How To Begin Intermittent Fasting For Maximal Fat Loss
First, it’s important to understand that intermittent fasting is not a diet. A diet implies that a certain type and or quantity of food is being changed. Intermittent fasting is a specific pattern of eating. So how does fasting work, why does it work and how do you do it the right way?
Popular Methods Of Fasting
Intermittent fasting is simple. Intermittent fasting is periodically abstaining from food for 16, 18, 20 hours and sometimes for even longer periods of time. The reason people do this varies, but for many, it is for the convenience and also for the effects it has on very important fat loss hormones. Long story short, fasting makes you feel incredible.
Below are what I consider to be the most common variations of intermittent fasting:
16/8 or Leangains
16:8 or ‘Leangains‘ is a schedule of eating popularised by Martin Berkhan and involves fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8 hours.
The 5:2 diet
The 5:2 diet involves taking two days out of the week (whether they’re consecutive is optional) and eating around 500 calories or 25% of your caloric intake on these days.
The warrior diet (20:4)
The warrior diet involves eating for 4 hours and fasting for 20 hours.
One meal a day (OMAD)
One meal a day, commonly known as ‘OMAD’ involves eating once per day. In general, this would take you around 2 hours and so it usually ends up as a 22:2 schedule.
Prolonged fasting involves fasting for over 48 hours, usually up to around 120 hours. Prolonged fasts have potential benefits on health that isn’t achievable during a regular fasting period.
The Fat Burning Hormones
Insulin is a peptide hormone commonly associated with intermittent fasting, but more commonly associated with diabetes. Insulin is produced by beta cells of the pancreas and is the dominating anabolic hormone of the human body.
Insulin is released when we eat, regardless of what we eat. There are certain foods through which cause insulin to be excreted in high amounts.
Sugar causes a large rise in insulin levels as blood glucose increases in the body, insulin’s role is to allocate and allow sugar to make its way through the body. A common analogy is a key and a lock. Insulin unlocks the door.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is also extremely important for fat loss and muscle growth. During a fasted state your GH levels increase rather drastically, for both men and women.
Growth hormone, stimulates growth all around the body, the regeneration and reproduction of cells and is an incredibly important peptide hormone for overall human development.
Noradrenaline is a chemical in the body which functions as both a hormone and as a neurotransmitter.r
Human growth hormone is an important hormone for fat loss and muscle growth. Growth hormone increases a lot during a fast.
Noradrenaline is a hormone which is sent to fat cells in order to break down fat into free-fatty-acids which can then be used to burn energy.
Fasting directly effects these three hormones and this is key to losing fat effectively, rather than body weight.
Is Fasting Better For Fat Loss?
This is an important question to answer. Although, it remains difficult to answer with certainty.
First of all, let’s clarify and debunk a myth. You’ve likely heard that frequent meals boost your metabolism; this is simply not true.
To the contrary, your metabolism increases from 3.6-14% when you fast, which is the complete opposite of so-called “fat burning frequent meals”.
Now please don’t get me wrong, you can lose weight and do so well with frequent meals, but this myth needs to be debunked over and over!
The majority of meta-analyses on the question of whether fasting is better for weight loss to have determined that it’s not.
Someone doing a Paleo diet and fasting versus someone doing a Paleo diet and eating frequent meals will lose the same amount of weight if variables are controlled for.
However, intermittent fasting shines in its ability to potentially allow one to spare more muscle and lean body mass. This means that intermittent fasting may be superior to normal schedules of eating for fat loss, but not weight loss.
Many of these studies, however, do have their limitations, so I don’t feel confident enough to say this with 100% certainty, yet, but it is promising. There’s a lot of new research coming out on intermittent fasting and so I think that these questions should be answered very soon.
What Is The Best Intermittent Fasting Schedule?
Now, this again as with everything in nutrition is going to vary based on your genetic framework, your experience, even logistical and social variables in your life. But I’ll give you the answer I ‘ve seen most frequently work for the average person and in clients, I’ve trained.
By far, 16/8, or fasting for 16 hours per day and eating for 8 hours per day works best and this works even better if it’s done every single day.
Once you get used to this it’s difficult to go back as 16 hours becomes your new “baseline” your body adapts rather quickly to this subtle change and it’s very sustainable long-term as reports often elaborate on the fact that this makes life more convenient logistically due to not having to make too many decisions I the morning (if you were choosing to skip breakfast).
Now, based on your experience and your body, extending this fast, or reducing the days you fast may be better. Again, this is difficult to determine only you can find this out.
Self-experimentation and trial and error is the game here. Begin with two days per week doing 16/8 and go from there.
Here’s a simple video explaining how to begin intermittent fasting for maximal fat loss:
Remember, regardless of fasting being a popular option for weight loss and health, it’s no replacement for your priorities.
There’s a fundamental hierarchy of needs you need to always be aware of and keep in mind.
Calories -> Macronuteitns -> Micronutrients -> Timing (fasting) -> Supplemenation.
This is the order you should prioritize your health and nutrition by. If you haven’t understood what calories you need and you’re not getting enough macronutrients and micronutrients, then fasting really may not help you achieve your goals.
Self-Control, Appetite And Fasting
For some of you, it may take a while to adapt and adjust to being in a fasted state. The patient is your weapon against hunger, but sometimes this can be difficult to rely on.
There are some methods and tricks you can use to make sure your appetite is kept at bay. One of which I recommend is coffee. Now for some of you, coffee may not be something you choose to drink because it stresses you out, you don’t like the taste, etc… That’s fine. But for you coffee drinkers, listen up.
Coffee is well known to decrease your appetite, but what’s interesting is that decaf actually decreases your appetite more. Coffee decreases your appetite mainly by acting on peptide YY a peptide hormone in the body. PYY increases more in decaf than in normal coffee, meaning that you can use decaf strategically to hold off your appetite if you’re really struggling.
In all honesty, this is a bit extreme and for most, holding off breakfast to complete a 16:8 fast is not something which is difficult to do. You’ve probably done it before without realising as you lose yourself in some sort of project you were doing.
Meditating can also be a great way to practice self-awareness. By meditating you become more self-aware of your actions and can withstand cravings much easier. There is plenty of evidence that less stress means less emotional-based eating, which meditating or any other form of mindfulness practice helps alleviate.
Simply put, meditating allows you to gather and manifest pleasure internally so that you don’t have to go after that pleasure through food.
Overall fasting is a great test of self-control. I consider it to be one of the best reflections of the virtue of temperance in Stoic philosophy.
Is It Ok To Exercise While Fasted?
Please don’t listen to those who tell you exercising while fasted will cause muscle loss. This isn’t true. In fact, I guarantee many of you may find you prefer to exercise in a fasted state once you become acclimated to how it feels. Try both and go from there.
Personally, I enjoy training fasted much more. I feel stronger and I also feel incredible after as I enter a deeper state of ketosis.
Finally, remember to be patient. It can take your body some time to adapt to an intermittent fasting protocol. Try to be consistent with your meal schedule. The more frequently you fast the easier it will be to adjust to this lifestyle.
Furthermore, if you’re trying to lose fat focus on gaining muscle rather than running on a treadmill. Muscle is metabolically active, the more you have the more energy you burn doing absolutely nothing.
Fasting is the same for weight loss as a normal schedule of eating.
Fasting is perhaps better at keeping more muscle on your body and thus superior for fat loss.
A good start is the 16:8 schedule a few days per week or ideally every day.
Drink coffee and/or green tea to suppress your appetite (in moderation) and also try meditation. Be sure to sleep between 7-9 hours per night.
Exercises fasted or fed, you’re not going to lose muscle if you train fasted as long as your nutrition is solid. Whether you train fasted or fed, or whether you run or lift weights, this is all completely up to you and what allows you to do more of it.