muscle and replenishing the body.
You are only allowed to drink water and zero calorie drinks like black coffee during the fasting period.
While your body is adjusting you may experience hunger, moodiness, and maybe headaches. This is normal and is just your body adjusting to the new fasting schedule.
After this adjusting period you will feel better than when you regularly ate, feeling more energetic, lively and stronger are common among people who use IF.
IF for Women;
I’ve heard that IF can have different effects on women than men because of hormones. The best thing for women to do is to fast using an IF schedule on non-workout days and stick to a regular eating schedule for workout days to get the body used to fasting.
This way you get the fat loss and all the other benefits of IF without throwing your hormones out of whack. There is a good blog post here that’s from the website marks daily apple that you can read for more info on IF for women which answers a lot of questions, sorry I have no experience in this part, although my sister has used it with good results and no problems.
Everyone is different so give it a try and see what works best for you.
Let me know if you have any questions, comments or thoughts in the comments section. If you liked the post please share it with anyone who can benefit from it. Thanks!