What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting, or IF for short is essentially delaying eating for a prolonged period of time. Without us even realising it, we all do some form of IF; whether it’s through skipping meals, or sleeping, like it or not but we all do it!
So, what’s the point of IF for improving body composition when you already have pre established methods to make you lose fat? Well, it’s just another weapon in your arsenal. When used correctly, it is a very effective method for fat loss, but definitely isn’t necessary!
There are many forms of IF:
- Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) – 36 hour fast: 12 hour feed.
- Eat Stop Eat – 24 hour fast once or twice per week.
- Warrior Diet – 20 hours fast: 4 hours feed.
- Lean Gains – 16 hours fast: 8 hours feed.
So why did I decide to try IF? The main reason is because I love trying new things! So when people ask me if things work, I can give my opinion based on my experiences. If I’ve never tried it, I can’t really prescribe it without some uncertainties.
After reading some of the benefits of IF, I decided to give it a go.
By the way, here are some of the benefits;
- Increased insulin sensitivity and nutrient partitioning.
- Increased fat burning during the fasting period.
- Increased growth hormone output.
- Improved appetite control.
- Improved stability of blood glucose.
- Improved cardiovascular function.
- Reduced triglycerides and LDL
- Reduced blood pressure.
- Reduced inflammation.
- Reduced oxidative stress.
First of all, lets dig into IF for fat loss.
IF for Fat Loss
The IF method used for fat loss was the 16:8 fast (Lean Gains) founded and made popular by Martin Berkhan.
I started off after finishing a colossal bulk which got me from 76kg to 92kg during the last year and a bit of my undergraduate degree, needless to say I got pretty fat! And the obsession of getting massive was no more, probably because it was summer and my abs were nowhere to be seen, or maybe it was the fact that bodyweight exercises were near to impossible. But hey, t-shirts were tight around the arms, and I did put on a vast amount of muscle during the incredible bulk of 2010.
Swiftly moving on, during the IF protocol I focussed on:
- Eating my last meal of the day at 10pm.
- Eating my first meal of the day at 2pm (16 hours later).
- Training at 1pm in a fasted state.
- Eating my biggest meal of the day immediately after training.
And it was as simple as that, and guess what, it worked! And may I add, pretty bloody effectively too. During this time, I didn’t count calories or obsess about food choices. I basically followed those above rules, ate sensibly by cutting all shit out of my diet whilst training my ass off! And before you ask, not a single cardio session was done.
Bodyweight dropped from 92kg at approx. 20% bodyfat (just guessing as I didn’t get it measured at the time) to 72kg at approx. 6-7% bodyfat. Basically I went from being fat to being very lean all in 16 weeks (New years to beginning of summer). Apologies for the absence of smiles in the pics, I was probably in my fast, or had some kind of sugar crash from the high carbohydrate bulk. ‘Bulking not Sulking’ appeared to be a false statement!
Here’s what I learnt from IF:
- It’s very practical; I got to sleep for 30 mins longer in the morning due to not having to make breakfast. I could wake up straight away and start doing work, and to my surprise, my energy and focus was great.
- Was very easy to follow.
- Yes, I lost a lot of fat, and how effortless it was too (enter the hate).
- If I got hungry during my fast, I realised that I wasn’t actually hungry and manned it out. Hunger tends to come in peaks and troughs, so when hunger peaks, ride that wave until it alleviates. Therefore, I learnt the difference between physical hunger, and mental hunger.
- When I broke my fast, I ate like a crazed man, the portion sizes were not reduced at all for the first post training meal.
- I was amazed by how much fat I could lose, and potentially how much more I could lose if I wanted to become freakishly conditioned.
- Was also amazed by how much of a heroin addict I looked when I got that lean, the gaunt face just didn’t work, looking somewhat unhealthy wasn’t my goal.
- Training in a fasted state was really good. Yes I was initially sceptical that I would lose muscle mass (gainz bro) but turns out I managed to hold onto my muscle well (or so I think). Muscle protein degradation does occur at a higher rate when training in a fasted state when compared to a fed state. But in return, you get higher rates of muscle protein synthesis, thus increased anabolism to cope with such elevated rates of protein degradation seen during training. This has been found in the short term/acute studies, to my knowledge this hasn’t been tested in the long term. Anyway, I found no problem with fasted state weight training.
Like I said, do you need to do a form of IF to lose body fat? Definitely not, but it is a pretty cool way to do so as I also found it kept me really motivated throughout the 16 or so weeks. This was mainly due to my work day/week having a very good structure, i.e. Fast, Train, Eat, Repeat!
Apart from moaning from time to time when I’m hungry during the fast, not really many noticeable downfalls at all! The only thing I can see potentially becoming a conflicting issue with an IF protocol is if your work day doesn’t allow you to a) train around midday and b) if you really have troubles with hunger in the morning. But come on, your prolonging eating for another 5 or so hours, just get the job done!
IF has been shown to be an effective method for fat loss, so next up I tried it for muscle and weight gain using the same Lean Gains method to see if I could gain muscle whilst losing fat. Because that the goal right, build muscle and lose fat?
See you next time, Chris.
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