Stepping on the scale first thing in the morning can be one of the most frustrating ways to start off the day! Trust me, I am cursing at my scale at least 2 times a week. You bust your butt in the gym and your nutrition is spot on, but the numbers stay the same. A month ago, I came to realize that I had hit a plateau with my weight loss and body fat, nothing was changing! Instead of sticking to the usual 5-6 times a day of eating, I researched some ways that I could change up my diet and confuse my body completely. If you have not heard of intermittent fasting, this has become a popular topic in fitness.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
When people think about fasting, most of the time you will hear them say it is a diet. In my opinion, it is not a diet. Think of it as changing your pattern of eating, you are ultimately making a decision to skip a meal or two. One of the more common types of intermittent fasting is called Leangains fasting. How this works is you set an 8 hour feeding period that may consist of 3-4 meals in that time frame followed by a 16 hour period of no food. During this 16 hour period, you should drink plenty of water (this can satisfy some hunger that you may have in the beginning). You do not have to drink just water, you can also have coffee, tea or anything that is very low in calories.
I have tried a lot of different ways to improve my weight and body fat with just about every nutrition plan. What is great about intermittent fasting is that it is not considered a diet. You do not have to worry too much about eating like a princess, but this does not mean you go hog wild on whatever we want. You still are going to eat your micronutrients (proteins, carbs and fats). Every 2.5-3 hours it is meal time! What is great is that I am dropping body fat and building muscle at the same time.
What are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
With the research growing on this topic, the research has shown that there are positive benefits of intermittent fasting. If you are looking to drop body fat, your insulin levels drop noticeably this will provide fat burning. For those people who say that you will lose muscle when doing this, studies have shown your human growth hormones increase, which will not only help weight loss and burn fat but it will help boost muscle gain. Enhances in the hormones will facilitate weight loss. A study showed that short-term fasting actually increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories (Mansell 1990). Weight loss is quite simple, your goal is to burn more calories than you put in your body. What is crazy about this that a recent study showed that intermittent fasting can cause a 3-8% drop in body fat within 3-24 weeks (Barnosky 2014). Depending on your body fat percentage, if you are on the higher side, you may see faster results than someone who is on the lower side.
I was a little skeptical about it, because 16 hours is a long time to not eat and I was afraid of my body eating my muscles in order to get energy. This is where you need to have your micronutrients in check so your body will use those and your body fat for energy. Since I have been doing this, my energy levels have been so much better (do not need my typical 3 huge cups of ice coffees to function or workout).
3 Things I Have Learned About Intermittent Fasting for Body Fat and Weight Loss:
It Does Not Have to be a Mental Game:
I will be the 1st to say that I used to be a big believer in you have to eat 5-6 meals a day in order to satisfy your body. That is why I was skeptical about trying this plan out. I bet you are probably thinking “how am I going to function without food for 16 hours” or “I am going to lose muscle if I do this”. Let me tell you that if you feed yourself appropriately, you will not only feel like you have more energy but you can also put on muscle and be stronger at the same time. One of my favorite quotes is “you need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Intermittent fasting is going to be a lot different than anything that you have ever done and your mind may play tricks on you. Make a change and stick to the plan!
Keep Yourself Busy
One of the best ways to keep your mind off of food is keeping yourself busy. There is nothing that can kill a plan more than being bored at home surrounded by food. If you are like me, I can never have a bite of something, I will eat the whole thing. When I plan my fasting period, I try to plan it around my busiest time of the day which is the morning. My fast begins as soon as the night shift starts and it goes throughout the time I sleep and until my last session in the morning. Create a plan that is designed around your busiest time of day and you will be fine!
Avoid Lifting Weights During Your Fast
If you did not know, food gives you energy. Food also helps build muscle, pretty obvious right? When you design your feeding period, your weight training should fall in between that 8 hour period. If it is your cardio day, you can do it during your fasting time but it may be wise to do low intensity cardio.
Intermittent fasting is not this new miracle plan that will magically help you. In my opinion, you need to be 100% committed to sticking to the plan. You may be thinking to yourself, how am I going to be able to go 16 hours of no eating. Think of it this way, if you plan your fast after 4 to 6 P.M., you will be sleeping either 6 or 8 hours. If you do it right, you should not be hungry during the majority of the time. This means that during this 8 hour period, feed you appropriately. Start out slow in the beginning, try 1 to 2 days of this for a week or so and then increase the days if needed.
- Mansell PI, Fellows IW, Macdonald IA. Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans. Am J Physiol. 1990 Jan;258(1 Pt 2):R87-93.
- Barnosky, Adrienne R. et al. Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translational Research , Volume 164 , Issue 4 , 302 – 311
Written by Chris Barber, CPT