I have four core rules when it comes to how I approach my nutrition:
- I like easy & quick (no complicated or time consuming recipes, eating plans, etc).
- I like to focus on things I can stick with indefinitely (no gimmicks, or weird fad diets allowed)
- Must fit in with real life (I don’t want to feel restricted, or look like a weirdo in public)
- Must be healthy & safe (harming my short term or long term health in an effort to speed things up defeats the whole purpose of trying to be healthy).
“Intermittent fasting” seems to fit all four rules.
Intermittent fasting is something I first heard about last year, but something I quickly dismissed as just another weird fad thing that all the cool kids were doing.
But then fast forward to literally just yesterday and I’m doing some research for some new training I’m working on putting together. And I stumble upon “intermittent fasting” again but this time I decide to find out what it’s all about (with an open mind).
And this time…
I’m very, very intrigued, so much so…
That I’ve decided to be a human guinea pig and find out for myself if this intermittent fasting thing actually works and helps to burn away fat.
Before I get into that first, what is intermittent fasting?
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
My initial reaction to intermittent fasting (IF) is that people are starving themselves for days and days in an effort to burn fat. And starving yourself is stupid, not enjoyable, and not something that can be done long term.
Yes, most people use IF as a way to burn fat.
And yes, as the name implies, IF does involve fasting. But not in “starve yourself for days and days” kinda way. And from my research, it’s something you can stick with indefinitely (even if you’re just trying to maintain your weight, or even bulk up and add muscle).
Here’s how it works.
Basically, there’s multiple ways people intermittent fast, but one of the most common approaches is the 16:8 approach. This is where you fast for 16 hours, then eat during an 8 hour window. You then just do this daily or as needed to help burn fat.
During your fasting time you obviously don’t eat food, and you just drink water, and tea as you want it (plain green tea, or black tea with no sugar or extra stuff added).
During your 8 hour “eating window” you can simply eat how you’d normally eat. You eat when you’re hungry and ideally during that time you just stick with whatever calories/macros you need to to hit your current goals.
On top of that, you don’t have to eat 6 small meals throughout your eating window or anything like that. You can eat two really big meals if you want. Or you can spread it out. It doesn’t matter, but the ole’ 6 small meals a day rule is out the window and not required.
So following the 16:8 approach, your eating window could be from say 12pm to 8pm (you can shift your eating window to whenever you want; but I expect it’d definitely be easier to pick an 8 hour window and stick with it). Then obviously after 8pm or before 12pm you’re not eating. The benefit to doing it this way is that you’re sleeping for 6-8 hours of your fasting time which does count toward your fasting time.
Ok, so that’s the rundown of IF, now the obvious question is WHY do this?
What are the benefits to this?
What Are The Claimed Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting?
Burning away fat without “dieting.” This is obviously the biggest benefit. Without dieting and without making any other changes, IF can help you to burn away excess fat without losing muscle (assuming you’re getting enough protein during your eating window). I’ll explain how IF works in a moment.
It’s easy. There’s isn’t anything complicated about IF (especially with the 16:8 approach). You eat during your 8 hour window, then you don’t eat during your 16 hour fasting window. Easy peezy.
Requires less time and might save you money. With IF you’re actually getting more time. Because now there’s one less meal that you have to worry about. For me, I spend about 30 minutes to make and eat my breakfast. That’s 30 minutes that I’ll now have to spend with family, to work, or to do other stuff.
Might help prevent cancer. I’m definitely skeptical about this benefit, but IF advocates claim that it may be able to help prevent cancer (or at least lower your risk for cancer). This is one study they reference as proof.
I’m very skeptical of this cancer claim, but if intermittent fasting does in fact lower my risk for cancer…even just a tiny amount…that’s a win. If not, no big deal.
Might help you live longer. Again, I’m very skeptical of this benefit as well, but IF advocates also claim that it may help you live longer. Here’s two studies they reference to backup this claim: Study 1. Study 2.
Whether this claim is true or not, I just see it as icing on the cake if it is in fact true.
So how the heck does intermittent fasting help burn away fat?
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Instead of me trying to explain how intermittent fasting can help us to burn fat, here’s a great summary from James Clear:
To understand how intermittent fasting leads to fat loss we first need to understand the difference between the fed state and the fasted state.
Your body is in the fed state when it is digesting and absorbing food. Typically, the fed state starts when you begin eating and lasts for three to five hours as your body digests and absorbs the food you just ate. When you are in the fed state, it’s very hard for your body to burn fat because your insulin levels are high.
After that timespan, your body goes into what is known as the post–absorptive state, which is just a fancy way of saying that your body isn’t processing a meal. The post–absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, which is when you enter the fasted state. It is much easier for you body to burn fat in the fasted state because your insulin levels are low.
When you’re in the fasted state your body can burn fat that has been inaccessible during the fed state.
Because we don’t enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, it’s rare that our bodies are in this fat burning state. This is one of the reasons why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat, or how often they exercise. Fasting puts your body in a fat burning state that you rarely make it to during a normal eating schedule.
What Are The Downsides (The Hard Part) To Intermittent Fasting?
The big overall downside is just making the changes to only eat during an 8 hour window. But that’s also the good news, because all you have to change is your eating pattern.
If you decide to have your eating window be from 12pm to 8pm, then this means:
- No breakfast (but you can still eat breakfast food at noon if you’d like).
- You’ll likely feel hungry during your fasting time when you first start IF (because you’re body is used to your old eating pattern…but your body will adjust)
- If you like to party a lot late into the night, or eat dinner really late, then this would obviously be a change for you.
For me personally, no breakfast is a HUGE change.
Because I’ve eaten breakfast almost everyday of my life (for the most part). PLUS, it goes against everything we’ve been told as far as “breakfast being the most important meal of the day” and so forth.
But it’s all good. I’ll just eat my breakfast at noon! :-)
My Personal 21 Day Intermittent Fasting Experiment
Here’s how this is going to go down.
For the next 21 days I’m going to test out intermittent fasting for myself to see if it actually does help me to burn away fat.
Also, I want to see if this is something I can stick with long term, or if it’s something I can use as a tool when needed to just lean up, and get rid of any excess fat.
My eating window will be from 12pm to 8pm daily.
And TODAY, August 31st 2016 is my official first day. I stopped eating last night at 8pm, and this morning I’ve had nothing to eat besides water and 2 cups of green tea.
And yes, my stomach is growling right now :-) .
I’m not feeling extremely hungry, but just hungry. I can tell my body wants food. I’m obviously feeling that way though because my body is used to my old eating pattern, and it’s just going to take some time to adjust.
My starting body fat is: 11%
I also took all of my other body measurements (weight, waist size, chest size, etc) last night, and I took some pics so I can accurately track my progress and whether intermittent fasting works or not.
My eating pattern will pretty much stay the same as it is now. Right now I’m eating roughly 25% carbs, 40% fat, and 40% protein to help promote fat loss while maintaining my muscle. I usually eat three big meals a day with two small snacks, but during this experiment I’ll likely just eat two big meals, with maybe one snack if I feel hungry.
I’ll also of course just do my workouts like normal.
So that’s my intermittent fasting experiment.
Is this a waste time? Will this work?
I have no idea.
But we’ll find out so stay tuned!
Let me know if you have questions!