Guys, I’ve written on this topic before – but I feel it bears repeating, so stay with me if you think you’ve heard what I have to say about the “silver bullet” of weight loss (yep, it exists) called Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent Fasting (shortened to IF for the duration of this post) simply means not eating during a specific period of time throughout the day, then “feeding” (eating) during a small window of time. The type of IF that I do is 8 hours on, 16 hours off, which means that I eat for 8 waking hours of each day, then do not eat again for 16 hours, save for coffee (legit) and beer (not so legit, but LAY OFF ME it’s my own body, ok?).
During those eight hours, I eat relatively clean (mostly salads, sandwiches, rice-and-veg dishes, or tuna on avocado) but not impeccably so – I have been known to throw down some pizza, burgers, or cookies on occasion (and by “occasion” I mean “at least once every week I totally eat these foods”).
In addition, and again by personal choice, I eat low-carb for one week out of each month (typically the last week) to maintain my ideal body composition (ratio of fat: muscle).
In doing this, and only this (though truth be told, I am a personal trainer and so by necessity spend many, many active hours in and out of the gym every day), I managed to lose 22 pounds (10KG) from last September to present. A lot of clients and friends have asked me how I did it, and I am being completely transparent when I say it was IF and not much else (my workout routine, sleep habits, and social life have all remained the same).
So why does IF work so well?
If you think about the “eating several small meals a day” thing, consider that the glycogen roller coaster – you eat food, your body uses the food for fuel, you eat food again, your body uses the food again. Sure, you are continuously eating and burning (assuming you are a perfect human being whose caloric intake and output are in exact balance, cough cough), but you are never actually attacking your body’s fat stores – and never training your body about how to convert fat to energy.
See, by continuing to feed the body over all of your waking hours, you are only training your body to produce more and more insulin – which can lead to increased abdominal fat storage (yuck), insulin resistance (uh oh) and eventually even diabetes (NOPE) and metabolic syndrome (worst of them all). By never giving your body a chance to actually mobilize and utilize fat (versus glucose) for energy, and so it never does, and this results in you thinking, “why am I eating these tiny tiny meals but NOT losing any weight?”
Luckily, by feeding yourself larger meals in a smaller period, you give the body a) the lovely and wonderful feeling of satiety (no more 250-calorie “mini meals”), b) tons of fuel-based energy during the feeding hours, and c) a metabolic kick in the ass by waiting until your body actually needs fuel to feed it. Not bad for something that takes little to no effort (other than, uh, watching the clock?), is completely free, and fits into a busy person’s lifestyle (and often makes healthy eating even easier, since you don’t really need to worry about that whole “breakfast” thing anymore) really well.
The last common question I get from clients is do I fast every single day – and the answer, dear readers, is yes. I find that it makes more sense for me to stick to IF as part of a lifestyle, much like sticking to a bedtime or an exercise program or flossing or any other healthy habit, rather than treating it like a fad or a temporary “quick fix.” I’ve been fasting fairly religiously (save one week traveling in Japan and a couple drunken late nights here and there) since January and I find that it is the easiest and most effective weight control strategy I have ever used or recommended – and you can quote me on that.
If you are looking for a ton more science behind why and how people fast, this article has it all laid out for you, and you can even download a free 5-page starter kit from James Clear here if you are confused about how to get started on IF.
Let me know if you’ve tried – or would try – IF, and how fasting worked for you!