Intermittent Fasting - The Busy Person's Fat Loss Diet
July 18th, 2013
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Overview of Intermittent Fasting
If eating regular meals throughout the day is not an option for you then intermittent fasting is what you have been searching for. Increasingly research is being released on the health benefits of short fasts but more recently this diet tactic has been modified in a way that supports the fitness goals of fat loss and even lean muscle building. As usual the scientific research is trailing the testimonial and anecdotal support for intermittent fasting at a snail pace. It will probably be another 5-10 years before intermittent fasting hits mainstream but already its popularity has grown to near mythical status among groups of staunch advocates in the fitness community.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
As the name suggests, the intermittent fasting diet is based on fasting about 18hrs every day. Therefore your calorie intake for the entire day is consumed in a 6 hour time frame. There are many different variations of fasting diets but the general consensus would be that you consume about 20% of your calories about 1hr before training and then the remaining 80% in 2-3 large meals within 2-4 hrs after your training session. However some people find they get better results when they train fasted and consume all their calories after training in a similar time frame. On a non-training day or if you don't train you follow a similar protocol and consume all your calories in the same 6 hr window. For most people who are training in the evening this will mean:
- No time consuming meal preparation
- No need to eat breakfast - just head straight out the door
- No constant need to stop and eat every 2 hrs
Instead of going into the science behind an intermittent fasting diet it will be easier to explain some of the more prevalent myths regarding fasting according to mainstream dieting information.
Myth 1: Eating Frequently Speeds your Metabolism
Premise: Eating regular meals is like keeping fuel in the furnace and will cause your metabolism to speed up. This premise is based on the thermogenic effect of food and how this thermogenic effect is raised every time you eat food. It takes energy to absorb energy and therefore eating more regular meals will increase energy expenditure and result in increased fat loss from a faster metabolism.
Truth: Food does increase your metabolic rate but if you were to compare the thermogenic effect of eating 8 small meals to eating 3 larger meals of the same calories you would get the same total amount of thermogenic effect from food. Basically you cannot trick your body into burning more or less calories by altering your meal frequency.
Myth 2: Fasting Will Cause Your Body to Enter Starvation Mode
Premise: Our bodies are wired for survival and therefore if you miss a meal your body will slow down your metabolism in order to prolong life and increase the likelihood of finding food.
Truth: Although you may have thought it in your head before it's not till you see it in writing that you realise it is ridiculous. Starvation literally means starvation which is a bit different to the mild hunger you may experience on intermittent fasting from eating all your calories in a shorter time period than usual. Starvation is something that you are more likely to experience after 3 days without food, not an extra 6 hours than normal. In all studies done on this it was found that at the earliest your resting metabolism will drop by 8% after 60 hours without food. More typical results of these studies found no change on resting metabolic rate until 72-90 hours.
Myth 3: Skipping Breakfast Makes You Fat
Premise: Skipping breakfast will mean your metabolism does not get started for the day and breakfast is when you have the highest insulin sensitivity.
Truth: The same as for myth 2, your resting metabolic rate will not be affected by missing a meal. It is true that your insulin is more sensitive in the morning, well actually it is more sensitive after an extended time period without food, not just after sleeping. You will still be able to benefit from this insulin sensitivity when you do eventually eat your first meal of the day.
Myth 4: Your Body Can Only Absorb 30g of Protein Every 2-3hrs
Premise: Your body has a limited ability to absorb protein and if you exceed 30g in one sitting then it will all go to wastage.
Truth: In reality your body will take over 5 hours to digest and release all the amino acids from a protein source into your blood stream. To say that you can only absorb 30g of protein every 2-3hrs is redundant because it actually takes much longer to absorb 30g of protein in the first place. More to the point though, fasting primes insulin sensitivity which can facilitate the absorption of much large amounts of protein in a shorter time period.
Myth 5: Eating Smaller Meals More Often Helps Control Hunger
Premise: If you eat more regularly than you are going to experience less hunger and therefore be more satisfied and less likely to eat bad foods.
Truth: Appetite and meal frequency is highly dependent on the individual. Studies have been done and found sometimes that smaller meals leads to greater appetite while others have found that 3 larger meals is better for appetite management. Most people are surprised at how little hunger they experience but the bottom line is that you will have to try intermittent fasting for yourself!