Intermittent Fasting – Hippie Hijinks or Fat Loss Utility Tool
Ah fasting, the time honored tradition of starvation practiced via religious customs, hippies, and those attempting to take a stand against The Man.
When I first heard of fasting being practiced in the fitness world those exact things were what I thought about. I thought of Ghandi. While Ghandi may have been one of the most influential individuals in human history and a champion for human rights, his physique wasn’t the most admirable. So to hear that people all over are starting to incorporate fasting, and winding up with awesome physiques caused my brain to short circuit for a bit.
How could people looking to get jacked start fasting? That goes against all I know. My brain hurts.
Don’t we need to eat every 3 hours to “keep our metabolism going”?
Fasting? I’m not some stupid tree hugger.
Those are just a few of the wild thoughts that went running through my head before I cooled my jets, and figured “what the hell. I’ll check out this absurdity”. What I found just might surprise you. It sure as hell surprised me.
What is fasting?
To put it simply, it’s period of time where you eat followed by periods of time where you don’t eat. Everyone, and by everyone I mean including you the reader follows some form of intermittent fasting. That is where the name breakfast came from after all, breaking your fast.
Intermittent fasting just schedules your fast with a little more care, so you can reap the benefits. IF has many iterations, from a simple 16 hour fast each day, to a 24-36 hour fast once a week. Anything under 16 hours doesn’t seem to qualify, from all available research it appears that 16 hours is the magic number to get the benefits of fasting.
What are the benefits?
Benefits? There’s freaking benefits to not eating? But what about losing all my gainz bro?
Actually, yeah. Quite a few.
Intermittent Fasting has been shown to have a number of benefits including:
- Increased fat loss
- More efficient hormonal control
- More efficient use of energy during strenuous exercise
- Cellular autophagy (fancy shmancy word for cleansing. Which is reason to tease you about an article on the way telling you why “cleanses” are bullshit)
All of these are very real benefits that can be realized by abstaining from food for just a moderately extended period of time.
I had no clue until researching this piece, but one of the most famous bodybuilders of all time, Serge Nubret (nicknamed: The Chest) followed IF protocal.
How does this happen?
Intermittent fasting leads to fat loss. It couldn’t be more simple. Not only by fasting for an extended period of time (I try to follow a 16/8 protocol. A 16 hour fast, followed by an 8 hour eating window.) are you reducing total caloric intake, but during that fasted period you are depleting your glycogen stores. By depleting glycogen stores, you force your body to rely on other sources of fuel. I.E. stored body fat. Just like I talked about in my skipping breakfast piece.
That’s not it though. When you train in a fasted state you further deplete glycogen stores. Upon breaking your fast after training the body has a main goal of replenishing glycogen, so it benefits you to take in fast digesting carbs to replenish those carbohydrate stores (fast digesting carbs = dextrose, rice, doughnuts, candy, anything delicious and banned from your previous diet). The added benefit to this though is that your body has to survive somehow, and it does that by burning fuel. If it is refilling the primary fuel source (carbs) then it switches to fat. Thus, we have more fat burned.
What about hormonal control? How in the world does not eating lead to greater hormonal balance which in turn leads to a flatter stomach, better sleep, and better health?
Let me learn you something. There are quite a few hormones at work in your body, and even altering them slightly over a long period of time can lead to a host of problems. The fitness industry in general doesn’t focus on hormones quite the way it should, and definitely doesn’t focus on how we can manipulate these hormones for health and abz.
Hormones like growth hormone, cortisol, leptin, ghrelin, insulin, testosterone, and estrogen can all be manipulated by the use of diet and exercise. Manipulating these in the right way can not only lead to looking better naked, but a better health outlook.
*Side note: Your body undergoes hormonal changes every single day. Diet and exercise play a role in these changes. Fasting isn’t going to be something that causes a miracle in one week. Just like diet and exercise, if practiced over time though it can help people see major positive changes.
Skipping breakfast and giving yourself a few hours without eating can lead to higher levels of circulating growth hormone. This is good for a host of reasons, and growth hormone itself is too important for just the scope of this article. In simple terms, growth hormone aids in repair and recovery of cells in the body. It is the anti aging hormone, causing us to appear younger, feel better, and lose fat and build muscle faster.
Growth hormone tends to offset cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol itself is a good hormone that we need. It’s your flight or fight hormone. Levels of it raise during strenuous activity, and it leads to the breakdown of fatty tissue. But too much cortisol from a lack of sleep, poor exercise habits, and terrible diet habits lead to accumulation of fat around your midsection. So just by reading that, you should be able to see how more growth hormone to offset higher levels of cortisol is a very, very good thing.
The story isn’t over with just growth hormone and cortisol, however that itself would be impressive. We also have two hormones that control hunger, metabolism, and fat loss. These two are known as ghrelin. Like growth hormone, the powerful scope of ghrelin and leptin are too great to just have one paragraph a piece in this article.
To make it simple until then though, look at it like this: Grehlin and Leptin are two of the most powerful hormones in the body, that have direct relationships with metabolism and fat loss. Like insulin, when you’re sensitive to them you tend to drop fat and build muscle quicker. When you’re resistant to them you tend to be a lard ass, recovery poorly, have poor health, and eat like a gremlin. I’ll give you one guess as to what helps increase your sensitivity to these hormones. (Hint: it’s the entire point of this whole article).
I’m the first to admit that fasting isn’t for everyone. It took me a long time to actually warm up to the idea, especially since I was under the impression you needed to eat every 2-3 hours to achieve a greek god like physique. However, interesting things happen when you step out of your comfort zone and do things you’ve never done before. You achieve results you’ve never had. The whole point of this is to ask you to open up your mind, try something new, and maybe just maybe wind up with the missing piece to your own fat loss puzzle.