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The Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting – 2017 Update

The Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting – 2017 Update
From Nerd Fitness - June 2, 2017

But Tony the Tiger tells us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Grrrrrreat!

This rule has become so commonplace throughout the society as a wholeespecially in the health and fitness industrythat its readily accepted as fact:

Want to lose weight? Make sure you start off with a healthy breakfast, so you can get that metabolism firing first thing in the morning! Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.

Want to lose more weight? Make sure you eat six small meals throughout the day so your metabolism stays operatingat maximum capacity all day long.

There are even studies that show those that eat earlier in the day lose more weight than those who ate later in the day or skipped a meal.

So, eat breakfast to lose weight and obtain optimal health.

Case closedright?

Maybe Not. Maybe theres way more to the story.As skeptics,we operate from first principles: what if theres science and research that shows SKIPPING BREAKFAST (the horror! blasphemy!) for optimum efficiency, maximum muscle retention, and body fat loss?

After firmly being on Team Breakfast for 28 years of my life, Ive skipped breakfast for the past 3.5 yearsand will most likely never go back!

I want to share with you a concept about skipping breakfast (and other meals), and how your health canbenefit as a result.

Tony aint gonna be happy, but today were talking about intermittent fasting.Even Boy George is getting in on the Intermittent Fasting Action (and has read this article!):

Please look into 'Intermittent Fasting'. https://t.co/C2fCylOaWj https://t.co/060k5Ws0bh

Boy George (@BoyGeorge) May 8, 2017

This is a topic that is controversial (which is funnyyoure just skipping a meal) as it turns a LOT of conventional wisdom on its head. This is why this article is filled with more sources and citations than the normal Nerd Fitness article. Here we go.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is not a diet, but rather a dieting pattern.

In simpler terms: its making a conscious decision to skip certain meals on purpose.

By fasting and then feasting on purpose, intermittent fasting generally means that you consume your calories during a specific window of the day, and choose not to eat food for a larger window of time.

There are a few different ways to take advantage of intermittent fasting:

Now, you might be thinking: okay, so by skipping a meal, I just eat less than normally overall, and thus I will lose weight, right?

Well, thats partly true.

Yes, by cutting out an entire meal each day, you are on average consuming fewer calories per weekeven if your two meals per day are slightly bigger than before(which is crucial for losing weight).

However, as we already know that not all calories are created equal, the timing of meals can also influence how your body reacts.

How does intermittent fasting work?

With intermittent fasting, your body operates differently when feasting compared to when fasting:

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.

During the fasted state, your body doesnt have a recently consumed meal to use as energy, so it is more likely to pull from the fat stored in your body as its the only energy source readily available.

Burning fat = win.

The same goes for working out in a fasted state. Without a ready supply of glucose and glycogen to pull from (which has been depleted over the course of your fasted state, and hasnt yet been replenished with a pre-workout meal), your body is forced to adapt and pull from the only source of energy available to it: the fat stored in your cells.

Why does this work? Our bodies react to energy consumption (eating food) with insulin production. In addition to this, the more sensitive your body is to insulin, the more likely youll be to use the food you consume efficiently, which can help lead to weight loss and muscle creation.

Along with that, your body is most sensitive to insulin following a period of fasting.

Your glycogen (a starch stored in your muscles and liver that your body can burn as fuel when necessary) is depleted during sleep (and thus during fasting), and will be depleted even further during training, which can further increase insulin sensitivity.

This means that a meal immediately following your workout will be stored most efficiently: mostly as glycogen for muscle stores, burned as energy immediately to help with the recovery process, with minimal amounts stored as fat.

Compare this to a regular day (no intermittent fasting): With insulin sensitivity at normal levels, the carbs and foods consumed will see full glycogen stores, enough glucose in the blood stream, and thus be more likely to get stored as fat.

Not only that, but growth hormone is increased during fasted states (both during sleep and after a period of fasting). Combine this increased growth hormone secretion, the decrease in insulin production (and thus increase in insulin sensitivity), and youre essentially priming your body for muscle growth and fat loss with intermittent fasting.

The less science-y version:Intermittent fasting can help teach your body to use the food it consumes more efficiently, and your body can learnto burn fat as fuel when you deprive it of new calories constantly. For many different physiological reasons, fasting can help promote weight loss and muscle building when done properly.

But why does every health book say 6 small meals?

There are a few main reasons why diet books recommend six small meals:

1) When you eat a meal, your body does have to burn extra calories just to process that meal.So, the theory is that if you eat all day long with small meals, your body is constantly burning extra calories and your metabolism is firing at optimal capacity, right? Well, thats not true. Whether you eat 2000 calories spread out throughout the day, or 2000 calories in a small window, your body willburn the same number of calories processing the food. So, the whole keep your metabolism firing at optimum capacity by always eating sounds good in principle, but reality tells a different story.

2) When you eat smaller meals, you might be less likely to overeat during your regular meals.I can definitely see some truth here, especially for people who struggle with portion control or dont know how much food they should be eating.

However, once you educate yourself and take control of your eating, some mightfind that eating six times a day is very prohibitive and requires a lot of effort. Along with that, because youre eating six small meals, Id argue that you probably never feel full, and you might be MORE likely to eat extra calories during each snack.

Although grounded in seemingly logicalprinciples, the six meals a day doesnt work for the reason you think it would (#1), and really only works for people who struggle with portion control (#2).

If we want to think back to the caveman days, wed have been in serious trouble as a species if we had to eat every three hours. Do you think Joe caveman pulled out his pocket sundial six times a day to consume his equally portioned meals in Tupperware containers? Hell no! He ate when he could, endured and dealt with long periods of NOT eating (no refrigeration or food storage) and his body adapted to still function optimally enough to still go out and catch new food.

A recent study(highlighted by theNew York Times) has done a great job of challenging the six-meals-a-day technique for weight loss.

Martin fromLeanGainspoints out two important quotes from the study:

The premise underlying the present study was that increasing meal frequency would lead to better short-term appetite regulation and increased dietary compliance; furthermore, it was hypothesized that these predicted beneficial effects of increased meal frequency could have resulted from more favorable gut peptide profiles, potentially leading to greater weight loss. Under the conditions described in the present study,all three hypotheses were rejected.

We had postulated that increasing meal frequency would enhance the compliance to the energy restricted diet thus leading to greater weight loss, an effect possibly mediated by increased fullness.The present results do not support this hypothesis.

Remember, the type of food you eat matters.Meal frequency is not nearly as importantas the quantity and quality of food consumed. This study reachedsimilar conclusions.

Why intermittent fasting?

Because it can work for you. Although we know that not all calories are created equal, caloric restriction plays a central role in weightloss. When you fast (either for 16 hours per day, or 24 hours every few days), you are also making it easier to restrict your caloric intake over the course of the week. This will give your body a chance to lose weight as youre simply just eating less calories than you were consuming before. Do this consistently, and it can lead to consistent weight loss and maintenance.

Because it simplifies your day. Rather than having to prepare, pack, eat, and time your meals every 2-3 hours, you simply skip a meal or two and only worry about eating food in your eating window. Its one less decision you have to make every day.

It requires less time (and potentially money). Rather than having to prepare or purchase three to six meals a day, you only need to prepare two meals. Instead of stopping what youre doing six times a day to eat, you simply only have to stop to eat twice. Rather than having to do the dishes six times, you only have to do them twice. Rather than having to purchase six meals a day, you only need to purchase two.

It promotes stronger insulinsensitivityand increased growth hormone secretion, two keys for weight loss and muscle gain. This was already explained in the previous section with relevant sources, but intermittent fasting helps you create a double whammy for weight loss.

Itcan level up your brain, including positively counteracting conditions like Parkinsons, Alzheimers, and dementia.As explained here in this TEDx talk by Mark Mattson, Professor at Johns Hopkins University and Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging fastingis grounded in serious research and more studies are coming out showing the benefits:

Dr. Rhonda Patrick discusses intermittent fasting protocols here on Tim Ferrisss Podcast, and Dom Diagostino discusses the importance of fasting here in potentiallypreventing/mitigating the onset of neurodegenerative diseases

Plus, Wolverine does it.

What are the drawbacks with intermittent fasting?

In my own experimentation over the past three years, I have found very few negative side effects with Intermittent fasting.

The biggest concern most people have is that Intermittent Fasting will lead to lower energy, focus, and the holy crap I am hungry feeling during the fasting period and ruin them. People are concerned that they will spend all morning being miserable because they havent consumed any food, and thus will be miserable at work and ineffective at whatever task it is they are working on.

The following are my thoughts and experiences, and your results may vary:

Yes, the initial transition from EATING ALL THE TIME, to intermittent fasting MIGHTbe a bit of a jolt to your system; it was for me. However, once I gotthrough the transition after a few days, my body quickly adapted and learned to function just as well only eating a few times a day.

Although I fast for 16 hours per day, the following might help assuage your fears that skipping breakfast will cause your body to eat itself and your brain to implode:

This study explains that in participants after 48-hours of fasting,cognitive performance, activity, sleep, and mood are not adversely affected in healthy humans by two days of calorie-deprivation.

So why do I feel grouchy when Im not eating breakfast?In this nerds humble opinion, a good portion of the grumpiness is a result of our eating habits. If you eat every three hours normally, your body will start to get hungry every three hours as it learns and becomes used to expecting (and receiving) food every three hours. If you eat breakfast every morning, your body is expecting to wake up and eat food.

Once you retrain your body to NOT expect food all day every day (or first thing in the morning), these side-effects become less of an issue (thanks to a substance our bodies produce called Ghrelin). However, you can expect a few rough mornings and maybe decreased focus at work because all you can think about is the breakfast youre depriving yourself of. I found this to go away after a few days.

Its important to understand that Intermittent Fasting is NOT a panacea.Dont delude yourself into thinking that if you skip breakfast and then eat 4,000 calories of candybars for lunch and dinner that you will lose weight.

Can I build muscle and gain weight while intermittent fasting?

Does intermittent fasting have different effects on men and women?

Questions about intermittent fasting

Tips and tricks about Fasting

To sum it all up

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