Intermittent Fasting: The Benefits, And How It Could Help You
Does this popular trend actually work?
Have you ever had that friend that questions everything?
The one that never settled for “cause mom said so” or “because everybody else is doing it”?
Yeah, that was always me, and with all the bad information that’s out there today… I think my childhood rebellion is actually becoming a good trait.
This has led me to become a self-experimenter with many things, mainly so I could debunk a lot of bad information….
And in today’s article, I wanted to give you my straight-up review on a growing topic: Intermittent Fasting.
Why do people do this?
So let’s start out with the important question, why do people even do this?
I think this is a good question that we should ask every time, but this one particularly stuck out to me as I was always told that eating multiple meals per day was the way to lose weight…
But now I’m reading about this intermittent fasting thing that’s telling me to do the exact opposite.
This seems standard in health so that part didn’t surprise me, but as I got to digging into it, the reasons why were a little more interesting.
Most of the stuff I found online was click-bait written by “health gurus” that had obviously never tried it before (the ones that use big words to sound smart, but don’t have a good answer when you email them)….
But as I kept digging, I discovered that the main benefits really boiled down to 4 main things:
- Because it helps control your insulin levels and burn fat
The first reason I found was that it helped burn fat by restricting the times where you could eat, and that ensured enough time for your body to get into fat burning mode (whether that was for 4 hours or 12 hours, it all depends on the type).
This was also confusing to me at first as I was always told that “starving” myself was the worst thing to do for weight loss and it did nothing but slow down metabolism, but as I continued to read, I learned that this might not be true.
Well, mainly because our body has 2 stages of digestion — “feeding” and “fasting”.
As I’m sure you can guess, the feeding stage is when you’re eating food and the fasting stage is when you’re not eating food.
Technically, we all go through periods of fasting whether we know it or not (i.e. sleep), but the problem is that we don’t do it for long enough.
What do I mean?
Well, it turns out that fasting can be a good thing for weight loss (in small quantities) because it forces your body to use fat for fuel, but it usually takes around 12 hours (from the last meal) to get there.
And since most of us don’t wait 12 hours in between feeding times, then well, we never reach this point.
So in a nutshell, this is one of the main reasons why intermittent fasting helps you lose fat. I’ll explain more on the techniques and tactics later on, but depending on the method, this could help you be in “fat burning mode” for 4 hours a day.
2. Because it puts good stress on our body
Okay, moving on to stress. And when I say stress in this context, it’s actually a good thing.
Yes, I just said there’s such thing as good stress, and the most common form of good stress is weightlifting.
How is that good stress?
Well, think about stress as anytime you push your limits and force yourself to grow.
That could happen in many different ways, but with weightlifting, you’re really just lifting so much weight that you’re breaking down muscle.
This might sound counterintuitive at first, but if fed properly, the muscle grows back bigger and stronger…helping you reach the end goal.
Okay, so you understand good stress now, but how does this apply to intermittent fasting?
Well I don’t mean to go all Darwin on ya, but after periods of fasting, your body starts to do some “survival of the fittest”.
This is something I learned after listening to Dr. Rhonda Patrick on the Tim Ferriss Show, and if you want to get technical, a lot of it comes from “mitochondrial biogeneration”…
A fancy way of saying that your cells make more mitochondria, tiny bodies that make up the energy to power your cells.
This is good for obvious reasons, but then on top of that, if the fasting is long enough (even though that’s generally 3–5 days)…then it can effectively “reboot” your immune system via stem cell regeneration.
Now that’s the technical part, but my favorite thing to do is take complex stuff and simplify it…
So in layman’s terms, your body freaks out and starts to get rid of all the bad stuff, the stuff that it doesn’t need anymore and does more harm than good.
Again, a lot of the major benefits don’t occur until fasting for 3–5 days, and that’s outside the realm of “intermittent fasting”…but nonetheless, periods of fasting allow your body to clean house.
3. It helps portion out calories
Going back to the weight loss side of things, I think you’re probably aware that calories are important when it comes to losing weight.
And since it’s hard to watch calories while we’re eating all day, intermittent fasting benefits us by giving us less time to eat, and in theory — that means we’ll eat less calories.
Now this makes sense, but it also has some obvious holes in it.
For example, if you decide to fast for 16 hours and then eat snickers and ice cream for the remaining 8 hours…then well, I’m guessing your calories are still going to exceed your daily limit.
In other words, it sounds cute and I get it, but I don’t think it’s a solid fact that I’d rely on.
4. It’s just easier, who has time to eat 5 times per day?
The last reason I found didn’t really deal with weight loss or health, but it just simply made your life easier.
Instead of worrying about what you’re going to eat every morning (or night, depending on your fasting schedule), you simply know you can’t eat during that time and you have less time to think about eating (in theory).
Again, this benefit sounds like a reach, but as somebody who’s experimented with intermittent fasting for the last 3 years…I can say that it does make a difference.
I’m not saying I’m perfect, but 90% of the year I do daily intermittent fasting (16 hours fasting, 8 hours feeding) and I do love the fact that I only have to think about 2 meals.
Call it willpower, but when I allow myself to eat all day, I usually do.
Bonus reason, just so I can sound young and hip…
It’s totally primal. I mean, think about it, our ancestors didn’t have a McDonalds at every corner or refrigerators to store food, so they certainly went times without eating.
My experience with intermittent fasting started around 3 years ago, and I came across it while I was learning about fat burning mode.
Now I’ll tell you my results in a second, but before I do, it’s important to remember that I started this at the same time I started fat burning mode, so my results are probably going to be better than most others.
With that said, I was always a very obese dude and struggled to lose weight for many years, but after starting my “fat burning diet” / daily intermittent fasting regimen, I was able to lose over 50 lbs in over 12 months…and have kept it off ever since.
This was obviously great and enough reason to be in love with the regimen, but in addition the this, I also realized:
- An uptick in energy every morning (when your body burns fat, it produces a great source of fuel called ketones)
- I started working earlier (as opposed to cooking breakfast and eating)
- I was more productive (wasn’t worried about eating the entire time)
- I was eating less calories (even though I’m still not convinced that’s a solid “benefit”)
- And I started to enjoy food more, especially during my 8 hours of eating…
So to sum it up, I guess my experience with intermittent fasting was more “routine based” than anything.
It simply allows me to eat during certain times and fast during others, forcing me to do productive things, like work.
So, how can you try this?
Okay, so we’ve just went over the reasons why you should try intermittent fasting, and here’s the how.
The first thing you’ll want to consider, is the method of intermittent fasting that works best for you.
There’s plenty of different methods out there, but the 3 main routines that I’ve come across are:
- Daily Intermittent Fasting (commonly referred to as the “leangains method”)
As I mentioned earlier, this is the method that I use and the one that I personally think works best.
I like it because it’s easy, manageable, and allows you to enter “fat burn” for at least 4 hours a day.
The process is simple, all you need to do is set aside 16 hours where you don’t eat (fasting) and then 8 hours where you eat (feeding).
For me personally, I eat during 12 p.m. and 8 p.m.
I like this schedule because it allows me to eat lunch and dinner, but if you’re more of a breakfast connoisseur, then 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. works just as well.
Friendly Note: You can still drink water while fasting, so don’t forget to do that
2. Weekly Intermittent Fasting
Moving on, weekly intermittent fasting.
So as opposed to having fasting periods each day, this method allows you to eat regularly each day and then go on a 24 hour fast once a week.
Yes, that means you don’t eat for 24 hours, and that’s also why this method is much popular that option 1.
Does it have more benefits than option 1?
Not really. If you look at it from a weight loss/fat burn standpoint, you’re actually getting less time in this stage.
Because the weekly intermittent fasting only gives you 12 hours a week (remember, you don’t really hit fat burn until 12 hours after your last meal) and the daily gives you 28 hours a week (4 hours for 7 days).
Then I guess there’s the “good stress” standpoint, which a 24 hour fast could give you more benefits than a 16 hour fast…
But from my understanding, the “next level” of benefits don’t come until a 3–5 day fast anyway, so I don’t think this does much good either.
With that said, if you’re the “go big or go home” type, then this might be the option for you.
3. Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting
Last but not least, alternate day intermittent fasting.
So out of these 3 methods, this is the one that I advise the least.
Not because I don’t think it works or anything like that, but because I think it complicates things too much without really showing any extra benefits.
And by complicates things, I mean an example of the alternate day regimen would be:
Eating dinner Monday night and then not eating until Tuesday night.
Then on Wednesday you’d eat all day and then begin a 24 hour fast on Wednesday evening….not eating again until Thursday evening….
And you continue to rotate like this off and on.
So I guess it’s not too terribly complicated, but I love the simplicity of following a routine every day, so this one isn’t for me.
Personally, I’ve never tried this method so I can’t give a lot of feedback from a tactical standpoint…
But from a benefits standpoint, I really don’t see how this one would be the best option either.
From a fat burning standpoint, you’re really only entering a true “fasting state” during the 24 hour fast.
On other days, when you’re not eating for 12 hours, then you’re really not doing yourself any good…well, from a fat burn standpoint.
Then when it comes to the other benefits (like productivity and energy), I don’t see how this is a better option either.
In short, it’s still intermittent fasting, but it’s not a method I’d advise.
My Fasting Advice (for all methods)
The last thing I wanted to mention with intermittent fasting, and this is especially true if it’s your first time, but it never hurts to drink “healthy fats” during your original fasting periods.
This could come in the form of a few different products, but I always advise MCT Oil Powder by Quest Nutrition.
Simply make a shake of that (2 scoops in a blender bottle full of water) during the beginning of your fasting period (i.e. when you wake up), and it’ll help you make the transition.
Because it’ll produce ketones, the source of fuel that’s created with fat burn, and that’ll help you enter fat burning mode faster.
I’m a fan of intermittent fasting and continue to use it every day, but I don’t think it’s quite as effective as most people make it sound.
Truthfully, I only recommend it to people who are in fat burning mode, but nonetheless…it does still have some benefits to those that aren’t.
Want to learn more about fat burning mode and how you can use this with intermittent fasting? I’ve created a free course for you at SeanMeyer.com