Let’s talk about how to begin intermittent fasting for maximum fat loss.
So obviously you’ve heard of intermittent fasting before and if you already know what it is, I urge you to keep reading just to reaffirm those basics that are so fundamental to understand.
So let’s basically first cover what intermittent fasting is. Intermittent fasting is just periodically not eating, right? So it’s simple.
You stop eating for a certain amount of time and then you just keep eating afterwards. Now it gets more complicated when we get into the specific types of schedules and how it exactly works.
So let’s cover how you can use intermittent fasting as a tool – because it is a tool, it’s not a solution – but use intermittent fasting as a tool to maximise fat loss.
We’ll go over some popular methods of fasting first.
The most popular method of fasting is something called 16:8 or “lean gains” which was popularised by a personal trainer and nutritionist named Martin Berkhan.
Basically this is just fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8 hours and doing that every single day of your life. It’s very consistent, it’s a very sustainable form of fasting and it’s become one of the most popular ways of doing it.
Another really popular way of doing intermittent fasting is something called 5:2, that basically means 5 days of normal eating – having breakfast and all that – and then 2 days of fasting. These 2 days don’t necessarily have to be consecutive, it could be Wednesday and Sunday or it could be Thursday and Friday. But basically this method isn’t a complete fast, it’s for those two fasted days eating about 500-600 calories or 25% of your normal maintenance calories each of those days.
Now the third method of fasting is similar to lean gains but it’s more of an extended fast, so, this is often referred to as the “OMAD diet” which is 20 hours of fasting per day and 4 hours of eating or something called OMAD which stands for one meal a day and that could be 22 hours of fasting and 2 hours of eating (which is your only meal for the day), or it could be 18 hours of fasting and six hours of eating. Basically it’s anything longer than the lean gain schedule of fasting and this is something I personally do on most days.
So I’ll get into all these three methods a bit later where I will outline which I think is the best method for certain people to start with and what methods aren’t that good for certain reasons. But let’s first get into the reason why intermittent fasting works so well for maximum fat loss.
Weight Loss and Hormones
Intermittent fasting is going to affect three main hormones and the first is going to be insulin. Insulin allows sugar to go throughout the body into various tissues and cells. So what we want to be in optimal health is to have high insulin sensitivity and low insulin resistance.
We don’t want insulin resistance but we want high insulin sensitivity. So lean and athletic people generally are going to have high insulin sensitivity and the more obese, not necessarily just obese, but in general the more obese, those who are becoming pre-diabetic and type 2 diabetic are going to be insulin resistant meaning that the hormone isn’t allowing sugar to diversify through the body, it’s not allowing it to work properly.
The key on the lock is kind of stuck and jammed and it’s just not working properly.
So we don’t want that. So we want to be insulin sensitive.
Next the other hormone is growth hormone (GH), growth hormone is fundamental to the reproduction, the birth, the regrowth of cells in the body. Growth hormone stimulates growth in the body and it’s really fundamental.
Take bodybuilders for example. A lot of them will take exogenous growth hormone to basically become bigger and when they inject these things everything in their body becomes bigger, even their heart increases in size. So I’m not saying to do that obviously but growth hormone is so important for the growth of all cells and tissue in your body. (Read the study here)
That’s the second one that’s really important with intermittent fasting. Now the third is noradrenaline. Noradrenaline is basically sent to the fat cells and allows fat cells to break down fatty acids and metabolise them.
So it’s super important for burning fat in your body. So that’s the third hormone that intermittent fasting impacts and we’ll go into how these hormones impacted in a bit more detail soon.
Intermittent Fasting and Hormones
So let’s move on to how you can do intermittent fasting with these schedules that I mentioned before to optimise these hormones to optimise maximal fat loss. So when you do intermittent fasting your metabolism actually increases from between 3.6% to 14% and that’s what some of the studies show.
So again this is very contrary to common belief which says frequent meals boost your metabolism, that’s not true, intermittent fasting works and increases your metabolic rate. Now I should make it very clear that if you’re taking someone on a normal diet, right?
So they’re eating very frequent meals, but they’re eating the same amount of calories and you compare them to someone who’s doing intermittent fasting with the same foods in the same quantity and the same variables, same person… everything, everything is controlled for except for that timing of the meal then they’re going to lose the same amount of weight. Every meta-analysis has shown this, right?
So it’s pretty conclusive that intermittent fasting isn’t magic for weight loss, right? So you can lose weight doing anything, so intermittent fasting is a tool it’s not the solution. But the difference is with intermittent fasting perhaps being able to spare more muscle when you’re in a caloric deficit.
That means that it’s the same for weight loss to other dietary interventions, but the difference and the potential advantage for intermittent fasting is with its ability to increase fat loss as opposed to overall weight loss and that’s what we want, that’s what we want for the aesthetic appeal, we want to lose fat but keep our lean body mass so our a muscle and the reason why it might be doing this is because of the increase in growth hormone, because of the decrease in insulin, because more insulin means more fat around the gut like you’ll see in diabetics.
And also the effects it has on metabolising fatty acids in the body. So this is potentially one of the main reasons intermittent fasting allows people to get pretty shredded pretty quickly and lose a lot of fat. Now the research again isn’t that conclusive on this, so we say this with certainty, we can’t just yet, we just can’t, but the anecdotal evidence is just overwhelming right? And intermittent fasting has proven itself as a godsend to so many people’s plateaus in their weight-loss endeavours.
So again I don’t want to make any statements about intermittent fasting being the key to fat loss over any other sort of dietary intervention, but its potential there for maximising fat loss for those reasons and for the reasons it has on growth hormone and because it increases it by so much, because of its ability to just increase your insulin sensitivity quickly, you know it’s pretty clear that there’s something to be said there about it.
Now I’m not going to go into more of the scientific benefits of intermittent fasting. But let’s just quickly talk about how you can incorporate fasting into your life if you haven’t already or if you have how you can optimise it for yourself in order to get the most benefits out of it.
Now I said before I don’t recommend doing the 5:2 schedule and the reason is that I think if you’re going to be doing intermittent fasting you should be doing it every single day, right?
You need to find a way to incorporate it as part of your lifestyle rather than it being some random intervention you’re doing. The reason I say this is because if you’re skipping breakfast some days and you’re not skipping on the others, you might be able to do it for a bit but I found with people who I’ve taught this too it becomes quite difficult to sustain this long-term.
You really want to have your body adapt to fasting and if you’re skipping breakfast and you’re doing so over a period of a few weeks and you’re doing the lean gains – so sixteen hours of fasting and eight hours of eating – so eating between twelve and eight pm and fasting for the other hours in the 24 hour period and you do this consistently for a few weeks it’s going to become second nature to you and you’re not even going to be hungry in the mornings, especially if you’re drinking something like coffee which decreases your appetite, so if you’re doing it consistently and you’re doing it every single day that’s really what’s going to lead to something which is self-sustaining long term.
So that’s what you want to aim for. 5:2 can work and of course it’s going to work for weight loss and stuff but I highly recommend as a beginner starting with 16 and 8 and doing that every single day and preferably doing it in the morning because generally for most people they have less of an appetite in the morning, you’re taking advantage of that fast through the night and you’re using that fast while you’re waking up and you can incorporate things like coffee which is going to help you kind of get rid of those appetites and cravings for food that you might still have in the morning.
And overtime as you become more acclimated to that style of fasting, then you can just adjust the times and some days you can extend at the 17th hour or 18th, some days you can even try to do one meal a day if you’re up for it and that’s what I found works best and then you know over time as you get more comfortable with fasting you might want to start incorporate things like prolonged fasts.
So I’ve done fasts for up to like three days and again this isn’t for the beginner but these can be some pretty cool things you can get involved with and take advantage of once you get super used to fasting and you understand how it works with your body. So that’s my recommendation. Remember your priorities in terms of your nutrition.
So remember the hierarchy of needs: we’ve got your calories, macronutrients, micronutrients, the timing of your meals (which is fasting) and then finally supplementation which you should hardly be thinking about. So that’s your priority. Don’t use intermittent fasting as your way of losing fat, use it as your way to supplement the sort of dietary intervention you’re following, whether that be paleo, vegan, keto… whatever you’re doing.
But intermittent fasting is great. There’s a lot of research going into how it may even be able to extend your life, it increases how you feel, like you feel so much better on it because of things like increased BDNF, or brain-derived neurotropic factor, which allows more new cells to grow in the brain and it’s just an awesome thing to do!
It’s so cool just for your willpower your, self-discipline it’s a great way to test yourself and it makes being healthy and staying at a reasonable body weight really easy and as you can tell I’m pretty passionate about fasting.
I love it and I think that although it’s not the priority for many people’s nutrition it can be that thing which changes their life and makes living a healthy lifestyle much easier.
The willpower you used to abstain from food periodically that transfers over to so many other areas of your life, right? And that’s the real power of intermittent fasting I personally think.
Remember, at first when you start fasting it might be a bit hard, you might have some cravings because you’ve been eating breakfast and you’ve been eating frequently for so long, and also just socially it’s eccentric and you’ve been told over and over that you should constantly be eating. But the human body is so much more powerful than we give it credit for.
So, try intermittent fasting out.