Think hanging out with friends and being on a diet are mutually exclusive? You obviously haven’t tried Intermittent Fasting (IF).
There’s no debating that eating and social situations go hand in hand. Food brings people together.
As we get older, hanging out with friends becomes more and more infrequent. Don’t be that guy that can’t hang out because “I’m on a diet”. Dieting is hard enough in and of itself, don’t deny yourself a life too.
I’m not advocating throwing caution to the wind and going H.A.M. every day. I’m just saying there is a better way to diet. A way I found out waaayyy too late.
Enter Intermittent Fasting.
In total disclosure, I didn’t hear about Intermittent Fasting until a few years ago and immediately dismissed it because “I need to eat 6-7 small meals a day or I’d lose my gainz.”
About the same time Cory Gregory came out with his Anabolic Fasting program – combining the Anabolic Diet with Intermittent Fasting. Ok, if Cory does it, color me interested.
But first, I had a question…
WHAT THE HELL IS IF?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) simply is having a timed window of eating and fasting. Have you ever slept through the whole night without eating? That is more or less IF on a micro scale.
IF, regardless of method, is fasting for a minimum of 16 hours and using the rest of the day to eat. The fasting is typically done overnight so a bulk of the fast is while you’re sleeping.
On the face of it, IF seems like hell. Not eating for 16 hours? Absolutely bananas.
I’ll admit it’s a paradigm shift, especially if you think like I do, but the immediate benefits far outweigh the short term mental hurdle.
BENEFITS OF IF
To fast for 16 hours there needs to be substantial benefits, IF has them in spades. I went ahead and organized them by awesomeness.
- Increase In HGH- Studies have shown that fasting can increase HGH by 5 fold! Needless to say, great for gainz.
- Increase In Testosterone– A decrease in leptin, which causes an uptick in testosterone. Also good for gainz and being a man.
- Fat Loss- An increase in growth hormone and testosterone followed by a decrease in insulin results in a “fat burning mode”. This allows for the body to readily use body fat for energy rather than carbs especially during fasting periods.
- Increase In Insulin Sensitivity- Increase sensitivity causes less insulin to be released when consuming carbohydrates. Insulin helps shuttle sugars in your blood to the cells, which if not used for energy, is converted to fat. For simplicity, less insulin equals less fat storage. If you have Type 2 Diabetes take note.
- Convenience- Worrying about two meals is a lot less stressful than 6-7 small meals. Plus, if you are going out to eat it’s a lot easier to find something to eat since you are allowed a higher calorie allotment per meal.
- Cellular Repair- During a fast the cells in your body go through a “waste cleanup”. Damage to the cells is fixed. Damage to the cells can cause different diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
- Increase In BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor)-BDNF is a hormone used in the brain to support existing neurons and promote growth of new neurons. So there is hope after killing off all those brain cells in your “experimentation” phase in high school and college.
I was sold after the reading about the boost in testosterone and growth hormone.
As we all know, getting older slows down some body processes that the younger bucks don’t have to think about. Two of the more important ones being the decrease in growth hormone and testosterone as we age. Testosterone production is at its peak in the teen early adult years and drops 1% a year after 30. So by the ripe age of 34, I’ve already dropped 4%. Fantastic!
Growth hormone peaks in your teens and decreases as you age. These two factors decrease muscle growth and increase body fat. IF can help optimize production as we age.
WHAT IS ALLOWED DURING THE FASTING PERIOD?
To get maximal benefits from IF, and why wouldn’t you, stick to water, tea, coffee and no calorie drinks. Believe me this helps tremendously. Filling up on water helps curb keep the hunger at bay.
I tend to drink a lot of water while fasting. A lot more than normal, upwards of a gallon in a few hours. I’m not saying that the hunger goes away completely, but it helps take the edge off.
I’ve also found success at curbing the hunger pains with sugar free gum. Sometimes the chewing motion is all you need.
A small note if you are going to drink diet drinks or chew gum, some artificial sweeteners will spike your insulin causing you to reduce the fasting benefits. One being acesulfame potassium (aka Acesulfame K or Ace K in the streets) which is found in Coke Zero.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE POPULAR METHODS OF IF?
Currently there are 3 big methods of IF. I am sure there are a lot more, but these were the big 3 I found repeated over and over.
- 16/8- Also called the Leangains [leangains link] protocol. 16 hours of fast followed by 8 hours of feeding. This is what I use.
- Eat-Stop-Eat- 24 hour fast twice a week.
- 5:2– 2 consecutive days eat 500-600 calories and eat normal the rest of the week.
My personal recommendation is the 16:8 protocol. Things pop up all the time and you don’t want to miss out on doing something because it’s your fasting day or you’ve consumed your 600 calories for the day.
Convenience is key here.
WHEN SHOULD I SCHEDULE MY FAST?
If you workout at night or not at all this is a no brainer. Skip breakfast and eat from noon to 8.
But if you train in the morning, like me, this is a tricky beast to tackle.
Do you eat from when you get up until 3pm-ish? But then you miss out on all the social occasions at night.
Do you start the feeding window at lunch time? But what about my gains I’m missing out on?
Like I said, tricky beast to tackle.
If you do decide to try IF, I recommend the time that would least inconvenience you. Don’t worry about the post workout meal or losing gainz. End of day protein and calories will be the determining factor in gaining or losing muscle.
I decided to go with a 12-8 feeding window. I can still take my wife out to dinner and let’s be honest, if I want breakfast food I can always have it for lunch or dinner.
CAN I WORKOUT WHILE FASTING?
We’ve all been told that you need to eat before a workout or fear a crappy workout. That’s all well and good for people working out at night but not us early risers.
Eating breakfast and working out a hour or so later, in my opinion, is pointless. The food you ate is not digested and therefore not giving you energy. The blood and energy required to digest food is redirected to the muscles you’re working.
By working out in a fasted state the body utilizes your fat stores and the food you ate the night before. So as long as you had a good meal the night before you’re aces.
Still uneasy about working out in a fasted state? Don’t want to lose your muscles? Supplement with BCAAs during your workout.
Working out elevates insulin levels to shuttle nutrients to the muscles. Combining this insulin spike with BCAAs will ensure you aren’t losing your gainz. Use at least 5g of BCAAs (3g of leucine, 1g each of isoleucine and valine) during a workout. BCAAs spike insulin so avoid them while not working out.
ARE THERE SPECIFIC FOODS?
IF is more of an eating technique than a diet. With IF there aren’t any special food list, just meal timing. You could combine IF with the diet you are currently on. Cory combined the Anabolic Diet and IF, I did carb cycling and IF. How you eat is less important than when you eat with IF.
That being said, eating healthy is still the end goal here. Pick a diet that seems to fit your lifestyle and combine it into an 8 hour feeding window.
WHO SHOULDN’T TRY IF
While IF seems like an amaze-balls way to eat, there are drawbacks for some people.
For the healthy or relatively healthy male feel free to dive in.
In doing research, there are a few groups that don’t respond well to IF. Not surprisingly Type 1 diabetics shouldn’t do IF. Low levels of insulin could be catastrophic. For people with Type 2 diabetes this might be a good conversation to bring up with your doctor. IF makes you more insulin sensitive.
What did surprise me is that most women don’t respond well to IF. Long bouts of fasting have been shown to interfere with a woman’s menstrual cycle often causing missed periods.
Needless to say, I am not a doctor nor do I pretend to be on the Internet. If you are thinking about trying IF, please consult your physician. Don’t be a hero, use your head.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Fasting for 16+ hours is a daunting task if you’ve never done it. Start slow.
All the benefits of IF happen after 12 hours, so start with a 12 hour fast and add more time once you get used to it. Go with the imperfect plan you can stick with rather than the perfect one you can’t.
I’ve been doing IF for about 6 weeks now and that’s just what I did. I wake up at 3am, hit the gym and my eating window went from 9-8. After I got used to skipping breakfast before the gym I pushed back my first meal to 10 and now it’s strictly 12-8, sometimes 12-7. While I didn’t go hardcore 16-8 right off the bat, I still saw benefits in my physique my way.
Could my results come faster going 16-8 right away? Probably but I would have been one miserable son-of-a-bitch. Convenience and adherence wins in my book.
This, in my opinion, is where IF shines.
Look at the calorie content of any restaurant menu and you’ll be hard pressed to find something under 500 calories. If you are on a 6-7 small meal a day plan it’s almost impossible to eat out without going way over your daily calorie allotment leading to more fat.
Taking myself as an example, being 190 I need to be eating 2400-2600 calories a day (BWx 13 or 14). If I was eating 6-7 small meals a day, each meal would need to be 370 calories at most. Good luck trying to find something for that little at a restaurant.
With IF, my same calorie allotment of 2600 calories spread out over just two meals jumps up to 1300. Now we are talking. I can enjoy social occasions and if I skimp a little on the first meal I have more to play with while out and about.
Regardless of what diet plan to go with, multiply your current weight by 14. Every time you lose 10 or more pounds redo the calculation. Spread out the total calories over 2-3 meals.
I like to keep it simple. The simpler it is, the easier my decision making process is. When I was starting off this is what most of my days looked like:
Gym (5 am):
1 scoop of XTend BCAAs
Breakfast (Between 9-10am)
1 cup of oatmeal
1 Chobani Greek Yogurt
12oz of chicken/turkey/ground beef
1 cup of rice
12 oz of chicken/turkey/ground beef
2 cups of veggies
1-2 oz of pistachios
This routine stayed for a good couple of weeks. Once I got to the 16 hour fast, my meal plan looked like this:
Gym (5 am):
1 scoop of XTend BCAAs
12 oz chicken/turkey/ground beef
1-2 cups of rice or a sweet potato
1-2 cups of veggies
1 Chobani Greek Yogurt
2 oz Mixed Nuts
12 oz chicken/turkey/ground beef
2 cups of veggies
1 cup of rice or a sweet potato
The weekends I’m a lot less disciplined than I’d like. Between house hunting, moving and just doing summer ish stuff, I find myself eating out for lunch and dinner. On the weekend I’ll limit it to just lunch and dinner to help mitigate some of the damage.
I’ve been on IF for about 6 weeks now and I’m fully immersed in it. I actually started right after I did a Facebook Live on the subject.
I started out at 200 pounds with no visible abs and I’m now down to 185-188 with a 4 pack all while eating 2-3 meals equating to 2600 calories a day.
My workouts haven’t suffered and I’ve actually gained some size on my upper chest despite not eating until noon.
I’d be lying if I said I’ve been 100% clean eating this entire time too. There’s been days I’ve eaten out for lunch and dinner all while still making progress.
For the first time in 15 years or so I feel like I can have a social life and not ruin all my progress.