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Overview Of Intermittent Fasting: Part Four

In part three of this series on intermittent fasting, we looked at the various physiological improvements that can occur during periods of food restriction followed by re-feeds.

We also looked at some optimal food choices to consume during under-feeding phases and when ending a fasting state. Today, we’ll wrap this series up by discussing a few final considerations. I’ll also provide my unbiased review of the various strategies and offer up some additional resources to learn more or to get started on an IF routine.

Let’s get to it.

More after the jump…

First off, I want to address one of the most common concerns I hear about intermittent fasting.

I thought breakfast was the most important meal of the day, wouldn’t it be a bad thing to skip it?

For years we’ve been told it’s imperative to eat a well balanced supportive nutrition breakfast to start the day. It’s all about boosting your metabolism, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and providing fuel to get you through the morning.

I won’t argue with any of that and there’s no denying the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast. I just think nutritional recommendations get misconstrued sometimes as “rules” instead of guidelines.

What happens at breakfast is nowhere near as important as what happens over the entire 24 hours of a day. Read that last sentence again and let it really sink in.

You have to look at the big picture. Let me share with you some personal observations after all the years I’ve spent working with personal training clients.

A large number of clients who first come to my Shaping Concepts personal training studios are already skipping breakfast. In reality they’re already completing daily 16-18 hour intermittent fasts by waiting to eat until lunch.

So why is it that they’re gaining weight, or struggling to lose fat, which is often why they seek coaching in the first place?

I believe the answer lies in generally poor nutrition habits and not having a plan. They’re not fasting on purpose with a plan of any sort.

They’re fasting because they don’t have an appetite for breakfast, are in a hurry in the mornings, have lowered their metabolic rate, and so forth.

There’s typically not a structured exercise routine either. All these factors result in the body becoming imbalanced. Simply put there’s poor habits at play on multiple levels and the end result is a predisposition to storing fat instead of supporting lean muscle.

Putting these individuals on an intermittent fasting routine right out of the gate doesn’t make much sense. They’re already fasting and it’s not working.

Instead, the first protocol I recommend is to start eating 4-6 small meals per day, beginning with a supportive nutrition breakfast. If they have no appetite for breakfast, I’ll have them do a meal replacement protein shake.

All I know is that this strategy works nearly every time for someone just starting out on a structured exercise and nutrition routine. I suspect there are several reasons for it.

  • For starters, by eating a supportive nutrition breakfast and starting to exercise, they’ll see their metabolism increase.
  • By stabilizing blood sugar levels, insulin secretion will begin to normalize along with other hormonal balances.
  • With a healthy breakfast they’re also more likely to eat less at lunch and dinner.
  • Since there’s a commitment with exercise and healthier habits, the food choices in general improve as well.

All of the combined changes along with resistance training and aerobic activity lead to improved metabolic functions and the diet supporting muscle. By eating MORE and doing so with frequent small servings, they get healthier, lose weight, and start seeing a change in body composition.

The reality is for most of these folks, eating more (from healthy foods) was the solution to kick-starting their metabolism and triggering fat loss, not eating less. No question in my mind this is the best place to start.

In fact, by following supportive nutrition strategies and committing to a balanced exercise routine with resistance training and cardio, you can go a long way towards achieving the lean body you desire. It works, people have been successfully using this method for a long, long time.

The question becomes, do you have to follow the “4-6 small meals per day” strategy indefinitely?

From my experience the answer is unequivocally no. The leaner you get and more lean muscle mass you develop, the more you’ll have flexibility and possibly see improved results by switching things up from time to time.

Intermittent fasting, carb cycling, and other fat loss strategies all have their place once a foundation has been established. By a “foundation” I’m referring to not only physiological improvements, but also with the development of new habits and disciplines.

Working out regularly, monitoring food intake, experience with keeping a journal, having a grip with food preparation, etc…all these factors should be in play before even considering intermittent fasting and other strategies in my opinion.

The long and short on this is that I don’t believe the traditional breakfast is a meal that MUST be included on a daily basis, indefinitely, for every individual.

Personally, sometimes I eat a larger supportive nutrition breakfast with things like eggs, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, etc, and other times it may just be a green juice or a bowl of berries for example.

Sometimes I use intermittent fasting for detoxification, cleansing, or perhaps cutting body fat, other times I don’t. There are times when I may go half the day without eating much, especially when traveling and I don’t want to eat fast food.

The thing is it doesn’t bother me all that much. I don’t get crazy hungry and find myself in much discomfort.

Understanding the physiology the way that I do, I know this has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve conditioned by body to fuel off of other substrates than sugar all the time.

I’ve trained in a fasting or semi-fasting state regularly where the process of gluconeogenesis works to break down amino acids in the liver to help provide fuel.

I’ve conditioned my body to use fat stores on occasion when drifting in and out of ketosis as often happens when working out and following a Primal Blueprint type diet.

I go back and forth, sometimes eating more frequent meals when looking to add muscle mass, other times using intermittent fasting, carb rotations, etc, when looking to lean out. What I’ve yet to try is using intermittent fasting to add muscle mass, that’s my next experimentation.

I tell you all of that to say this….there’s a lot of FREEDOM that comes with conditioning your body not to be obsessed with food all the time. Hunger becomes manageable, you’re not being pulled on a string towards sugar all the time. You can walk pass that dessert tray, not pull into the drive-through, and skip a meal on occasion and it’s no biggie.

If there’s ever a reason to experiment with intermittent fasting once you’ve established healthy eating habits, it’s to have freedom over food!

Is intermittent fasting the end all, best way to drop body fat?

An effective way, yes, the best way I’d say not necessarily. From a lifestyle perspective it has a lot of benefits though. Dieting all the time and restricting entire food groups, well it sucks. Eating a grilled chicken breast and broccoli all the time gets old when you’re out to dinner with friends and they’re enjoying a larger meal.

Intermittent fasting allows you a lot more flexibility with dinner, the time when we’re typically getting together with others to eat. The flexibility is there if you’re willing to end your fasting state correctly and eat healthy whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

Can you just go all day without eating then eat whatever you want at dinner? Of course not, a lot of people are doing that already and it doesn’t work. But if you’re willing to follow the cycles of your body and provide it with nutrients when needed, you can definitely bend the rules of mainstream diet recommendations.

My review of some of the more popular intermittent fasting programs

In part two of this series I listed out some of the more popular programs out there on intermittent fasting. For the sake of keeping that segment from getting too long I didn’t get into providing my opinion. I’ll very briefly do so now.

NOTE: it’s important that I make mention before we proceed that I don’t have any biases here based on affiliations. I haven’t personally tried all of the programs so it will just be my two cents based on what I’ve gathered by reviewing the information.

Leangains

I will say this about Leangains….Martin Berkhan is an authority on intermittent fasting. He probably knows more about the subject than anyone in the fitness industry. He doesn’t just talk about it, he lives it, and the guy is ripped so you can’t say his methods don’t work. There’s plenty of social proof from others to support his program as well.

The Leangains program is very structured and has no-nonsense, high intensity, weight training as a center piece. If you’re not ready or into a lot of structure, or willing or able to do some hard training this won’t be for you. I’d say it’s an excellent program to consider for those exercisers who are already somewhat lean, but want to lose that last bit of body fat while still gaining muscle.

Renegade Diet

The Renegade Diet by Jason Ferruggia is well documented and contains a lot of good information. Once again Jason knows his stuff and there’s no disputing his credibility in the arena of muscle building and strength and conditioning. While his plan can certainly be used by anyone, I think it lends itself more to the bodybuilding community, which after all is his niche market.

He incorporates a 16 hour fast from the last meal at night until approximately 1PM the following day. Modifications are provided if you’re not going to be working out at noon prior to ending the fast. Workout recommendations are also provided. During the fasting state you can do coffee or tea, but no food is recommended.

Again he has scores of positive testimonials and he’s put this diet to test not only on himself, but with clients in his gym. In short, he’s used in the real world and it’s not just a bunch of theory on his part. There’s merit on that part alone.

Warrior Diet

The Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler is where I first learned about intermittent fasting. He makes a solid case for intermittent fasting in the book and provides a depth of knowledge on the subject. I’ve been following Ori Hofmekler for years and he’s on my short list of top nutrition experts out there. Let’s just say when Ori talks he gets my attention.

If I have one critique of the book and the program in general it’s the idea that you can “feast” at night and basically eat just about anything you want. While there will be those like Ori who can get away with that, I think there’s going to be a large segment of people who won’t fair so well with that approach.

The numbers still matter, too much is still too much. Not everyone will have the same insulin sensitivity, amount of lean muscle, etc. In all fairness, Ori does really harp on the importance of listening to your body and following your own instincts.

The guidelines are there, what’s missing is some detailed structure that many people would benefit from. Granted that wasn’t the objective of the book and I get that. None-the-less, the Warrior Diet has been around for a while now and numerous folks have used his strategies successfully.

In short, I recommend all of these programs and they’re all coming from guys who “walk the walk” and don’t just babble about research. They’re putting intermittent fasting strategies into practice in the real world and have proven them to be effective on themselves and others.

Of all the three, the Warrior Diet would be the best place to start if you’re more of a newbie. If you’re more advanced with dieting and training you can take a peak at Leangains or the Renegade Diet.

Get more information on Intermittent Fasting

I’m personally working on putting together some specific guidelines to follow in my own twist on the Warrior Diet, more focused on middle age adults (my niche) and not so much for the younger bodybuilding crowd.

If you’d like to receive a FREE copy of my report when it’s finished, simply click the button below and you’ll be taken to a web-form. Just leave me your name and email and I’ll send you a copy once I’m finished.

There is one other individual and resource I want to mention in closing. While it’s not a product per say on intermittent fasting, Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition wrote an excellent guide along with Dr. Krista Scott-Dixon and Nate Green on “Experiments with Intermittent Fasting.”

Basically, Dr. Berardi experimented with various forms of intermittent fasting for a six month period. He shares all his findings and results from personal experimentation in the e-book.

It’s a must read if you really want to learn more about intermittent fasting. Click the button below and you’ll get instant access to the Precision Nutrition e-book after filling out the web-form and confirming your email address.

Of course you can always go to the Precision Nutrition site directly and do a search there as well. He shares this e-book for free so I figured I’d just pass along. Great resource on all things nutrition related by the way, so I’d encourage you to check his site out as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on intermittent fasting and found the information to be educational along with helpful. My conclusion on the subject is that it certainly has merits to consider experimenting with the strategies.

I’ll be doing so myself along with getting feedback from select personal training clients who I think could benefit from the strategies.

If you elect to experiment with the strategies be open to being flexible and finding what works best for you. Don’t lock yourself down by trying to be overly rigid on any program.

You may find that one 24 hour fast a week works best, you may find that the daily 16 hour intermittent fast works best, heck you may find it’s just not a good fit at all.

It’s all good as there’s no right and wrong. As long as you’re eating God’s foods and providing your body with the nutrients and fuel that it needs, you can find the best diet approach for your goals and lifestyle.

Be happy ya’ll. Eating should be enjoyable, not some mundane and unpleasant experience that you dread. Find your way, be healthy, and live life on your own terms.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides personal fitness training in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation for middle age adults. Sign up today for a no obligations consultation.

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Category: Fat Loss.