If you haven't heard yet, intermittent fasting is all the buzz in the fitness and nutrition world. As history has shown with any other type of nutritional approach, some people are big fans, and some can't stand it. In today's article I'd like to take the time to inform you on IF (intermittent fasting) and state whether or not I think it's a good idea to implement it into your program.
WHAT IS IT, AND WHAT'S THE IDEA?
Before we head into the details of IF, we need to know what it is. IF is a term used for diets that go back and forth between stages of fasting and non-fasting. IF is well-known for it's lengthened periods of calorie deficit phases. These fasted periods can last 16-24 hours (sounds like hell if you ask me).
When it comes to IF, the big picture idea is to deplete an individual's calorie consumption. This is similar to any other weight loss diet. It all comes down to calories in vs. calories out. Deplete the body of calories, and weight is lost. It's not that special, but it does have a twist unlike any other nutrition plan out there.
Rather than taking down calorie consumption on a slow consistent basis like most plans, IF calls for severe restriction, just like fasting. As I mentioned before, said individual would fast for a 16-24 hour period, then return to normal (dependent on the goal) eating for 8-24 hours. I'll admit, when I first heard of IF, I thought it was completely bogus, especially since the people I knew that were doing it weren't making any changes to their physique whatsoever. It turns out there is some science that can show positive effects to both health and physique while fasting.
WHAT DO WE KNOW?
Before I looked at any of the science behind IF, I was extremely against it for the following reasons:
1. IF calls for me to fast. Forget that garbage. Food is good. I will eat food. All the time.
2. I have used different methods with my clients and they all have worked tremendously.
3. I had a hunch fasting for that long can lead to protein breakdown and catabolism.
Now that I've looked at the research, I don't have so much hatred towards it. Thus far, the effects on body composition, performance, and mental health are not extreme in either direction. Let's look at the details.
As I talk about body composition, it must be known that I am speaking in terms of individuals who are overweight. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of body composition research on those who aren't. Taking a look at a 2011 study (which was only conducted on women), we see that IF is just as effective for weight loss as continued calorie restriction. Unfortunately, there was another study conducted that showed possibility of increased protein breakdown. If you're like me, and you've spent years building lean muscle tissue, the last thing you would want is some crazy fasting plan ruining all of that. It's possible to put those effects at a halt by taking supplements out there that you can use to try to stop those effects such as BCAAs. It's not guaranteed, though.
There isn't a lot of research on IF and performance, but there are a couple studies out there that show decreased power. Additionally, it is shown that individuals might feel fatigued, even if their strength and endurance isn't down. Personally, I don't want to feel fatigued in the gym. If I'm pushing 100s on the dumbbell bench while fasting or not, I would prefer to feel fully energized.
When I don't eat, I get extremely hangry (hungry and angry). I'm no fun to be around and I turn into a complete diva. Fortunately for the individuals in a specific study, they decreased their binge eating or emotional eating while on an IF diet, and improved their healthy restrictive eating. How? I have no clue.
MY FINAL STATEMENT
Based upon the research and studies that have been conducted thus far, it seems to me that IF isn't too bad after all. It has been shown to decrease body fat as well as upkeep performance. BUT, I wouldn't touch IF with a ten foot pole. I enjoy eating when I'm hungry and when I'm not hungry. Anyone that asks me to go without eating for more than five hours is no friend of mine. Additionally, I work too hard to risk losing lean muscle tissue that I've built. I hope you feel the same way. Having said all of this, I want to be clear that this is my stand and my opinion based on my preferences and goals. I can definitely see how this could be a great plan for an individual who claims they have no time to eat and is only wanting to lose body fat. It's completely up to you. Your body is your own and no one else's. You shouldn't expect everything to work the same for every individual.
For any other questions regarding diets, fasting, or fitness in general, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on the following!
Thanks for reading!
Harvie, MN, et al. “The Effects of Intermittent or Continuous Energy Restriction on Weight Loss and Metabolic Disease Risk Markers: A Randomized Trial in Young Overweight Women.” International journal of obesity (2005). 35.5 (2010): 714–27. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.
Tsalikian, E, et al. “Increased Leucine Flux in Short-Term Fasted Human Subjects: Evidence for Increased Proteolysis.” The American journal of physiology. 247. (1984): n.pag. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.