When you eat a meal, your body spends a few hours processing that food, burning what it can from what you just consumed. Because it has all of this readily-available, easy to burn energy (thanks to the food you ate), your body will choose to use that as energy rather than the fat you have stored. This is especially true if you just consumed carbohydrates/sugar, as your body prefers to burn sugar as energy before any other source.
Intermittent fasting, commonly referred to as IF, has become all the rage lately, and it doesn't look like the trend is going away anytime soon. The practice of intermittent fasting, or time-restricted feeding, is when a person limits the period of time in which they consume calories down to a limited number of hours. So for example, I practice IF with an eight-hour eating window, which means that I will only eat between the hours of 12 p.m. and 8 p.m.
A 2018 review of intermittent fasting in obese people showed that reducing calorie intake one to six days per week over at least 12 weeks was effective for reducing body weight on an average of 7 kilograms (15 lb); the results were not different from a simple calorie restricted diet, and the clinical trials reviewed were run mostly on middle-aged women from the US and the UK, limiting interpretation of the results. Intermittent fasting has not been studied in children, the elderly, or underweight people, and could be harmful in these populations.
Intermittent fasting (specifically the 5:2 diet) became popular in the UK in 2012 after the BBC2 television Horizon documentary Eat, Fast and Live Longer. Via sales of best-selling books, it became widely practiced. In the United States, intermittent fasting has become a trend among Silicon Valley companies. According to NHS Choices as of 2012, people considering the 5:2 diet should first consult a physician, as fasting can sometimes be unsafe. A news item in the Canadian Medical Association Journal expressed concern that promotional material for the diet showed people eating high-calorie food, such as hamburgers and chips, and that this could encourage binge eating since the implication was that "if you fast two days a week, you can devour as much junk as your gullet can swallow during the remaining five days".
So what’s the first step in getting started? Each method has its own guidelines for how long to fast and what to eat during the “feeding” phase. Below, you’ll find the five most popular methods and the basics of how they work. Keep in mind, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Those with health conditions of any kind should check with their doctor before changing up their usual routine. Note that personal goals and lifestyle are key factors to consider when choosing a fasting method.
The five most common methods of intermittent fasting try to take advantage of each of these benefits. But different methods will yield better results for different people. “If you’re going to force yourself to follow a certain method, it’s not going to work,” says trainer and fitness expert Nia Shanks. “Choose a method that makes your life easier,” she says. Otherwise, it’s not sustainable and the benefits of your fasting may be short-lived.
Most people make an IF schedule that requires them to fast for 12 to 16 hours a day. During the rest of the time, they eat normal meals and snacks. Sticking to this eating window isn’t as hard at it sounds because most people sleep for about eight of their fasting hours. In addition you’re encouraged to enjoy zero-calorie drinks, like water, tea, and coffee.
Put a coffee filter or your cheesecloth (you can even use a paper towel if you don’t have a coffee filter/cheesecloth) into the mesh strainer and place it over another glass container. Gently pour the filtered coffee through the filter and let it slowly drip into the glass container below. If the filter fills up, just wait and let it drip naturally (this could take up to 10 minutes).
Before the Nobel Prize was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, other researchers were making groundbreaking discoveries about autophagy. In 2009, an article was published in Cell Metabolism entitled Autophagy Is Required to Maintain Muscle Mass. In this article, researchers described how deactivating an important autophagy gene resulted in a profound loss in muscle mass and strength.
What and when you eat during the feeding window also depends on when you work out. On days you exercise, carbs are more important than fat. On rest days, fat intake should be higher. Protein consumption should be fairly high every day, though it will vary based on goals, gender, age, body fat and activity levels. Regardless of your specific program, whole, unprocessed foods should make up the majority of your calorie intake. However, when there isn’t time for a meal, a protein shake or meal replacement bar is acceptable (in moderation).
An intermittent fast is a brief fast where, for 12–16 hours or more, you don’t eat anything except water (a few exceptions apply). And while that may sound incredibly difficult to achieve, you might already be fasting without knowing it if you eat dinner at, say, 7 p.m. and break your fast in the morning between 7—10 a.m. — and if you only have water and black coffee or tea between.
I was very curious about this, so I asked the opinion of metabolic expert Dr. Deborah Wexler, Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Here is what she told me. “There is evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective,” she confirmed, though generally she recommends that people “use an eating approach that works for them and is sustainable to them.”
Also, be aware that when you exercise, your body directly burns away glycogen (a form of glucose stored in the muscles). Fasting depletes these stores, which can mean less available energy for the muscles to use when they need it. This can lead to extreme fatigue and decreased performance. The best fasting tips for athletes are to precede each workout with a low-calorie protein shake designed to deliver creatine, BCAAs, beta-alanine, and other amino acids directly to the muscles as they work them, and then to follow each workout with a whey-protein supplement to replenish depleted nutrient stores in order to speed up the recovery process. These workout supplements won’t add much to your overall calorie count, and will help ensure that your intermittent fasting schedule and your workout regimen aren’t getting in each other’s way.
Surprisingly, since I've started intermittent fasting I've increased muscle mass (up 10 pounds from 205 to 215), decreased body fat (down 3% from 14% to 11%), increased explosiveness (set a personal best with a clean and jerk of 253 pounds a few months back), and decreased the amount of time I've spent training (down from 7.5 hours per week to 2.5 hours per week).
There were [no statistical] differences between the low- and high- [meal frequency] groups for adiposity indices, appetite measurements or gut peptides (peptide YY and ghrelin) either before or after the intervention. We conclude that increasing meal frequency does not promote greater body weight loss under the conditions described in the present study.