Intermittent Fasting 101

If you’re struggling with a weight-loss plateau, or you’re interested in a potentially more efficient way to optimize your weight-loss, I would encourage you to take a look at intermittent fasting.  (I’ve personally had a lot of success with this!)

Here’s how it works:

You’ll go for X hours without eating, and then combine all of your day’s calories and eating into Y hours of time during the day. (For example, you might go 16 hours without eating, and then do all of your eating between noon and 8pm). The X and the Y are variables you can use to optimize and find the right fit for you, but most people start with 16:8.

If you think about it, from a purely evolutionary standpoint, our bodies actually aren’t built around the idea of having a constant supply of food in our stomachs, Our ancient ancestors went through periods of feast and famine — and thus it makes sense that our body chemistry is likely optimized more around this style of eating, versus constantly having food in our stomachs.

In fact, there are literally hundreds of scientific studies that prove this is legit. (A handful of such references are at the bottom).

Note that intermittent fasting isn’t particularly effective unless you’re already eating at a caloric deficit (of course, if you’re not eating at a caloric deficit.. your odds of losing weight are roughly zero, no matter what). Also, combining this with a good workout schedule will really super-charge this.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

1) Intermittent fasting has been known to change the function of cells, genes, and hormones which can aid in weight loss.

  • Insulin levels drop, which prevents your cells from going into fat-storage mode.
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH) increases as much as 5-fold. (This stuff increases fat burn and muscle gain!!!)
  • There are proven changes to genes related to longevity and protection against disease.

Lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) all increase the breakdown of body fat and facilitate its use for energy.

2) Intermittent fasting increases your metabolism

Short-term fasting actually increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories (see reference studies at the bottom). One study even showed the intermittent fasting caused less muscle loss than simple calorie restriction all by itself. (And preserving muscle is the name of the game in weight-loss!)

3) There are a zillion other benefits that science claims, too..

  • Better heart health
  • Decrease in risk for Alzheimers
  • Increased lifespan
  • Brain benefits
  • Decreased risk of cancer
  • Reduces Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in The Body

… and more. For real. Zillions of studies on this stuff!

How to get started

– Start with a 16:8 fast (16 hours of no-eating, with an 8-hour eating window). This known as the “Leangains Protocol“.

– You can drink whatever zero-calorie beverages you want while you are in your fasting period. (Water, obviously, being the preferred drink — but if you need diet-soda to be comfortable.. Go for it.)

– The fast is the perfect time to be productive and get things done. Don’t sit around, get bored and brood about food. Your fasting time should be when you’re the most busy (and while you’re sleeping, obviously).

– Meal frequency doesn’t matter. However, most people still prefer three meals.

– Consume the majority of your daily calorie intake right after your workouts, if you can.

– On days where you don’t work out, your first meal should be your largest. (This isn’t a hard/fast rule. Just a general guideline. If you prefer a bigger dinner most days… fine.)

– Keep the same eating/fasting schedule every day (or as close to it as possible).

– It often takes 2-3 weeks before you’ll see any benefit from this. But most people report that they actually LIKE this style of eating, as their daily calorie intake is pushed into a smaller window, they feel like they get to eat more food in general.

Remember, the point is to stimulate the production of HGH and get your metabolism moving!!

And yes, it really does work. I’ve had a lot of personal success with this!
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References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC329619/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1548337
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12425705
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2355952
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3106288/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24048020
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2622429/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25540982
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2405717
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10837292
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21410865