Intermittent Fasting (IF) is perhaps today’s hottest topic in the fat loss debate. Beyond weight loss and lean muscle maintenance the conversation extends to longevity and brain health benefits some say are gleaned from fasting.
In this post I’ll provide some key points about IF from research I shared last weekend with my email subscribers.
- What qualifies as IF?
- Criteria to determine if its detrimental to you
What is Intermittent Fasting?
It has different meanings to different people. From a simple overnight fast of 12 hours that we would all benefit from to not eating between meals (forgo the eat 6 times a day and every 2-3 hours mandate), to going days without anything but juice or water, there’s a wide range to choose from.
Lately, though the most popular forms getting attention are fasting for 16-18 hours at a time. For most that’s not eating until noon. Since going to bed hungry is counter to one of the objectives of IF, which is to increase Growth Hormone, skipping dinner is less appealing. Tossing and turning due to hunger will decrease the production of GH, the greatest of which is done during deep sleep phases.
That flies in the face of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. And really goes counter to studies suggesting starting the day with the highest ingestion of protein will enhance choices all day if not fat metabolism.
Is It Right For You?
Consider times you’ve gone without food for long periods. If you’re currently flirting with intermittent fasting (whether consciously or your dieting mentality has crept into your food control) ask the following:
- Do you feel weaker or have less endurance?
- Have you noticed the same workouts feel more difficult?
- Is your quality of sleep suffering?
- Do you feel any lack of concentration or focus?
- Do you feel more anxious, depressed, or lack memory?
- Are you noticeably distracted by hunger?
If you answer yes to any of those, then IF is probably not for you right now.
Women and Intermittent Fasting
If you’re a female with hormones fluctuating, or high levels of perceived stress (all that matters is how much stress you feel), then IF can potentially be simply another stressor increasing cortisol levels or potentially crashing them further if you’re in adrenal fatigue. That is, you’ve been under high levels of stress for a long time, with inadequate nutrition or other lifestyle habits to balance that with coping skills. Eventually, your body can’t pump out more cortisol. We need it in proper levels to manage life.
Knowingly adding a stressor for any reason, the key is to remove it temporarily elsewhere. Typically, with someone choosing IF, that’s not what happens. If you’re also choosing to try to maintain a high intensity training routine, juggle work and home life stressors? That’s a pretty one-sided scale that lacks balance.
Consider our Olympic athletes. They train as a job most of them. They live in athlete’s quarters in Rio, with athlete’s meals prepared for them. Their focus is 100% on the minutes or even seconds they’ll perform. They train their brains to shift from multitasking to eliminate stressors. Their best results come from the best focus. So it is with your body. If you combine dietary and exercise stressors with already present stressors, results may go in the opposite direction of what you’re hoping.
Sticking a Toe in the Water
There are ways you can apply some of the basis of IF that can boost your GH without the counter effect of cortisol chaos.
- Go a minimum of 12 hours overnight without food. Think dinner to breakfast.
- Delay breakfast a little longer if you’re not hungry. Make it 14 hours between meals.
- Minimize between-meal eating. Avoid frequent small meals during the day. Eat breakfast lunch and dinner with adequate protein without snacking between.
- Try an easier-to-digest breakfast like a smoothie. Bump to two meals a day that are more liquid in nature (soup or smoothie).
- Minimize eating immediately after exercise and limit to whey protein which consistently shows up as a muscle protein synthesis optimizer. Carbohydrate intake can be detrimental to GH production. *
- If you’ve over-indulged the night before, exercising at high intensity in a fasted state can stave off weight and fat gains.
- *This applies to you if you’re someone who exercises less than an hour a day, moderately. If you’re highly active and repeatedly need to recover from one bout of exercise to perform a second during the day or another workout tomorrow, you may need more fuel in the way of carbohydrates in order not to deplete your stores.
Remember, if your goal is to increase lean muscle and lose fat, you will want to track your body fat. Don’t watch the scale for evidence you’re making progress. It lies.
I’d love to hear from you. In what way have you tried intermittent fasting? Have you had a good experience?