This week’s topic is on Intermittent Fasting (IF). It will continue to check off the list of topics submitted last week, this one is brought to you by Alex L. Alex is currently deployed, putting his life on the line so I have the safety and ability to write this and you can read it.
It goes without saying, but thank you for your service, Alex.
There have been thousands upon thousands of articles covering this topic so I am not going to try to reinvent the wheel here but rather I want to explain what IF is, how you can use it, common IF methods and who should or shouldn’t use IF.
I’ll break down IF in longer form below, but, if you’re a bullet point kind of person you can scroll down a bit and get the IF skinny from there.
Intermittent Fasting is simply having periods of the day where you don’t eat. We already fast for a certain amount of time every day when we sleep and then break the fast at breakfast. IF is touted for its ability to aid with weight loss and to help regulate/control some hormones. It can also be more convenient because rather than eating 5-6 meals throughout the day you have a certain window where you consume all your calories for the day. After all, having a set eating “window” could be the deterrent you need to avoid those late night calories or the second (or third) morning donut at the office.
Fasting is not new; it’s quite the opposite. Our ancestors during the period of hunting and gathering didn’t eat unless they hunted/grew what they were going to eat. If they didn’t do that, they didn’t eat that day. They didn’t fast for fun, but fasted because that was their only option. Religions from all over the world use fasting in one way or another to cleanse/purify their thoughts and minds or to draw them closer to God. In an article by Kris Gunnars from Authority Nutrition he mentions fasting when we are sick — that’s one I did not think of but makes sense when you read it.
While you are fasting you can drink any non caloric beverage you choose. Some could include (but are not limited to):
- sparkling water
- BCAA drink mixes
Intermittent fasting is also popular because it is not a diet and does not have strict nutritional guidelines. In fact, it is just how you structure your eating timeline. You have an eating window and a fasting window. It’s as simple as that.
What IF is:
- A meal timing plan that gives you timeframes to eat within each day
- A simple way to schedule your meals
- Something that has been used in some way or fashion for thousands of years
- Typically used now to promote fat loss and lean muscle mass
What IF is NOT:
- A “diet”plan
- A miracle tool
- Easy (in most cases)
Does that mean that you can eat like Dwight Goodman after he lost Globo Gym? Technically, yes. But — don’t do that. Just don’t.
Common Intermittent Fasting (IF) Methods:
The 16/8 Method- In this method you fast for 16 hours and your eating window to get your calories in 8 hours long. That means If you stopped eating at 8p the night before your next meal would come at 12p the following day.
From what I have read and experienced this seems to be the most popular and easy to adhere to IF method. Some may ask if skipping “breakfast” is bad — we seem to be taught that from a young age so it must be true, right? Check this out, though. When you eat your first meal of the day at 12p you are eating breakfast because you are — wait for it — breaking the fast. Mind blowing, I know.
*Note: You do not have to follow this exact schedule. As long as the fasting period is 16 hours and the feeding period is 8 then you are successfully following the 16/8 IF Method.
The 20/4 Method (otherwise known as the Warrior Diet)- This method was coined by Ori Hofmekler. The skinny on this method is that you fast 20 hours of the day then have a 4 hour feeding window to get your calories, which typically means eating one fairly huge meal and a few snacks to hit your daily calorie goal.
Ori explains why he calls it the “Warrior Diet” In this article/interview from T-Nation by TC Luoma, here is Ori’s shortened rationale of the warrior diets name,
“Ancient warriors, actually. What I’m talking about is a way of life where, basically, the main goal is to follow your instinct — not to go according to any authority or what people tell you to do, but to reach a very effective response through your instincts. I’m talking about hunger and satiety. No diet that I’m aware of today is really working on that. Most of them are designed according to some kind of a theme or a goal that’s based on control. Whether it’s counting the calories or the balance between the macro ingredients, from the Zone to Dan Duchaine’s ketogenic diet, just about every diet you can think of is about control.
This diet is based on the assumption that your body has the instinct, like any other instinct, to control itself and to manipulate it very well. The other big advantage of this diet is that it takes advantage of something that no other diet does — the empty stomach. Exciting things can happen when your brain barrier is open and you can manipulate your hormones.”
*Note: You do not have to follow this exact schedule. As long as the fasting period is 20 hours and the feeding period is 4 then you are successfully following the 20/4 (Warrior Diet) IF Method.
The Eat-Stop-Eat Method- With this method you will eat normally for 5-6 days/week and fast completely for 1-2 days/week. This method was popularized by fitness expert Brad Pilon. The goal with this method is to fast completely for 24 hours and on your “feeding” days you eat what you normally would within your calorie goal and not try to “make up” for the calories you aren’t getting on the fasting days. If you were fasting on Sunday you would Stop eating after dinner, say 7p on Saturday and not eat again until 7p on Sunday.
I have not tried this method, but I imagine that this would be the toughest of all that I discuss due to the sheer length of the fast. I imagine that a measly 24 hours would feel like months passing towards the end of the fast. I would recommend starting with the 16/8 Method then moving to the 20/4 (Warrior Diet) Method and finally the Eat-Stop-Eat Method just to work yourself into it. Going from a regular diet to a 24 hour fast, in my mind, could be similar to trying to quit smoking cold turkey or cutting out pop completely when you’ve been drinking a 12 pack a day for 10 years.
*Note: You would stop eating after dinner the day before your fast and not eat until that time on fast day. You do not have to use these days, you can choose whatever days suit you best.
These are 3 of the most popular IF methods out there. But, your options are not limited to these. Research IF methods if these don’t suit you and I am sure you’ll find one that fits your needs.
It should be noted that IF is not for everyone, but you knew that. With anything that is nutrition and exercise related some will perform and love one method while others may have no results or even negative ones. You’ll find reviews at every point along the “it sucks” — “it’s the gospel” continuum. The research on human subjects is thin at best, most of the research that is cited in articles/blogs use animals in their testing and not human subjects. While it is “research” I have a hard time putting full faith in something a rat had results with and not someone who has a similar schedule/lifestyle like I do.
The article by Kris Gunnars I referenced above put it pretty plainly who should NOT try intermittent fasting so I snagged a screenshot of their list:
What’s the verdict? Assuming you don’t fall into any of the categories listed above and don’t have any other health issues, the verdict is for you to experiment and try IF for yourself. It may work for you, it may not.
But, you won’t know until you try.