WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING (IF)
Intermittent fasting is a style of eating where you cycle from fasting to eating. For example, many people who use this style of eating will fast (no calories) for 16 hours a day and eat all their meals in an 8-hour period. Others fast for 20 hours a day and eat all their food in a 4-hour period. Some only eat one big meal a day and forgo food the rest of the day.
THE HOLY GRAIL FOR FAT LOSS?
If you are reading this site I am guessing you are interested in fat loss, health, and improving your athletic performance. If you follow the standard 5-6 meals per day it is very easy to consume 2,500 to 4,000 calories a day. However, when you are limiting your eating period to 8-hours per day or less your body gets used to going without food and it actually makes it harder to overeat. If you continuously eat you are not going to burn the maximum amount of calories possible. However, if you fast for the majority of the day your body will be able to burn off stored fat at a more efficient rate.
While calories are the most important factor in gaining or losing weight, hormones do play a crucial role. Especially, testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin.
Any time you eat you are causing a rise in insulin. Intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity which goes a long way to preventing diabetes.
Testosterone is the most anabolic hormone on the planet. If testosterone is decreased you get decreased libido, increased fat storage, and decreased athletic performance. Well guess what? Eating constantly is a great way to sabotage your testosterone levels. Ask your hefty or obese friends about their eating habits. I guarantee none of them are fasting. They are most likely consistently eating throughout the day. That eating becomes an addiction which leads to weight gain.
If you are a fan of professional sports chances are you have heard of HGH or Human Growth Hormone. Well, as humans we produce growth hormone and in a fasted state we produce more of it. When we produce higher levels or growth hormone we build more muscle and lose more fat. This is a win for the fasted cardio/fasting lifting community.
BREAKING THE HABIT OF AROUND-THE-CLOCK EATING
If you are like me you were brainwashed into the broscience of eating every 3 hours to get more muscular and leaner. Below I will detail how I went from eating 7-8 meals a day over the course of 16 hours a day to my current strategy of eating 3 or 4 meals a day over the course of 8 or 9 hours.
First, you have to realize that the total number of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat you take in a day is more important than how much you take in for one particular meal. Second, you’re going to have to plan your eating window. Instead of eating every 2-4 hours you will need to eat over the course of 4-8 hours depending on how far you want to take it. As humans, I believe we are better suited for putting our eating window later on in the day. Our ancestors hunted and gathered throughout the day and feasted at night. Also, most of us work during the day so we can be more productive if we are not stuffing our faces all the time. Personally, I have never found myself very hungry during the first half of the day anyway.
PROGRESSION TO INTERMITTENT FASTING
Month 1: Dropping to 5 meals a day with a low-carb approach. When I decided, I had enough of eating all the time and that I wanted to drop some body fat I slowly changed my eating plan to 5 meals a day with a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb approach. For the first two weeks I keep my carbs to 30-50 grams per day. I don’t know if I went into Ketosis, but I was close. The next two weeks I used more of a carb cycling approach. Training (lifting) days had moderate carb approaches (150-200 carbs a day) mostly from fruit, veggies, and oatmeal. Cardio (off) days had low carb approaches (50-100 carbs a day). If I had a cheat meal I didn’t worry. I went from 217 to 207 this first month. I note I trained fasted (coffee and organic wheat grass) during this time and I would eat breakfast as my post-workout meal. My feeding window usually ranged from 7:15 am to 9 pm.
Month 2: Continued to eat 5 meals a day, with a relaxed carb cycling approach. I did not count calories or track macros. I ate clean most of the time. During this month I slowly decreased the amount of time in my feeding window. By the end of the month I only ate from 7:15 am to 7:30 pm. That means I consumed calories during 12 hours and 15 minutes a day. My weight dropped from 207 to 202. I still trained fasted (coffee and organic wheat grass).
Month 3: The present. I have reduced the time I consume calories to 10:30 am or 11 am until 7:30 pm. I still train fasted (coffee) in the morning and don’t eat my post-workout meal until 3.5 or 4 hours after I am done. My first meal is my biggest protein meal for the day. I consume 60-80 grams of protein in that meal. My lunch (approximately 2 pm) is more moderate with 30-40 grams of protein. My dinner (approximately 5:30 pm)is another big meal (30-50 grams of protein), because this is my favorite time to eat. My last meal or should I say snack is a casein protein shake with almond butter and coconut milk (30 grams of protein). I am employing a carb cycling approach of medium carbs on training days and lower carbs on cardio days. I am finding it harder to eat my goal of 2,500 calories per day since I am cramming them all in a shorter feeding window. I just started using the My Fitness Pal app to track my calories and macros. I love how easy it is and how you can scan bar codes to input the nutritional info.
My muscles have not magically run away from me yet lol. In fact, I am liking it and I feel that I am more productive. When you are not worrying about eating all the time you get stuff done. My weight was down to 197 a few days ago. I have to say I am surprised at how easy it has been to drop 20 lbs in the matter of 2 or 3 months. I have not had to starve myself nor do large amounts of exercise. Also, I have not lost any strength and I have actually gotten stronger on most exercises. Don’t buy into the BS that losing weight will make you weaker. If you do it correctly and make progressive overload a priority in your weight training you will get stronger, leaner, and more awesome.
THE TAKE-HOME MESSAGE
If you are serious about losing weight and becoming a healthier version of yourself, Intermittent Fasting might be the right approach for you. I have found that it easier to eat healthy when I don’t have to eat all the time. If you do want to take the plunge into IF, I suggest taking it slowly and not jumping in to the freezing water. You don’t want to get headaches or devour a dozen donuts because you got super hungry.
TIPS TO SUCCEED
- Start by reducing your feeding time 30-60 minutes a week until you get to an 8 hour feeding window. Don’t be in a rush and give your body a chance to adapt.
- Consume your biggest protein meal when you break your fast if you are a morning workout enthusiast such as myself
- On the opposite end, if you train at night after work I suggest you only have a small meal 2 hours prior to training. Then, after you workout consume your biggest protein meal.
- Make sure to eat enough healthy fats. Healthy fat from Salmon, Almonds, Peanut Butter, Avocado, Seeds, Olive Oil, and Eggs will keep you fuller longer.
- Pick an eating plan that fits your lifestyle and goals. Whether you do IF with Keto, Carb Cycling, IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), or any other style make sure it makes sense for you.
- I highly suggest getting a calorie/macro counting app like My Fitness Pal, because it will get you on the right path. Even, if you don’t use it every day it will give you an idea of how many calories you are consuming.
- Let the scale and mirror be your guide. The scale and the mirror do not lie. If you are making progress it will be clear.
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