A new trend has seemed to strongly emerge in the Fitness and Health scene. Along with the popularity of Low Carb/Ketosis Diets, we have seen Intermittent Fasting take a strong presence as the diet of choice by many people trying to lean out and look their best. A lot of people are following this type of eating/diet whatever you'd like personally call it. And many are having a lot of success using it and flossing their results of not eating for long periods of time on Social Media.
If you're new to the Intermittent Fasting concept, let me explain to real quick the basics of it. Most people follow it daily by usually fasting for 16 hours and eating between a window of 8 hours during the day. So you basically wake up, skip breakfast, and only eat between 12-8 p.m. or say 2-10 p.m. Some even like to push the window further by going to 18-20 hour fasts which in the Intermittent Fasting crowd is pretty hardcore. There are other protocols for fasting but this seems to be the most popular one that most tend to follow.
This is the part where I'll tell you, yes it works to help you lean out and look your best, especially if you're coming off of a bad diet. It's a plan that's pretty easy to comply to if you're not someone who will go crazy without food for a few hours. It sets up a guideline to eat only during a certain period which allows to only be able to eat only so much per day. In the end, it does what every diet plans does, it restricts your daily/weekly calorie intake. Therefor you lose weight. Sounds pretty good right???
You will only have to sacrifice a few hours of not feeding yourself to allow for a couple big meals in a small window. Most proclaim that it makes life simpler because you don't have to worry about breakfast, prepping as many meals, and a lot of people claim that when they're fasting, that they can even think clearer and have more energy, even during their workouts!
This all sounds good so far...I myself have even tried IF (Intermittent Fasting) a few times over the course of almost 10 years now. Yes, fasting has been around before 2017. In fact, a lot of cultures have practiced or have been forced to fast since the beginning of time. It's just become popular again in the mainstream over the past couple years. Anyways, yes I have dabbled with this, because I love food. It's a borderline hobby for me. So I wanted to experience what happens when you follow a fasting protocol. And for myself personally, I have never been able to do IF for more than 2 months at a time. At first it was easy, convenient, I could lean out pretty quick, but as soon I saw the pitfalls come on I'd always abort the mission each time I would try it out. I would try to give it another shot and make small adjustments, but it would always lead me to regretting starting it given what I do know about nutrition and the human body.
Let's talk about some of its drawbacks that I experienced while doing IF. I myself would get really weird cravings after fasting for only a couple weeks. That's not healthy behavior and I'm pretty sure that's your body screaming for certain nutrients...I would lose weight initially, but it wasn't magic and it would be hard to keep dropping the pounds after that first 5-10lbs came off to allow me to get really lean. I did feel mentally clear once I got used to not eating breakfast, but when I went back to eating a good breakfast, it wasn't even close to how good I'd feel with good food in me! My performance in the gym suffered. If you're fasting and claim that your workouts are more productive, you probably need to consider stepping up your training (but that's just the Coach coming out in me right now). And the worst part, over time when I'd be in my feasting period or after I'd stop doing IF, I would feel bloated from everything I ate. It was like my body was trying to hang onto this food that I was putting back into my body.
So now what? What do I really recommend with this whole Intermittent Fasting thing going on? Do I think it really works? Yes, I said earlier I do and I can see why people have success and get all pumped on it. But we really need to look further down the road with this stuff. Let me explain...
What if we reversed our thought process of food and looked through the lens of eating more, not less?! Whoa...I know crazy right?! Sorry if I offended you by telling you that we should be eating more...
We're conditioned to think that we eat too much. And yes we do, we eat too much stuff that we shouldn't be eating. But in general, we're not eating enough of the good quality whole foods that we should be consuming that our bodies want and need. So we get conditioning to thinking that things like Milk and Sweet Potato's are terrible for us and that's what's making us fat. Not, our binging behaviors that like to feed us only our self guilt (see what I did there?)...READ THIS real quick if you're in your feelings right now...
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So let's create a simple example so you can wrap your head around why eating more, could really benefit you for a long term approach that creates way more freedom than not eating LOL...Ok, say you're eating 2000 calories a day. That's what your body is used to eating to maintain itself and survive. And you would like to see your abs pop out a little bit more so you see your friends talking about IF and how awesome it is. You decide to give it a shot. You do it for a few months, lose some weight, but now your body is used to only needing to maintain off of 1500 calories a day now because you have reduced daily calories. It has adapted to this new level of food that you consume. Now when you have a day when you over consume 1500 calories, say like your previous 2000 calorie day that you used to eat, your body will want to store it as fat because it's now considered "extra." And when you're ready to cut again because you want even more ab definition, you'd have to eat even less than 1500 calories to make another cut. This isn't looking good is it?
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Same person, different example. Say this person decided to slowly increase their food consumption up to 2500 calories a day. You do this slowly so that you do not add extra weight that you don't want. But you allow you body to get used to to the extra food and now your new maintenance is 2500 calories. Now when you sit down at Thanksgiving Dinner, your 2500 calorie body is already used to consuming larger amounts of calories and it will not seem like that big of an amount when compared to your 1500 calorie body. And if you want to do a cut, you don't have to keep dipping down to scary low daily caloric consumption's. I'd rather be able to cut at 2,000 calories a day compared to 1,000 calories a day. We get to create more freedom and wiggle room when we can handle larger amounts of food...Be happy and get excited about that :)
So What Do I Recommend?
In my current thoughts of this whole Diet/Nutrition thing, I think IF works really well at putting you in a caloric deficit to drop weight. The problem I see is that people use it as a lifestyle and not as a tool. If you're heavily overweight and you feel you need to use it as a tool for a couple months to cut out all of the junk calories that you've been consuming, that might not be a bad idea, but have a plan to come out of it to a good healthy meal plan after it has fun its course and progress has settled. For the sake of this Lifestyle Blog, I want to encourage you to allow to feed your body good nutrients of what your body really needs to operate on. Train yourself to become this "Metabolic Machine!" Follow the basic Nutrition Principles and be able to drive up the number of calories your body can stabilize itself on. Use that as a challenge to see how much you can eat and still be or get lean, not how little you can consume in a day. When you need to do a cut in the future, do I think you can still use IF as a tool to do so? Absolutely, I think it could work to your advantage of using it on your off days from the gym to create a calorie deficit that you need for the week, or help you out in moments of work dinners and celebrations. But I do think that if you choose the route of IF as a lifestyle diet, you're leaving a lot health and freedom on the table for yourself that you're missing out on!
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Physical Prep Coach & Owner of Joel Younkins Training.