Intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular over the last 5 years.
The most popular protocol appears to be the 16:8, whereby people only eat (or drink any calories) between the hours of 12pm and 8pm.
I personally find that the best way to get 4,000 calories a day, without getting painfully bloated – is to eat between 12pm & 8pm and get at least some of my calories from fast acting carbohydrates such as maltodextrin.
These carbs are not normally healthy, but are very easy to digest. Using the intermittent fasting protocol allows me to consume fast acting carbs, without having to worry about the negative effects of constantly elevated blood sugar levels.
I also consume a probiotic, fermented drinks like kombuchha and olive leave extract to mitigate any negative effects of sugary carbs on my gut microbiome (lots of sugary carbs can lead to yeast overgrowth).
5:2 protocol – Intermittent Fasting – Fast for 2 Days of the Week
Eat normally for 5 days and on the other 2 days, lower intake to approximately 500 calories
Eat normally during 5 days of the week. Try not to consume any sugary drinks and processed foods. The diet is quite relaxed on the 5 ‘normal’ days, as long as you don’t exceed the recommended calories for each day by a significant amount.
‘Fasting’ Day Diet Plan
A typical diet plan for the 5:2 Intermittent fasting protocol
Drink plenty of water
Medium Sized Banana
Chicken salad – no dressing
15g spiriluna in water
Steamed fish with lemon, ginger and chili
The 16:8 Protocol – Intermittent Fasting Diet
On this diet, you typically eat between the hours of 12pm and 8pm
I personally find it really helps to sip on hot drinks throughout the morning. You can’t do this with ‘water fasting’ however. Ice cubes are your friend if you’re doing water fasting:
The 16:8 Protocol (16 hours fast, usually between 8pm and 12pm)
7am – Black coffee / herbal tea like Yerba mate*
Morning – Sip water with a pinch of organic cinnamon powder (or sip on a hot drink(s))
Flax seed powder
20g of oats
Vegetable stir fry / large Chicken Salad
2 rice cakes with peanut butter
Handful of almonds & cashews
Protein drink with flax seed powder & oats (this should mix reasonably well without a blender)
2 rice cakes with peanut butter
example – Vegan Shepherd’s pie with sweet potato mash
Calories – Approximately 3,000 depending on size of stir fry and main meal.
Extra smoothie with pure coconut milk can be added for extra calories
*For the “full benefits” of an intermittent fast, just drink water until you eat lunch at 12pm. You will still enjoy a range of benefits if you drink black coffee or a herbal tea – this is a controversial area of fasting.
More info here.
Intermittent Fasting Facts
Thanks to the recommendations of a number of reputable online fitness experts, a BBC documentary and an array of articles and studies; intermittent fasting has slowly but surely gained an increasingly reinforced reputation as the ultimate way to lose weight. It has been endorsed by many as the most efficient and healthy way to lose unwanted body fat whilst maintaining muscle mass. As a result the subject of intermittent fasting has generated a vast amount of interest and discussion on and offline.
It would be easy to dismiss intermittent fasting as the next fitness fad, but it is backed up by a substantial amount of research. Intermittent fasting is based upon the theory that our bodies evolved in the Paleolithic era (50,000 to 10,000 BC) to adapt specifically to a lifestyle and environment characterised by periods of famine and feast. The theory behind intermittent fasting dictates that these alternate periods of restricted caloric intake are required for optimal metabolic function.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
The list of proposed benefits relating to intermittent fasting are indeed extremely impressive. They include improved blood lipid profiles, increased growth hormone secretion, accelerated autophagy (the process of cells recycling waste matter), increased insulin sensitivity and studies on animals have also suggested it may have some beneficial effects relating to the prevention of cancer and cognitive function. One of the main mechanisms behind intermittent fasting and all these health benefits, appears to be a reduced secretion of a hormone called IGF-1. This is a hormone that accelerates the aging process and has been linked to a number of diseases, especially when present in the body in relatively high amounts.
Intermittent Fasting Protocols
Alternate Day Fasting
This protocol involves one day of consuming 1/5th of normally energy needs (between 400 and 700 calories depending on bodyweight), and on the next day consuming what you would normally eat – i.e. your usual daily diet. This alternate day fasting is normally continued for a period of up to 8 weeks, although some nutritionists, somewhat controversially, advocate doing it continuously.
The 5:2 Fast
Following this system, as you may have guessed by it’s title, involves spending 2 days a week on a diet that is extremely low in calories. Again 400 to 700 calories depending on body weight, is normally recommended on fasting days.
The fasting days should NOT be consecutive. Again this style of fasting is normally adhered to for up to 8 weeks at a time.
The 16:8 Diet
This is where you normally stop eating at 8pm in the evening, and then don’t eat until 12pm the next day. You need to plan diligently for this protocol, ensuring you eat good quality food in your 8 hour window, and not rubbish to meet your calorie-needs.
Training and Intermittent Fasting
Studies have suggested that exercising whilst in a fasted state, although should be done under supervision and with care, can actually lead to improved athletic performance.
Keeping workouts short (less than 30 mins) and intense, can help enhance the use of fat as a substrate/fuel, whilst enhancing Growth Hormone secretion. Growth Hormone in turn, leads to an enhanced anabolic response – i.e. greater potential to build muscle.
Training in a fasted state can also enhance adaptation to endurance exercise. Studies have shown that training with extremely low levels of muscle glycogen/carbohydrate causes an increased “oxidative capacity” by enhancing the formation of new mitochondria (an element of muscle cells vital to endurance).
For bodybuilding purposes, an example fasting workout programme may look like this:
Deadlifts – 2 sets of 3 – 6 reps
Barbell Bent Over Row – 2 set sets of 8 – 12 reps
Lat Pull down (or chin ups) – 1 sets of 6 – 10 reps
Hanging Leg Raises – 1 set of max reps
Barbell Bench Press – 2 sets of 6 – 10 reps
Dips – 2 sets of 6 – 10 reps
Explosive press ups – 1 sets of max reps
Ab roller – 1 set of max reps
Squats – 2 sets of 6 – 10 reps
Military Press – 2 sets of 6 – 10 reps
Bulgarian Split Squat – 1 sets of 10 – 15 reps on each leg
Stability Ball Pikes – 1 set of max reps
Remember to warm up and cool down before and after each session
Supplements and Intermittent Fasting
Many fitness professionals advise people to take 10g of BCAA approximately 20 minutes before and 10g immediately after training in a fasted state. The theory behind this is that, whilst the body is still starved of carbohydrate, it will experience the same increased secretion of Growth Hormone, and the BCAA supplementation will capitalise on this, further increasing protein synthesis. Interestingly, fitness professionals appear to disagree on whether or not the calories in BCAA should be counted towards your daily total. 10g of BCAA contains around 40 calories.
Whey protein isolate or concentrate can be taken after a workout but the additional calories need to be accounted for when fasting. 1 scoop of whey protein powder will contain around 100 calories – check the label to find out exactly.
Other supplements may be required to make meals during fasting days, “nutrient dense” – you should make those 500 or so calories as nutritious as possible. Supplements that could help you achieve this, include fish oil liquid or capsules, and ‘green powders’ such as wheatgrass and spirulina can also be consumed and are recommended by many nutritionists.
If you are fasting to help heal ‘leaky gut’ then glycine is an excellent supplement to use when you end your fast.
Intermittent Fasting Results
A quick Google search of the phrase “intermittent fasting results” returns a huge number of before and after pictures that apparently substantiate the claims of fat loss achieved with intermittent fasting.
Personally however, I believe it is best to look for information from trusted, authoritative sources and scholarly studies. The article on the BBC website for example, states that Dr Michael Mosley, lost a stone in 5 weeks, and his cholesterol profiles improved, as did his markers of type II Diabetes. His IGF-1 levels also dropped. In addition, there are a number of studies showing that intermittent fasting is equally as effective as continuous energy restriction for achieving weight loss and improving health.
Final Thoughts on Intermittent Fasting
Despite the mounting research and increasing amount of anecdotal evidence; clinical nutritionists and dieticians generally do not recommend intermittent fasting for weight loss or health benefits. They instead recommend eating at least 2000 calories per day for men and 1500 a day for women, and suggest that fasting should only be done under supervision.
Keep this advice in mind if you do attempt an intermittent fasting diet. Remember that there are possible side effects that may include dizziness and sleepiness; something that could obviously be quite dangerous. I would also advise to keep properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water and try a few days with a more moderately reduced caloric intake before attempting a full fast.
If you are interested in intermingle fasting, you may also be interested in the Targeted Ketogenic Diet. The Targeted Ketogenic diet is similar to the intermittent fasting diet, in that you can have carbs at set times…