Why Everyone Should Try Intermittent Fasting
It is hard to search for diet and meal plan tips around the internet without seeing intermittent fasting popping up everywhere. While it may seem like just the latest trend to some people, it’s here to stay, and I believe everyone should try intermittent fasting. I would even go as far as saying everyone (as long as they are healthy) should give a 24 hour fast a shot every now and then.
Most of us like to eat from sunrise until sun down, myself included. For a long time, it was such a habit for me to either grab a Clif bar and head to work, or pull into Tim Horton’s and grab a breakfast wrap and cookie with my black coffee. By sticking to a simple fasting schedule such as 16:8 (eating only during an 8 hour period, for example 12pm – 8pm), I am easily cutting out 300-600 calories per day on average, making it much easier to get and stay lean. When you are not used to it, it can seem difficult to completely cut out food for the first 4-5 hours of your work day, but I promise a few days into it the feeling will disappear and it will feel totally normal.
Now of course you can make up those 300-600 calories pretty easily during an 8 hour feeding window if you aren’t smart about it. I won’t say that intermittent fasting and eating only during an 8 hour window is the secret to a ripped six pack on its own, but it is certainly a good first step.
When you are constantly eating, even small meals every few hours as often recommended to athletes and dieters alike, your body diverts valuable resources away from other important functions in order to digest the onslaught of food you are constantly consuming. When you give your body a prolonged break from food, you achieve a few things.
For starters, intermittent fasting can boost testosterone. While the information found around the web is not entirely conclusive on the exact amount intermittent fasting can increase testosterone, the majority of information I have come across suggests it is a very powerful testosterone booster. For anyone looking to build muscle and/or lose fat, testosterone is your friend. Think of fasting as a natural steroid.
Putting your body in a fasted state also kicks your body into an important process called autophagy. Autophagy, the body’s method of cleaning out old cells, not only helps remove damaged and toxic cells, but also promotes the regeneration of healthy cells. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?
Fasting also has the ability to reduce inflammation in the body. While some inflammation is good, like the inflammatory response in our muscles following an intense workout, chronic inflammation is not. Chronic inflammation can lead to an array of a diseases and medical condition most of us would prefer to avoid. In addition to intermittent fasting, consider sticking to a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as the Mediterranean diet.
Common Concerns With Intermittent Fasting
“But I am bulking, I need to eat at all hours of the day to put on muscle!” No you don’t. If you follow an 8 hour feeding window, or even a 6 hour window, you have plenty of time to get all of the macros you need to build muscle. Plus, the ability to ramp up your testosterone levels will always have a much greater effect than a few extra grams of protein crammed in upon waking up. Also, keep in mind that fasting doesn’t necessarily mean weight loss. If weight loss isn’t your goal, then make sure to hit your desired calorie count during your feeding window.
“I won’t have any energy to workout!” Yes, you will. While I will say that intermittent fasting did make me grumpy initially, you get used to it pretty fast. You need to break through the mental wall of the “I need food right away”. You don’t. There are actually resources indicating that you should train in a fasted state for weight loss. I wouldn’t suggest starting an intermittent fasting schedule tomorrow, and breaking your fast with a 2 hour bike ride on day 1, but once you get used to it, you will realize your body has more stored energy than you realized, and you are quite capable of tapping into that stored energy when in a fasted state. I actually trained in a fasted state for quite some time when training for my first one-arm chin up, as I was trying to increase strength while cutting body weight at the same time.
“I’ll lose my hard earned muscle if I am not eating”. Again, no you won’t. It takes more than a few hours away from the refrigerator before you kick your body into a catabolic state. Many athletes and weightlifters practice intermittent fasting and will disprove the “I need to eat all day long” theory.
How long should I fast?
This question depends on a few factors. One, are you doing this simply to help calorie restrict and lose weight? Then sticking to the standard, highly popular 16:8 fasting protocol will probably work just fine. Are you looking for a high testosterone surge for muscle building, or looking to kick start autophagy? Then consider throwing in a 24 hour fast once per week to give you a good shot at achieving both. My current protocol is the 16:8 fasting schedule, with a 24 hour fast thrown in every week or two as I try to trim down for my current vertical jump challenge.
I believe every healthy individual should consider a 24 hour fast every once in a while. For starters, your ability to get a handle on food and control what and when you eat will go a long way in staying healthy and lean. You need to be able to handle cravings and not give in. Secondly, you are giving your body a total reset and providing your digestive tract with a much deserved break. Because let’s face it, most of us don’t have a picture perfect diet.
And there you have it – my two cents on fasting. Give it a shot and see if intermittent fasting is right for you and your lifestyle. As always, feel free to comment below or share your thoughts on my Instagram or Twitter.