By Ian (Wes) Knight
Intermittent fasting has gotten a lot of popularity in the last two years. It has been widely endorsed by popular figures like Terry Crews and Jim Stoppani for its fat burning benefits and relatively easy to follow concept. I have always been wary of widely spread fads, especially in the fitness industry. Every two to three years a specialist said that eggs yolks were bad for you and then the same specialists would say they were beneficial for your health. Research is very necessary when deciding what nutritional habits are going to work best for you and your needs.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is when you fast for a long period of time. Fasting in this definition includes intaking absolutely no calories. The only beverages acceptable during this particular fast are water, tea, and black coffee w/ no additives. Be very careful about adding non-caloric sweeteners to beverages. The point of the fast is to keep the insulin levels an optimal fat burning state. Spiking insulin levels would decrease the body’s ability to burn fat, which is the main benefit of intermittent fasting.
The term “Long period of time” has been up for debate in the past, I have stuck with Stoppani’s recommendation of fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8. This is known as the 16:8 fast. Durning intermittent fasting, an individual would intake 0 calories during their fasting time. During the feed time, an individual would consume their recommended caloric intake. The only difference being that there is a shorter amount of time to reach caloric goals as compared to traditional eating habits. I would recommend making the first meal a high protein, low carb meal to take full advantage of insulin levels. After that first initial meal, individuals can begin balancing out their carb recommendations throughout the feeding window. The most important note during the feeding window is DO NOT UNDEREAT. Under eating will result in muscle mass loss and thus more fat. It is a fine balance.
How does intermittent fasting work
Intermittent fasting has been used to unlock certain genes encoded in cells that increase fat oxidation; by going long periods of time without consuming calories, the body was trying to rely more heavily on fat cells for energy than muscles. The genes activated by certain enzymes and proteins make the fat burning process more effective. This effectiveness was measured in between the range of 5 to 20 folds. The fasting process has specifically been shown to have the most effect on the skeletal system and how it produced ATP for fast twitching muscles, which produces enzymes that aid in the process of building ATP. This is similar to the effects of creatine.
Exercising while fasting
Training while fasting has been shown to maximize the fat oxidation process. Pending on how hard an individual is training, this may not be advised. Performing light to moderate cardio in a fasted state is tolerable for most individuals, but heavy anaerobic activity or strenuous weight lifting activities will need some substance. Drinking BCAA’s during a workout will help keep lean muscle mass intact, but technically this is seen as breaking the fast because BCAA’s have calories. At this point the individual is going to have to experiment with their body and see if consuming BCAA’s while working out will make that big of a difference in the fat burning process.
Overall, I have not personally experimented with intermittent fasting for an extended period time because I still train vigorously and I am already happy with my physique. I can not sign off on intermittent fasting full- heartedly yet, however, I do fast during the Holdiay season around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know that I am going to consume large amounts of food in a short amount of time and I do not want to sabotage my metabolism and gain unnecessary fat. I combat the holiday weight gain with intermittent fasting. I do recommend individuals who have a hard time eating their 5-6 meals a day to try intermittent fasting and see if this method will work better for them. Intermittent fasting is a fairly strict eating lifestyle. Spiking your insulin levels can ruin your progress pending on the state of your metabolism. This style of eating IS NOT RECOMMENDED for my athletes. You need to fuel your body consistently. We are lifting for function and mobility not aesthetics. For my general public clients feel free to experiment if you are struggling with your normal eating habits.