Short fasts can accelerate fat loss and make you healthier. But should you do them? Should your clients? If so, how?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is the name some people give to the practice of occasionally going for extended periods without eating.
Of course, fasting is nothing new. Humans have fasted for most of their history, whether it’s during the typical overnight period, during more extended periods of food scarcity, or for religious reasons.
What is new is the clinical research. Data show that IF, when done properly, might help extend life, regulate blood glucose, control blood lipids, manage body weight, gain (or maintain) lean mass, and more.
Rather than something we’re forced to endure – whether because of food shortage or cultural expectations – IF is becoming something that health and physique-oriented people are seeking out in order to keep their bodies in top shape.
That’s why, in this video series, we’ll teach you all about the hottest trend in the nutrition field. What it’s all about. Who it’s for. And, most importantly, whether you (or your clients) should give it a try.
This video is about 10 minutes long.
In part 3 of this video series, we shared some of the benefits of intermittent fasting, talked about the research, and discussed some of the most popular fasting programs out there.
Today, we’ll discuss my experiments with fasting.
That’s nice, but I’ll never try fasting
Before that, though, I know that some of you are thinking: “Well, this is great and all. But I’d never try any of this stupid fasting stuff.”
Yet you already fast. Every day.
Think about it: The time from your last meal at night until your first meal of the next day is an extended fast. That’s usually about 12 hours.
So, is something like a 16/8 fast all that different from what you’re doing now? In essence it’s just skipping one meal. Your first one (breakfast) or your last one (dinner).
To better illustrate this, I made a graphs. (I like graphs.)
If you’re eating 2,500 kcal over 4 meals, this is what your schedule might look like.
(Notice the meal/calorie spikes at 8am, noon, 4pm, and 8pm).
By way of comparison, here’s what a 16/8 meal schedule might look like for the same amount of calories.
(Notice the meal/calorie spikes at 2pm and 10pm with a smaller snack at 6pm).
And here’s what a 20/4 meal schedule might look like for the same amount of calories.
(Notice the meal/calorie spikes at 6pm and 10pm).
The only differences between these approaches are:
- how big each meal is
- when you eat
- how frequently you eat
Now you can talk about it
If you’ve been following along with this video series you’ll know that I started with a one day fast, spent a lot of time with fasting researchers and reviewing the literature, and learned all I could about the most popular approaches to intermittent fasting.
After all that, I was feeling pretty expert on the topic. Until I came across a great story from strength and track coach Dan John.
Apparently Dan had tried a fairly extreme/restrictive diet to drop 30 pounds. After completing the diet, he heard from fat loss expert Alwyn Cosgrove. Alwyn told him:
“Hey, now that you’ve tried the diet, you can actually talk about it.”
That really struck a chord with me.
With nutrition and exercise interventions, experience is king. Sure, you could read about things, research, investigate, experiment. Create an awesome theory, even.
But, if you haven’t tried something yourself, you should probably keep quiet until you do.
Inspired by this philosophy, I decided to test drive a few of these fasting protocols. I figured I owed that to myself and to those coming to me for advice.
So I committed to at least 6 months of intermittent fasting.
Before sharing my plan, I should mention two things.
First, I’m a professional dieter. In other words, I’ve done nearly every diet or nutritional protocol that’s around to test its efficacy.
I enjoy the process. And, as a trained scientist, I’m pretty good at testing (and measuring) things objectively.
Second, I adopted some new goals.
I’m a life-long fitness enthusiast. However, wanting a new challenge, I decided to train for and compete in masters level track and field. I wanted to drop some body weight and fat while preserving my strength and power.
All told, here were my goals:
- Put intermittent fasting to the test
- Try something new and different
- Lose 20 lbs of body weight
- Lose mostly body fat; retain lean mass
- Support my intense strength and power training
- Feel good while “dieting”
- Stay healthy through the process.
Over the course of the 6 month experiment, here’s what I tried:
- Month 1 – Full day fast every Sunday
- Month 2 – Full day fast every Sunday
- Month 3 – Full day fast every Wednesday and Sunday
- Month 4 – Daily fasting (16h fasting / 8h eating)
- Month 5 – Daily fasting (16/8) with 1 full day fast on Sunday
- Month 6 – Daily fasting (16/8) with longer weekend fasts (20/4)
Well, here’s what happened with my body weight:
- Month 1 and 2 – Lost 12 pounds (from 190lbs to 178 lbs)
- Month 3 – Lost 7 pounds (from 178lbs to 171lbs)
- Month 4 – Gained 4 pounds (from 171lbs to 175lbs)
- Month 5 – Lost 4 pounds (from 175lbs to 171lbs)
- Month 6 – Gained 2 pounds (from 171lbs to 173lbs)
During this time I lost a lot of body fat, as you can see in these photos below.
Yes, I know, the lighting is different since I did a professional photo shoot to celebrate the end of the experiment. However, the changes in body composition should be obvious.
So, in the end, I lost about 20 pounds, got extremely lean, had success in my track races, and reached all of my goals.
Of course, this is a brief overview of the process. If you’d like to learn more, check out our free online book: Experiments with Intermittent Fasting.
We outline every menu and workout I followed for the 6 months. We also include journal entries, blood chemistry results, and much more.
Wrap-up and today’s takeaways
That’s it for part 4 of Intermittent Fasting: Science or Fiction?
For now, here are some key points.
- Even the most frequent eater practices fasting — when they sleep.
- Most fasting protocols are just an extension of the overnight fast.
- Intrigued by my fasting research, I committed to 6 months of fasting.
- My experiments were successful and I accomplished most of my goals.
- For some interesting muscle gain experiments, and a wrap up, check out part 5.
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