The Basics Of Intermittent Fasting

 

Over the years we have seen a whole host of different diet plans designed for fat loss, all of which, in terms of when we eat, follow a very similar pattern.

In this article I am going to talk about a ‘diet’, known as intermittent fasting (IF), that doesn’t quite follow this ‘normal’ pattern.

Put simply, intermittent fasting sees the participants fasting on different days of the week.

This eating plan is used by people for variety of different reasons such as muscle gain, improved health, increased performance in sports, as well as what we’re going to talk about here; fat loss.

 

How does Intermittent Fasting work?

 

The body operates differently when it is ‘fasting’ and when it is ‘fed’.

When you consume a meal, your body spends the next few hours breaking down that food into whatever it can absorb. Since you are now in a ‘fed’ state, your body will choose to burn that readily-available energy instead of stored fat. This is especially true if you have just consumed carbohydrates, as glucose is the body’s preferred source of energy.

Before we look any further into this sort of eating plan, let’s first look at some of the benefits that are said to come out of such a plan.

 

The Pros of Intermittent Fasting:

1. Better for fat-burning

 

Research shows that Intermittent Fasting increases fatty acid oxidation with increased FFAs. For anyone who aims to tone their muscles, slim down, reveal their six-pack abs or cut body fat, this is a good thing.

When your body is in a “fasted state,” your body doesn’t have food to burn and use as energy, so it is more likely to pull from the fat stores in your body, rather than the glucose in your blood stream.

Fat-burning is a very good thing without doing copious amounts of cardio – and as you should know by now, cardio doesn’t really work that well.

 

2. Gives the illusion of larger meals

 

Spacing 5-6 meals a day isn’t always the easiest schedule to adhere to when ‘dieting’. Two to three hours in between smaller meals might be barely enough time to keep the hunger at bay. Smaller portions every two to three hours is supposed to ramp up your metabolism, but that myth has long been debunked. Studies show the number of meals is largely irrelevant; what matters more is the number of calories in vs. the number of calories out.

Intermittent Fasting gives the illusion of larger meals because instead of dividing your intake by 5 or 6, you can cut it down to 3 or 4 because of the limited time frame you have to consume all your calories.

So let’s say your caloric intake is at 1800 calories and you would like to space it out into 3 meals. That means each meal should be roughly 600 calories. On the other hand, 1800 calories divided into 6 meals is just 300 calories per meal.

To put 300 calories into perspective, that’s about 3 tablespoons of peanut butter or 5 whole eggs. If you were to have a balanced meal of protein, fats and carbohydrates, 300 calories could translate to 2 whole eggs and ½ cup of sweet potatoes. It’s up to you to decide if that portion is enough, or if you’re more suited for bigger meals that are spaced further apart.

 

3. Can be seen as a short ‘binge’ and feel less restrictive to the dieter

 

Let’s face it, when it comes to eating at a caloric deficit, you are going to feel hungry at some point in the day unless you are constantly consuming leafy green vegetables, which are basically so low in calories that it’s very hard to overdo them. This is because you are expending more energy than you are consuming, and the body’s natural response is to tell you to eat so that it won’t have to tap into its energy stores.

When all you see is a teeny, tiny portion of lean protein and vegetables or complex carbohydrates as your next meal, it can take its toll on you psychologically. Feeling deprived over a long period of time makes you susceptible to binge eating, and that is where the trouble starts. A cheat meal turns into a cheat week and progress is derailed, leaving the you back at square one, or even further away from your goals than you first began. With Intermittent Fasting, the eating window can be treated as a short, controlled binge that leaves the dieter feeling fuller than the standard 5-6 meals a day. Technically, the amount of calories consumed is the same as with the smaller meals so the calorie deficit is maintained, but psychologically, it might feel less restrictive because of the larger portions.

 

4. Better for fat-burning

 

Research shows that Intermittent Fasting increases fatty acid oxidation with increased FFAs. For anyone who aims to tone their muscles, slim down, reveal their six-pack abs or cut body fat, this is a good thing.

When your body is in a “fasted state,” your body doesn’t have food to burn and use as energy, so it is more likely to pull from the fat stores in your body, rather than the glucose in your blood stream. Intermittent Fasting may also be used as a muscle-building program, though it is commonly used as a fat loss protocol.

With the benefits comes the cons and nothings perfect so I think it would only be fair to give you both sides of the coin;

 

The Cons of Intermittent Fasting:

 

1. Inability to focus when fasting

Some people simply can’t function without food. It’s probably more of a mental issue than a physiological one, but it is an issue nonetheless. If you find that you cannot think clearly or experience a ‘mental fog’ when working while in a fasted state, Intermittent Fasting may not be for you.

There is a transition period, especially if you are used to constantly munching on something as soon as you wake up down to the bedside treats, but as always, the body adapts to new conditions and environments, so be sure to give your body time to adjust before you write this method of dieting off.

2. Intermittent Fasting may be more beneficial to men than women

At least one study has shown that while insulin sensitivity was improved in male subjects due to Intermittent Fasting, female subjects did not show the same improvement. In fact the opposite happened; glucose tolerance worsened. More gender-specific studies have yet to be conducted on Intermittent Fasting, but at the moment, it looks as if men may benefit more from Intermittent Fasting than women.

3. Abuse of calorie-free foods and drinks

Some people opt for calorie-free foods to get them through the ‘fast’, but results from this vary from person to person. This is because calorie-free foods do not remain calorie-free when consumed in ridiculous amounts. Observe the proper serving sizes to ensure that you don’t overeat.

Black coffee and green tea are crowd favorites among Intermittent Fasters, which help the dieter get through the first few hours of the day until it is time to break the fast.

Does Intermittent Fasting Work

It all depends on what your overall goal is, as it may not work as well for one goal as it would for another.

Until recent years, tests for IF have only been done on test animals, now though humans have picked up on the idea and have effectively become human trials.

Since then there has been an explosion of IF practitioners that are all claiming some very convincing results, and not just in terms of fat loss. You only have to go search online and you will find many people that are getting great results from IF – but then with positive reviews of IF there are always people who say it isn’t for them.

How do I start using Intermittent Fasting?

There are different ways to set up Intermittent Fasting, but quite possibly the most popular protocol is the 8/16 method. Simply put, you fast for 12 hours and feast for 8 hours. There is no set time for when the ‘feast’ should begin, so adjust the feeding window based on your schedule.

A sample schedule would be:

 

  • Feast: 12pm – 8pm
  • Fast: 8pm-12pm

 

This would mean skipping breakfast and a midnight snack in place of a big lunch and dinner with snacks sprinkled in between. Those who work from 8am-5pm may find that this works best for them with training squeezed in at 6am-7am, or during their lunch break just before breaking the fast.

Those who practice Intermittent Fasting usually opt to train fasted as well to maximize the glycogen depletion and fat-burning benefits of Intermittent Fasting, but this is purely optional.

Alternative set-ups involve longer fasts of up to 24 hours – sometimes even more. This might not be the best option for those worried about muscle loss even if Intermittent Fasting is toted as one of the better muscle-sparing diet patterns out there. For those not willing to take the risk, opt for a shorter fast period until your body has adjusted.

Like most things in health and fitness, with IF there is no specific way to start fasting.

What I mean is, people are taking on IF in their own ways based on their lifestyle, work life and their overall goals. While there will be a plan that best suits you, I couldn’t possibly list them all for everyone.

Intermittent Fasting Diet Plan

What you may find is that people taking part in IF are more inclined to eat what they want on their non-fasting days, but while research has shown that even those that eat crap on IF plans still lose weight, personally I don’t think it should be an excuse to go and do so.

Eating healthy provides so many more benefits than simply helping with fat loss, and it is for this reason that no matter what type of eating regime you are taking on, eating healthy should be something you do as a matter of course, if you value your health and wellbeing that is.

Intermittent fasting is quite a controversial health plan, mainly because it goes against the vast majority of health advice we have been getting for decades.

However, it’s hard to deny the evidence that has come from scientists and from those that are actually trying it, so if you feel you’ll get something out of this type of eating plan then I would recommend starting small. Remember this is NOT a ‘starve yourself’ method for as long as you can to see how much fat you can burn.

 

How to Know if Intermittent Fasting is Working for You?

As with all other diets, tracking your progress meticulously is key to finding out whether or not a certain diet or protocol is a good fit for you.

  • Body Fat Caliper – Track your skinfold measurements to see if Intermittent Fasting is furthering your fat loss efforts or hindering it. Have the same person take your measurements at the same time of the day for consistent results.
  • Measuring Tape – Measuring tape will help you keep track of overall weight loss, which includes muscle, fat and water. In the absence of a body fat caliper, measuring tape can do the trick.
  • Progress Photos – Take photos in various positions, both flexed and unflexed, for a visual representation of your progress. Consistent lighting and positioning is key here.
  • Strength Gains – It helps to keep a log book of your lifts so that you can track which way your lifts are going. Aim to maintain strength and intensity, or improve upon them if you can. A noticeable decrease in strength could be an indicator of muscle loss. Bodyweight training or free weight exercises are a good place to start

 

Again, please don’t get ‘losing weight’ and burning fat confused with each other. You may ‘lose weight’ with IF but not actually be any healthier.

 

Is It for You?

 

As cliché as it may sound, everyone reacts differently, and you will never truly know until you give it a shot. Despite a few studies that show unfavorable results from Intermittent Fasting for women, individual reports show that there is more to this story. Play around with different schedules, experiment with macronutrient sources and keep training hard until you find what works best for you.

But always keep in mind that starving yourself for days on end is not what IF is about.

If you’ve been prone to starving yourself in the past then IF may not be for you. I would personally only recommend intermittent fasting to those who know exactly what they are doing and have no other health problems that may arise.

And like always, consult your doctor before you take on any ‘diet’ program!

Take Care. Keep Focused.

Chris

6 Comments

  • Peter

    Reply Reply March 18, 2014

    I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this
    post was great. I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a
    famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

    • Chris Sherlock

      Reply Reply March 19, 2014

      Hi Peter!

      Haha! Famous? I’m not about that but thanks for the compliment!

      Keep Focused!

      Chris

  • Lou

    Reply Reply March 12, 2014

    Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better!

    Looking through this article reminds me of my
    previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this.
    I’ll forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a very good read.
    Thank you for sharing!

    • Chris Sherlock

      Reply Reply March 19, 2014

      Hi Lou,

      Thanks! Make sure you show the cons as well as the benefits. Always good to see both sides

      Take care,

      Chris

  • Josefina

    Reply Reply March 11, 2014

    Hi, I want to subscribe for this blog to get newest updates, thus where can
    i do it please?

    • Chris Sherlock

      Reply Reply March 19, 2014

      You can either click on the picture in the sidebar and download the free PDF OR use the box at the end of the post – You’ll get all my updates then!

      Keep Focused Josefina!

      Chris

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field