I’ve been fielding Intermittent Fasting (IF) questions for several months, but I’ve been hesitant to write a full blog about it cuz I know it’s just going to stir up a hornet’s nest. Many people won’t even know what I’m talking about. Some will know, but not really care. And those who disagree with my take on IF are gonna go bonkers when they read this. That’s why I’ve put it off. But hey, we are all here to learn from each other so here we go ….
IF is like CrossFit, Veganism, or the Paleo diet – those who do it run the risk of becoming very antagonistic against any opposing view. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing CrossFit or being vegan or eating Paleo or Intermittent Fasting, but it gets a little annoying when you act like everyone else is an idiot.
And I don’t want the IF debate (which I know is coming as soon as I post this blog) to distract all of our teamRIPPED faithful who haven’t even heard of it and are perfectly happy to keep their nutrition dialed in, track what they eat, and get to their fitness goals in a way that is sustainable for life.
IF has gained popularity lately because of a variety of factors. A handful of bodybuilder-types do it. Then again, you can find a handful of bodybuilder-type people doing just about every diet known to man. Just because you know a couple ripped guys who do XYZ doesn’t mean that if you do XYZ you will get ripped.
The Hodge Twins are doing it. They are a couple guys with lots of time on their hands and a highly popular YouTube channel in which they drop lots of F bombs, goof around, talk about sex, and give ALLL KINNDDDZZZZZ of anecdotal opinions on a variety of fitness topics. They have quite a following though.Since I don’t like talking about something I’ve never done, and since I want any review I do for you to be of value to your own decision making process, I actually did Intermittent Fasting, by the book, 100%, for roughly a month. I’ll tell you more about my results below.
There are various forms of IF. One option is to simply eat normally 6 days a week, and then completely fast for one day. This approach to IF is simply to enable a person to run a weekly calorie deficit without having to change their diet on a daily basis — you completely starve 1 day so that the other 6 days you can eat “normally” (keep eating fast food, junk, etc) and still be at a deficit overall for the week. I’ll assume none of us think that’s a good idea (cuz it’s clearly not).
The more pertinent form of IF for our discussion is the idea of a smaller eating window. Instead of eating from morning until evening (for most of us that’s an eating window of 12 hours or so), with IF you shorten the eating window to 8 hours (sometimes less). You fast for 16 hours per day, and only eat during a set 8 hour window (vs. typical eating which would be a 12 hour fasting period and a 12 hour fed state). If you are doing the quick math on an 8 hour eating window, that means you CAN’T have both breakfast and dinner (they are more than 8 hours apart). You either get to do breakfast, snacks, and lunch; or you get to do lunch, snacks, and dinner.
If you want to learn all about the 16/8 form of IF, I’d say the best source is Leangains (www.leangains.com). I’ve personally read every document and download on the Leangains approach, and it’s how I did IF when I did it as a 3 week experiment.
The Leangains materials talk a lot about why they advocate it. They claim that when fasted, your body will oxidize fat better. They claim that you will have more growth hormone in the fasted state so by having a longer fasted state each day you will increase your growth hormone. They also advocate working out (especially the cardio) while fasted, and then “breaking your fast” with a large post workout meal.
However, the Leangains claims are mostly anecdotal and there is just as much evidence to the contrary. In other words, it sounds compelling in theory, but what will it do for your practically? There is a bounty of research showing that protein is necessary for protein synthesis (muscle building), and that in a fasted state it is impossible to build muscle (protein synthesis). Will the longer fasted state of IF help you burn fat, or will it hurt your muscle building? It’s hard to say unless you try it yourself long enough to evaluate your own response to it.
Like I said, I did IF for nearly a month. My goal was to maintain my weight while seeing the effect of IF on my muscle mass and body fat. After a month of eating the same foods (quantity and quality) as I always do during my maintenance diet, but in a shorter window of time (7-8 hour eating window per day), my results were as follows =
Starting weight and finishing weight = 220
Starting body fat and finishing body fat = 7%
So a month of IF did not change my body composition one iota. Why do some people find that IF actually does lead to changes? Could it be that the smaller window of eating time simply gives them less time to cheat on their diet? Do they actually consume less total calories since they can only eat during an 8 hour window? I don’t know for sure. But I can at least say for me that whether I eat during an 8 hour window or a 12 hour window, my body composition remains unchanged on my maintenance diet of 3000 cals with a 30%P, 50%C, 20%F macro breakdown.
Furthermore, I really HATED the way I felt during my IF experiment. I was completely miserable from the time I finished my workout at 6:30 am until noon, when I could FINALLY consume the first calories of the day. Talk about HUNGRY! Holy cow. Going nearly 6 hours post workout with no food at all really sucks! LOL. And my schedule isn’t such that I can simply wait and workout at 11am (that would be most ideal to coincide with an eating window of noon to 8pm). I’m at work and can’t exercise at that time of day. Sure the alternative would be to break my fast at breakfast, but then I’d be done eating for the day at 2pm. If you are single and don’t have to plan around anyone else, maybe that would work, but our family dinner time is important to us and I’m not going to sit there and “fast” every night while my family eats a good, healthy dinner.
So practically, for my lifestyle and goals, IF is something I never plan on doing again. But that’s just my opinion. Maybe it will work for you.
What are some things you really need to consider before deciding if IF is the nutrition plan for you =
1 – Does the 8 hour eating window fit your lifestyle?
Like I said above, is it practical for you to fast the first half of your day, or the last half of your day? Do you have “must eat” times like family dinner?
2 — Can your schedule accommodate your workout and “breaking the fast” meal at the necessary time of day?
IF advocates to “break your fast” with a large post workout meal. Is your schedule open enough to do your workout immediately before your eating window? Like I said above, mine is not, so I was forced to workout early and then continue to fast all morning until noon. Not cool! And no, sipping BCAA’s didn’t help the hunger pangs LOL!
3 – Are you the type of person who will use “breaking the fast” as a cop out for cheat meals?
I’m not here to judge anyone’s motives, but I worry that a lot of people turn to IF because they aren’t disciplined enough to stick to a regular dialed in nutrition plan. They see this as an opportunity to simply starve themselves for half a day, and then “go for it” and eat whatever they want during their eating window. They turn their “fast breaking” meal into an obsession, and break their fast with what amounts to a complete garbage cheat meal. (ex: “I can’t wait to break my fast with this large peperonni pizza, ice cream, and beer. Alllll Kinddzzzz of Gainzzzz ….”).
4 — Will you see better results with IF?
When I see IF-ers with good results, like the guy who started Leangains, I have to ask myself how the 8 hour eating window affected his results. Did he get ripped over a 6 month period? Absolutely. Was he completely 100% strict with his nutrition? Yes he was. But would he have gotten just as good of results with 6 months of dialed in nutrition on a 12 hour eating window? I bet he would. Are the results you see due to the 8 hour eating window or are they due to the committed, dialed in nutrition plan?
In conclusion, I’ve done IF and I think it’s an “okay” approach to eating if it’s what you prefer. There are positives and negatives. I found the negatives outweighed the positives for my lifestyle, my schedule, and the fact that I don’t like to feel like I’m starving for the first 6 hours of my day every day!
However, I also have friends who have had success with IF for breaking out of a plateau. These friends also tracked their nutrition, made sure they hit all their macros and calorie totals as planned, and didn’t cheat on their diet. Their “fast breaking” meals were still things like grilled chicken and veggies (not pizza and beer). And their discipline paid off as they saw a few pounds or inches melt off over the course of a few months.
If you’ve been on a fat shredder diet and haven’t seen any changes lately, and are looking for a way to jolt your system and break a plateau, then an IF diet might be worth a shot.
But don’t be misled into thinking that if you simply shorten your eating window to 8 hours that your body will magically burn off all fat, build tons of lean muscle, and you’ll feel amazing.
There is still no substitution for tracking what you eat and hitting the right amount of protein, carbs, fat, and calories each and every day to reach your overall fitness goals. How many hours you fit those calories into doesn’t really make that big a difference – 6, 8, or 12. Do what fits your lifestyle. But put in the effort to track what you eat – there is no easy way out of that! Sorry!
I hope you found my review of Intermittent Fasting to be helpful and objective.
Keep bringing it!
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