Should you still do intermittent fasting?
A lot of new data have emerged over the years about the efficacy of intermittent fasting aka time restricted eating.
Today, I’m gonna show you the pro’s and con’s of intermittent fasting. We’re gonna look at both sides and what’s changed, and then I’m gonna make a recommendation at the end that might be a little unconventional. So make sure to stick around for that.
Should You Still Do Intermittent Fasting?
The benefits of intermittent fasting
1. It’s stupid simple
You don’t have to track your macros. You don’t need to weigh and measure every gram you’re about to eat. Although it does help at the beginning just so you have some baseline numbers.
You don’t need to take a pill or buy overpriced supplements. Most of which are a waste of money anyway.
None of those things.
In fact, it’s the complete opposite. You do nothing. You just don’t eat.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, determining factor when it comes to your weight loss success is adherence. Can you stick to whatever you’re doing forever?
If your diet starts to take over your life because you have to carry around little Tupperwares to eat your 5 to 6 meals. That sounds extremely inconvenient.
Or maybe it’s on the extreme side where it requires you to completely demonize certain foods like carbs, or thinking all plants are bad, and the opposite side of that is believing that eating meat is bad. It might not be sustainable long term.
Food has almost become a religion for some people. We now live in a society where food is now offensive. Strange times.
Or maybe your diet requires you to follow complicated recipes or strict meal plans. Who’s got time for that?
This isn’t about dissecting which diet is the best. You should check out my other videos about that topic. What I’m trying to say is what could be more simpler than not doing anything? If you just skip a meal instead?
There’s no prepping, cooking, or clean up afterwards. You don’t need to delete certain food groups. It’s simple. Simple is good. Which means you’re more likely to stick to it long term.
2. It’s stupid simple…and it works.
I try to mention this concept as much as I can when I talk about intermittent fasting because this is key.
You have at least 100,000 calories worth of stored energy in the form of body fat waiting to be used. That’s what it’s there for. It’s not just there for looks.
Even lean people have around 40,000 calories worth of body fat.
When you fast, and the minimum effective dose here is 16 hours. Your body, being the super computer that it is, will tap into your fat stores and burn it for energy so you don’t die.
You can kinda expedite that process if you train in a fasted state to deplete your glycogen stores even faster.
But that fat burning switch is controlled by the hormone insulin. That’s why a lot of experts consider insulin the master hormone. It’s the hormone that controls your body weight.
You need to keep your insulin response pulsatile if you want any chance of losing fat.
We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic
The problem is, we’ve completely gone away from that. For example, 3 out of 4 American adults are in the overweight or obese category.
88% of those, so that’s almost 9 out of 10, have some form of metabolic dysfunction. Part of metabolic dysfunction is insulin resistance due to poor dietary and lifestyle choices.
By 2030, the US is now on pace to have a 50% obesity rate.
That’s when you can intermittent fasting as an unbelievably powerful tool to combat metabolic syndrome. One of its benefits, and there is a laundry list of it, is that it improves insulin sensitivity.
All you need to know is that every time you eat, insulin goes up. Again, it’s a storing hormone.
When insulin is high, you cannot access your body fat and burn it for energy. You just can’t. It gets locked away and insulin is the key. In short, high insulin blocks fat burning.
The reverse is also true. Every time you don’t eat, when you fast, insulin goes back to baseline.
A counter regulatory hormone called glucagon gets activated which triggers fat stores to get released to be combusted for energy.
The key then is to keep that insulin response from food pulsatile. It’s not about eating less, but less frequently. Quality matters, obviously.
When you do eat, focus on eating nutrient dense foods so you’re not hungry again after two hours. This is how fat loss actually works.
Yes, it’s calories in versus calories out. You need to be on a calorie deficit. But you need to factor in key hormones like insulin, glucagon, cortisol, and thyroid for example, to get sustainable results.
Calories matter but hormones are more important.
And from a practical standpoint, it’s so much easier to create a calorie deficit if you just take out one of your meals.
This isn’t anything new. The human body is designed to fast. It wasn’t by choice back in the Paleotlithic times when our ancestors went through periods of feast and famine.
A lot of religions also have some sort of fasting integrated in their beliefs. It’s been around for thousands of years.
Fasting actually heals the body. Animals inherently know this. Think of your dog when it’s not feeling well. It doesn’t want to eat, right?
Hippocrates, the father medicine, said, “To eat when you’re sick is to feed your sickness.”
And according to Benjamin Franklin, “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.” We’re most human when we fast.
3. It saves you money.
This is just simple math. You’re eating fewer meals which means you’re gonna be spending less money on food.
You can invest some of that money you save on buying higher quality food.
You can buy organic vegetables, pastured eggs, and grass fed and grass finished beef.
Think of it as an investment in your health. Your health is absolutely worth it.
Confucius famously said, “A healthy man wants a thousand things. A sick man only wants one thing.”
4. It’s highly customizable.
You can just pick an intermittent fasting schedule that best fits your lifestyle. The best intermittent fasting schedule is the one you can follow.
I mentioned earlier that the minimum effective dose for intermittent fasting is a 16 hour fast. You can just look at your day and see where you can best fit that 8 hour eating window.
For a lot of people, it’s easy to just skip breakfast. For others, they’d rather eat some time in the morning and have an early dinner.
In fact, there’s recent studies done by Dr. Satchin Panda at the Salk Institute that having an early dinner is better aligned with our natural circadian code.
It makes sense. Our genes evolved with the rising and setting of the sun. We’re also more naturally insulin resistant at night.
But as long as you complete 16 consecutive hours in a fasted state, and that includes your sleep, you’re fine.
You can also mix it up. Your fasting schedule isn’t written in stone. Maybe you skip breakfast on certain days and you skip dinner on other days.
The key is to start slow. If you’ve never skipped breakfast in your life, there’s going to be an adjustment period. Think of fasting like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it gets. You need to learn how to crawl first before you can run.
5. It allows you to “feast”
Again, back in the day, we’d go through periods where food was scarce. Feast and famine.
Nowadays, we spend too much time feasting and just grazing on food all day.
Fasting is the great equalizer to this. It’s literally the definition of voluntary hardship.
Now, I’m not saying that you should use fasting as an excuse to hit up an all you can eat buffet when you break your fast. But it definitely allows you a little bit more flexibility to enjoy the occasional treat and not have it affect your weight loss goals.
For example, if you know you’re having treats for dinner, maybe you skip breakfast and even lunch that day and turn it into an OMAD fast and save all your calories for dinner.
If you’re metabolically flexible, your body should be able to handle the potential calories surplus, no problem. The next day, you can just get back to your regular intermittent fasting routine.
6. It frees up some of your precious time
The average person makes around 200 food related decisions every day. That’s a lot of brain power spent on food.
Add in the time we spend preparing, cooking, eating, and cleaning up afterwards. No wonder people say they don’t have time.
Imagine getting some of that precious time and brain power back because you’re simply eating less frequently.
Which then allows you to do other things like meal prep, exercise, and other productive stuff.
7. It’s muscle sparring
This is a very common fasting myth that I can’t believe still exists. You’re not gonna waste away when you fast. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Your body holds on to your precious muscles.
Again, this process is controlled by hormones. When you fast, insulin stays low and glucagon gets activated. It unlocks your almost unlimited fat stores, the average person has at least 100,000 calories in the form of body fat, that you can now use for energy.
This graph perfectly illustrates that. Protein oxidation, which is the blue line, after day zero stays flat. Which means your body doesn’t break down muscle when you fast.
While fat and ketones, which is the usable energy when fat gets broken down in the liver. It’s represented by the green line, stays high. All that means is your body predominantly uses fat for energy when you fast.
And that stays consistent even after 30 days of fasting. I even did a 7-day water fast as an n=1 experiment to prove this when I was a national level competitive weightlifter.
My sole job was to lift as much weight as I could overhead and I still trained every day. Here’s day 7 and I’m still lifting 85% of my max numbers with room to spare. I didn’t have a noticeable dip in my strength. In fact, I felt like I could see through walls.
You’re only fasting anywhere between 16-23 hours here. You’re not gonna waste away.
Let’s look at this other graph. Fasting after 24 hours has been shown to increase testosterone by up to 180% and growth hormone by up to 2000%.
Those hormones are crucial when it comes to maintaining and building muscle.
In fact, a lot of experts consider growth hormone to be the real fountain of youth because of its anti-aging effects. And you can get that boost FOR FREE when you fast. Your body is really smart. It knows what to do.
Do you know what actually makes you lose muscle as you lose weight? A crash diet. Especially if all you do is cardio you don’t do resistance training.
That’s why you see a lot of people rock the skinny fat look when they lose weight on whatever crash diet or juice cleanse they’re following. The sad part is they eventually put all that weight back on, and then some. Because their metabolism has tanked as an adaptation.
8. The benefits of intermittent fasting goes way beyond fat loss
In fact, fat loss is just icing on the cake.
You also get access to other amazing benefits like improved blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity, increased energy, it boosts your brain, it builds the immune system, it triggers autophagy, it heals the gut, you get a boost in growth hormones and its anti-aging effects, it improves your relationship with food because you won’t be so attached to it anymore, and so much more.
Now, let’s quickly talk about this thing called autophagy that I just mentioned. Think of it as a cleanse on a cellular level. Your body looks for old, damaged, and worn out cells and clears it out to produce new healthy cells.
In 2016, Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize for his discoveries into the mechanisms of autophagy. It’s led to a better understanding of diseases such as Parkinson’s and dementia.
What triggers this amazing process? Fasting. But again, it’s not the be all end all. The level of autophagy you get depends on your physical activity.
For example, there was a study on the effects of a 36 hour fast between two groups. One group was physically active and fit. They had another group that was sedentary and overweight.
The group that was physically fit had autophagy levels in their white blood cell increase by 200%. The sedentary group didn’t see a statistically significant change in autophagy.
That’s why you need to make other supportive lifestyle choices as well like exercise. Fasting isn’t a magic pill.
Some experts even believe that autophagy is the main reason why fasting could help prevent cancer. Because cancer cells are dysfunctional and mutated cells.
What I’m trying to say is there isn’t a single supplement on the planet that can match the benefits that intermittent fasting brings to the table. Try to find one. I’ll wait.
If the benefits of intermittent fasting could be put in a pill, it would be the greatest blockbuster medication of all time. Right next to exercise. And you can get both for free.
The Potential Con’s Of Intermittent Fasting
1. It’s going to suck at first.
It’s really mostly because we’ve taught our bodies to expect food at certain times during the day. Like, eating first thing in the morning.
But there’s no science that proves that eating first thing in the morning is somehow beneficial to the human body. None.
The term “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is just a marketing ploy. It’s completely made up by food manufacturers.
The word breakfast in itself literally means “break-fast”.
It’s the meal that breaks your fast. Which means you get to decide when you eat your “breakfast.” There’s no rule that says you have to eat first thing in the morning. You can have “breakfast” at noon.
And when you start fasting, you are going against a lifetime of eating habits. There’s definitely gonna be an adjustment period.
Start slow. You’re probably not metabolically flexible yet. I would even go as far as saying that you shouldn’t start with intermittent fasting.
Again, there are levels.
If you’re someone who’s got really bad eating habits and/or your diet is complete junk. You need to fix that first. That’s when you can utilize a low carb diet like the keto diet as a tool to achieve metabolic flexibility.
If you starting fasting when your diet is still an absolute dumpster fire, that’s like signing up for a marathon when your only form of exercise is walking back and forth to the fridge. How do you think that’s gonna go?
A lot of people struggle mightily when they do intermittent fasting because they find out about it and how awesome it is. They do it, but they don’t really adjust their diet.
The average adult following the SAD consume 60% of their calories from ultra processed foods.
So when they fast, they get really hungry, they get headaches, they feel fatigued, they have the worst time doing it. So, they quit. Then they say that it didn’t work for them.
Again, fix your diet first. Focus on nutrient density. Prioritize protein. More importantly, stop eating highly palatable, vegetable oil laced, ultra processed foods. That dietary shift alone will make you lose a ton of weight.
2. Not everyone’s results will be the same
This is also where bio individuality comes into play.
Let me give you some real talk. Your genetic predisposition to store fat plays a key role when it comes to your results. Meaning if you come from an obese family, it might take a little bit longer to start moving that weight loss needle.
It also depends how long you’ve been holding on to the fat you’re trying to lose like if you were an obese kid.
You can bet that someone who’s been overweight for 8 years is gonna lose that weight on a different rate than someone who’s been overweight for 8 months. I’m just being brutally honest with you.
Men also tend to lose more weight than women especially at the beginning.
It takes a little bit of time to flip that metabolic switch. But best believe it’s gonna happen eventually. It’s just not going to happen overnight.
If you do things properly, you can be metabolically flexible again in 3-6 weeks.*
3. It can be used as an overcompensation tool
Again, intermittent fasting can be a great tool to have at your disposal to give yourself some caloric flexibility when it comes to having the occasional treat.
But this isn’t a give an inch, take a mile scenario.
You can’t fast and still eat fast-food every day. It doesn’t work like that. You have to be sensible about it.
4. You can definitely do it wrong way
A lot of people are guilty of this. This is the all too familiar fasting trap that a lot of people find themselves in.
What I mean by that is some people think that because something is good for them, that automatically means more is always better.
In terms of the length of a fast, the benefits start to taper off after 48 hours. And I don’t even recommend doing it for that long because it’ll definitely start to interfere with your social life.
Unless you’re in the morbidly obese category, I would stick to 24 hours as your longest fast so you can still have a life.
In terms of what you eat, less isn’t necessarily better.
Yes, you still need to be on a calorie deficit even when you’re fasting. Only this time, it’s actually going to work in a more sustainable way because you’re also factoring in hormones.
What you don’t want to do is double down and severely under eat during your feeding window. You don’t want your metabolism to tank in this process.
Again, revolve your diet around nutrient dense foods and prioritize protein.
How to do intermittent fasting properly in 2022
Let’s assume that you’ve fixed your diet, you’re metabolically flexible again, and you’re working towards a 16 hour fast.
But if for some reason you just don’t have it that day. You need to be nice to yourself and realize that if it’s not working, it’s okay if you just fasted for 12 hours, let’s say. Which is the bare minimum fast that does anything.
You get a growth hormone response benefit when you do a 12 hour fast. You’re also hitting the minimum 12 hour digestive circadian clock to help prevent disease. You can always try again the next day.
Like I said, a lot of people have the right intention by doing intermittent fasting. But they combine it with the no pain, no gain mentality. Oftentimes disregarding other stressors in their life. And that’s a big mistake.
For example, you shouldn’t push the fast if your sleep is trash the night before, you did a crazy hard workout and you’re not fully recovered, you’re mentally and/or emotionally exhausted from your relationship, school, work, or a combination of all those things.
If that’s the case and you’re just not feeling it, don’t force yourself to keep fasting. Have some breakfast.
Break your fast early and try again the next day. Have some bacon and eggs. Instead of having this no pain, no gain attitude.
You shouldn’t feel like you’re suffering when you fast. You don’t get a medal because you suffered more.
More ISN’T always better
Intermittent fasting is unbelievably good for you. But things will start to go sideways if you don’t listen to your body.
Fasting is like exercise. You don’t wanna overdo it. Chronic cardio patterns for example, is really bad for you. You wanna get the right dose.
Again, a common mistake that a lot of people make is thinking that if something is good for you, more might be better. It’s the fasting trap.
A 24 hour fast or OMAD* is one of the most powerful ways of fasting. You literally can’t go any longer if we’re strictly talking about a 24 hour cycle. But, very few people would benefit from doing OMAD indefinitely.
More isn’t always better. Just like with a lot of things, the truth is usually somewhere in between. Once or twice a week of OMAD? Sure.
Think about it this way. A lot of things in life exist in a bell-shaped response curve.
What that means is if you do a little, nothing happens. You do a little more and you get some benefits. Then you hit that sweet spot, and you get tons of benefits. But if you do too much, the benefits go back down.
I actually got caught in that fasting trap a couple of years ago. I did OMAD every day for a year and things kinda went sideways after a while.
When I first started, things were great. I was the leanest I’ve ever been. But life has seasons. I went through a stressful couple of months but I didn’t pivot my fasting schedule to match the other stressors in my life.
I was over fasting WHILE I was going through a stressful period, WHILE I was doing two-a-days in training. It was too much. I was too rigid with my fasting schedule.
Again, fasting is like exercise. It’s a stressor in the body. The good kind of stressor. It’s the what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger type of stress.
UNLESS, you already have enough stress in your life. If your partner unexpectedly broke up with you the day before AND you have to deliver a presentation at work, maybe a 24 hour fast today is not the most optimal thing to do.
At the same time, crushing a tub of Ben & Jerry’s isn’t the right thing to do either. The truth is usually somewhere in between.
There’s even recent studies that shows that for women, the minimum effective dose is just 3 days a week of intermittent fasting.
I’ve definitely had coaching clients come in to my program where I had to tell them to pump the brakes on fasting because they were over doing it.
You should fast from fasting
And, here’s the kicker. I would’ve never given you this advice before when I used to be super rigid. Feel free to have breakfast Saturday or Sunday.
I mean, don’t drink maple syrup or hollandaise sauce out of the container or crush Mimosas all day. But if you wanna have eggs and bacon with some sour dough, sprouted bread, or gluten free pancakes, that’s totally fine.
Because once you’ve built up your metabolic machinery, meaning you’re metabolically flexible, you should be able to handle it.
This also keeps your metabolism happy. From an evolutionary perspective, you want to give the signal to your body that there’s always food available. You don’t eat all the time, obviously. But you always have access to food.
On the other hand, if you push your fast too much and too often, you’re giving your body an environmental signal that you’re going through a state of famine.
The byproduct is your body adjusts in a way that’s not good for you. That’s why I mentioned earlier that very few people will benefit from doing OMAD long term.
Again, going back to the fasting trap thinking that more is always better.
If you’re always rigid with your fasting schedule and you power through even though you’re going through a stressful time, your sleep quality eventually starts to suffer.
Again, for women, their menstrual cycle becomes irregular. For guys, their libido might go down. It’s because you’re fasting too much.
Your body thinks that it’s always in a stressful fight or flight environment all the time. You always have elevated cortisol levels which is your stress hormone.
The body then starts shutting down and prioritizes more important functions because you’re not eating enough and you’re stressed out of your mind.
The byproduct is thinning of hair because it’s starting to break down protein. Your metabolism might even start tanking.
The KEY is to use it as a weight loss tool
The key is to use intermittent fasting as a tool. You can do a 16-18 hour fast most days. Again, ideally you have an eating window of 8am-4pm or somewhere close to that to align with your circadian clock.
For a majority of people, skipping breakfast and having a 12-8 or 12-6pm eating window works better especially if you have an active social life. You can blunt the blood sugar and insulin response if you go for a 15 minute walk after dinner or after every meal for that matter.
And then once a week, maybe you’re just eating one meal a day and save your calories if you plan on indulging a little. Saturday or Sunday, you’re eating breakfast. Change it up. Again, that’s how it was back then. Feast and famine.
Should you still do intermittent fasting in 2022? Absolutely. But don’t box yourself in a rigid fasting schedule.
If you’re fading and you just don’t have it that day, it’s okay to break the fast early. You don’t get bonus points for suffering.
The reverse is also true. If you’re planning on doing a 16 hour fast but you’re feeling good. You’re in the zone and you’re not hungry. Then maybe you go 18, 20, or 24 hours that day because you feel amazing.
If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. If you don’t have it that day, eat. Just make sure to always listen to your body and be flexible.
As always, if this was helpful, share it with a friend who could benefit from it as well!
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