Since I am a scientist by trade, I figured why not throw my life into total chaos and be my own guinea pig. My wife is not a fan of this. Especially when my diet changes every week or two making it impossible to do grocery shopping. Most of the time I switch midweek, which she loves.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on different diets and training techniques to help me get my 32 yr. old body to places I’ve never been before. I want to push the limits of what I can do naturally, without the use of steroids or other pharmaceutical enhancements. I don’t want to regret this later in life. I’d like to think of this as body optimization.
For those of you who don’t know me in real life, I’ve always been the “athletic one” in my group of friends. Now I don’t know if that says more about me or my friends lol. Either way, I was always able to run the fastest and jump the highest. I played basketball and football up until I was 30 when my back injury got the best of me. Now a year post surgery, I decided sitting idly by was not for me. I want to get back to where I was in my mid 20’s, if not better. As an added benefit in my quest for body optimization, I am also increasing my knowledge that I can then translate back to all of you. See we all win!
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 32, I’ve already dropped 2%. Fantastic!
Growth hormone peaks in your growing years and decreases as you age. These two factors decrease muscle growth and increase body fat. Isn’t getting old fun?
Increasing testosterone through exercise is easy. Lift heavy free weights to recruit more muscle. I wanted to know how to eat to increase these two hormones.
Enter Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting (IF) simply is having scheduled eating times and fasting times. Have you ever slept through the whole night without eating? That is more or less IF.
IF, regardless of method, is fasting for a minimum of 16 hours and using the rest of the day to re-feed. The fasting is typically done overnight so a bulk of the fast is while you’re sleeping. To be perfectly honest, this is the only way I could do it.
You might be asking yourself “What the hell does IF have to do with testosterone and growth hormone?”
Well I’m glad you asked. Here we go….
Benefits of IF
- Increase in HGH- studies have shown that HGH can increase by 5 fold!
- Increase in testosterone-a decrease in leptin, which causes an uptick in testosterone.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fat loss- An increase in growth hormone 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.
I was sold after the reading about the boost in testosterone and growth hormone. The rest are the sugar free icing on the protein cake.
So naturally I had some questions….
What is allowed during the fasting period?
Water, tea, coffee and no calorie drinks are allowed. 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.
Can I train while fasting?
I had this question at first because the thought of not eating before my workout scared the hell out of me. My first thoughts were that my workouts were going to suck and I was going to lose all my gainz. Turns out I was wrong. Dead wrong. My lifts actually increased and there was not effect to my endurance either. My lifts went up 10 lbs. compared to the previous week. By fasting, my body wasn’t looking for the energy from my recent meal; it was taking if from my body fat stores. Since my body was already in fat burning mode, I was already primed up to working out.
I would also recommend taking a BCAA supplement beforehand. This will help prevent your body from using muscle as a fuel source.
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 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.
When should I schedule my fast?
This was a tough one for me. Most protocols I found say to fast after dinner until lunch the next day. Well I work out in the morning and switching my workout to after my day job was out of the question. You can only push a man so far.
So what I do is stop eating at 3 p.m. the day before and eat after I leave the gym around 7-7:30 a.m. Call me old school but replenishing your muscles after a workout is high on my list of things to do. I never skip a post workout meal.
If you do decide to try IF, I recommend the time that would least inconvenience you.
For me that time is Sunday evening to Monday morning. Right now I’m only doing it once a week. I am awake far too long during the week and I can almost guarantee failure if I tried an all week experiment. Maybe I’ll try it one day but I haven’t yet.
For me, as a healthy 32 yr old male, I didn’t see any. My workout weight great. I had more time since I didn’t have to cook or eat and I was well hydrated. In doing research, there are a few groups that don’t respond well to IF. Not surprisingly diabetics shouldn’t do IF. Low levels of insulin could be catastrophic. 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 women’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.
I only use IF once a week on a Sunday to Monday morning. I’m still trying to gain weight so not eating for an extended period of time doesn’t really jive with that goal. I mainly use it if I had a rough weekend eating wise or after a large cheat meal. I used it after Thanksgiving and recently after a weekend out with the guys. For now, I use IF for damage control. Usually after eating like crap for a day I gain 2-3 lbs. of water weight that takes me until Thursday to shed. The lack of carbs and increase water intake helps me shed the water weight within a day. Plus the crap I just ate is used for energy instead of stored as fat.
It’s also not as hard as I thought it would be. I eat a big protein/fat meal before my fast starts and then eat after the gym. The time in-between I stay busy and drink a lot. I tend to have a large lunch on Sundays anyway so it’s not like I’m missing out on dinner plans when I stop eating at 3 p.m.
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