Fasting diets seem to be all the rage now – well actually for a while now. But sadly they range from practical and effective to stupid and useless.
In this article I will focus on the former. Intermittent fasting diets that help you shed a couple of pounds, while at the same time maintain as much muscle mass as possible.
BENEFITS OF FASTING DIETS
As we age, rogue cells, both human and foreign, can multiply throughout the body unchecked and this damaged tissue can contribute to progressive disease.
Fasting diets sends your body into cell recycling, a process of self-digestion at the cellular level called autophagy. But you’re not just digesting your fat to fuel yourself while fasting. Your body also targets malfunctioning cells and old tissues to optimize resources for survival
The researchers conclude that fasting is a simple and safe way to get this benefit, though more research should be done on humans (Alirezaei et al., 2010).
Reduce insulin resistance
Collectively, the available data therefore suggest that meal skipping or intermittent CR diets can result in health benefits including improved glucose regulation (Carlson et al., 2007)
One of the most notable benefits of fasting is its profound anti-inflammatory effect. Fasting increases production of anti-inflammatory cytokines while suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α and IL-6.
Note that proinflammatory cytokines produced by fat cells (adipokines) are associated with insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and a shorter life span; whereas anti-inflammatory cytokines, such as adiponectin and IL-15, are associated with improved insulin sensitivity, increased thermogenesis, decreased fat storage, increased muscle regeneration and increased life span.
Based on the existing evidence from animal and human studies described, we conclude that there is great potential for lifestyles that incorporate periodic fasting during adult life to promote optimal health and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases (Longo, V. D., & Mattson, M. P. 2014).
In summary, these findings suggest that IFCR may be effective for reducing body weight, visceral fat mass, and CHD risk in obese women (Klempel et al., 2012).
Promotes Greater Satiety
Huh? Not eating can suppress hunger? How is that even possible? Well when you’re not eating every couple of hours you end up normalizing your ghrelin levels, also known as “the hunger hormone“.
Higher levels of the hormone means that you’re hungry, so going by that logic, Ghrelin should skyrocket during a fast. Well in reality something else happens, it drops while growth hormone levels rise.
You know, the hormone that promotes fat loss.
Mean 24-h ghrelin levels exhibited a small but significant decline during the fast (Espelund et al., 2005).
INTERMITTENT FASTING DIETS
The theory behind this is that we have a circadian rhythm that calls for food intake at times and no food intake at other times in order to experience optimal health.
Continuously eating, without periods of no food intake, disrupts the circadian clock and leads to metabolic derangements — such as lowered energy expenditure and elevated glucose and insulin.
So now let’s take a look at some of the most popular versions, as I have tried and tested them all, to various degrees of success.
ADF – ALTERNATE-DAY FASTING
Basically as the name says, it’s fasting every other day. Now you eat normal calories one day, and fast the next, and so on. You have a couple of options for the fasting day, but you need to keep your calories low.
On the undereating days you should consume about 500 calories max.
MY TAKE: On fasting days you should eat mainly protein. If you carry more muscle mass you can push your calories higher since 500 calories is only 125g protein.
From my experience you can easily double that amount.
From the godfather of intermittent fasting Martin Berkhan himself. This is arguably the most known and the most used version. When you think about Intermittent fasting diets, you immediately think of Leangains.
It’s fairly simple and straightforward. You basically have an 8 hour window (each day) where you eat all of your food.
For example, you have your first meal at 12 pm and your last one at 8 pm. You can as many or as few meals as you want, but the most common option is 2 or 3 meals.
I strongly recommend going heavy on the coffee in the morning until your first meal. It helps with energy, fat loss and hunger suppression.
MY TAKE: You can move the window around however you like it. If you want to have breakfast and a late lunch instead of lunch and dinner go for it. Hell my insulin resistance article argues that might be even a better choice, just remember to stick to a 8 hour eating window.
You have one main or big meal at the end of your day. You can pick and choose yourself. Be it in the evening or right before you hit the bed, you eat the majority of your calories then.
During the undereating period you can eat some protein (lean meat or protein shakes) if the hunger gets to strong, but nothing else.
Remember, you put the most of your calories in the last meal, which is basically a warrior feast from the bygone days.
MY TAKE: The problems you might face on this diet is, the last meal is HUGE. A lot of calories and even more protein.
And to top it off, you’re off to bed. Maybe you’re body works differently than mine, but I could never get a good night’s sleep. But you should still try it yourself, as your milage may vary.
EAT STOP EAT
Here you go one or two days on a full day fast. As to how many times per week, that depends on your bodyfat and your goals. I would personally not recommend more than 2 times per week. Especially when combined with arduous training.
On the feeding days, make protein your main priority. Get in as much as you can, and let the rest fall into place. By that I mean fibrous vegetables, not cake and donuts.
MY TAKE: Sometimes I practiced full fast days, while other times I did a PSMF day. Truth be told, the leaner I got, the more the fast days brought results.
CLOSING POINT ON FASTING DIETS
As you may or may not noticed, intermittent fasting diets are not really diets, but more of a diet schedule that is geared to accelerate fat loss and retain or even promote muscle growth, compared to traditional eating patterns.
You can still go low carb, or high carb depending on your preferences and the sport your practice.
I personally like to combine IF and keto, since they compliment each other greatly. And a person who can back me up on this, is the late great Vince Gironda with his ahead of its time steak and eggs diet.
- Alirezaei, M., Kemball, C. C., Flynn, C. T., Wood, M. R., Whitton, J. L., & Kiosses, W. B. (2010). Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy, 6(6), 702-710. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3106288/
- Carlson, O., Martin, B., Stote, K. S., Golden, E., Maudsley, S., Najjar, S. S., … & Baer, D. J. (2007). Impact of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction on glucose regulation in healthy, normal-weight middle-aged men and women. Metabolism, 56(12), 1729-1734. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2121099/
- Longo, V. D., & Mattson, M. P. (2014). Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell metabolism, 19(2), 181-192. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3946160/
- Klempel, M. C., Kroeger, C. M., Bhutani, S., Trepanowski, J. F., & Varady, K. A. (2012). Intermittent fasting combined with calorie restriction is effective for weight loss and cardio-protection in obese women. Nutrition journal, 11(1), 98. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3511220/
- Espelund, U., Hansen, T. K., Højlund, K., Beck-Nielsen, H., Clausen, J. T., Hansen, B. S., … & Frystyk, J. (2005). Fasting unmasks a strong inverse association between ghrelin and cortisol in serum: studies in obese and normal-weight subjects. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 90(2), 741-746. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15522942