Okay Im not sure on the live forever part, but I havent died since starting it so is holding up so far.
The basic premise behind intermittent fasting (IF) is that your body isnt designed to operate optimally and be as healthy as possible by being constantly in a fed state. By fasting you let your body go into a different hormonal state that is useful for things like burning fat as fuel, fighting inflammation, preventing disease and other equally kick ass stuff.
I wont pretend that I can explain this stuff better than some of the guys generating the most buzz around the internet. If you want the quick, concise and in-your-face version then you want Martin Berkhan at LeanGains. He gets into some complex jargon, but gives the straight forward recommendations of what you can do. Here is the cliff notes version:
Dont eat for 16 hours, then eat for 8
Eat two or three meals during that time
Get enough calories during those meals (that means you get to eat normal sized meals, not 5 or 6 kid-sized meals)
Resistance training is a must. HIT is the method of choice.
Calorie deficit must be made with diet, not aerobic activity which is not sustainable in the long run
If you want a more scientific and in-depth approach then you can check out Brad Pilons Eat Stop Eat. He goes into numerous studies to prove his point, and as a former industry insider with a Masters degree, he really knows his stuff. His approach can be summed up quickly
Eat like regular during the week, but take 1-2 24 hour breaks from eating.
Spread the fast out over two days (ie. Stop eating after lunch on Tuesday and start with lunch on Wednesday)
Resistance training is a must.
You can pretty much keep your regular diet and the deficit is made with the fasts
Macro-nutrients arent as important as total calories consumed.
So hows this whole thing been working out for me?
Im one of those guys who HAD to have breakfast each morning or I wanted to bite the head off of my first clients head before the session was out. It was serious panic time if I didnt eat within a half hour of waking.
Wheres My Breakfast?!
The first time I tried skipping breakfast and my morning snack and not eating until lunch time (finish dinner around 8PM so 16 hours after puts me at 12PM!) I thought I might die. I was certain I knew what starvation felt like and any time I squatted down and stood up I was light headed. I was a wreck. This sucked. But Ill be damned if those pics that Martin had up werent sick. I wanted that 5% bodyfat look dammit! I had to rough it out, couldnt quit now.
Vascular Lats? Sign Me Up!
I quickly acclimated to the morning fast and even started to get some satisfaction from having that empty feeling throughout the morning, but found one problem. I typically workout around 11AM and HIT or low rep strength training was about all I could do. Any sort of HIIT training made me turn as white as casper and pretty much faint. Just couldnt handle it.
Now both guys say that cardio isnt needed for fat loss and I agree, but I was doing my conditioning work to increase my conditioning for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Boxing, I needed it! The only solutions I found was to cut the intensity, do them earlier in the day or put them off until after I had eaten something. Getting to the end of the fasting period and trying intense activity is a big no go.
I Couldnt Resist Making The “tired” Picture This (unrelated) Puppy
So how a out Brad Pilons 24 hour fasts? Ill be honest that I never quite got a full 24. Im not sure if it was boredom, anxiety or what. I know it wasnt hunger though, that goes away really fast and isnt a problem. Going from 16 to 24 is a pretty big jump and I got to 22 a couple of times and pussed out oh well. At least Brad says you get most of the benefit after 16 hours. Overall doing this is great for days when you arent terribly active and can keep busy. For some this may be a typical day at work for me it was Sundays at home.
So to cut to the chase, lets talk results: how has this worked for fat loss?
It has worked as any calorie restriction should slow and steady. The main benefits I found with IF is that its incredibly easy to follow. it really has streamlined my hectic early mornings and simplified the selection of foods. Just dont eat, then eat normal foods with plenty of protein and low amounts of timed carbs. Martin gets into some supplementation and I do take some amino acids as he recommends if I workout during the fast to prevent catabolism.
My diet was good, but not pristine and I know that to get really cut up it has to be much more regimented, but to be a valid experiment I had to make the fasting be the variable not fast and completely clean up my diet.
Will I continue this? Possibly. Definitely for the the next couple of weeks while I get ready for a vacation then afterward I am going to give Tim Ferriss Slow Carb Diet a try. He is quite insistent that 30g of protein within 30 minutes of waking will raise resting metabolic rate up to 20% and accelerate fat loss Ill have to test that out.
Either way this has opened my eyes that there is life beyond 5-6 meals per day. Your metabolism doesnt crash, your energy doesnt disappear (you actually feel more awake and alert), your strength doesnt vanish (but like all fat loss diets, dont expect any PRs while doing it) and even if I go back to eating in the morning I will likely use 24 hour fasting once in a while.
The Best Meal You Never Had?