So you’ve heard about intermittent fasting and how it can help you increase your productivity, lose weight and improve your energy levels. But you’re wary of trying it, causing like most things to do with diet, it could just be another fad that’s way off track from the truth.
I hear ya. I used to think intermittent fasting was a crock of you know what. Because I was always told that if you wanted to be healthy, you were supposed to eat 6 small meals a day. Not that this method ever worked a wink for me. Plus it was bloody hard to maintain. Who has time for preparing 6 small meals a day?! Please.
Once I put my skepticism aside and tried IF I was hooked. It actually got me results. It actually felt good and totally sustainable, the opposite of what I would’ve assumed not eating for 16 hours would be like.
Since our first article came out on intermittent fasting (check it out here if you haven’t yet) we’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers who are curious, but hesitant to try IF for a variety of reasons. It’s clear that from an outsider’s perspective intermittent fasting sounds complicated. I want to take some time today to answer your questions and clear the air about IF so you can get a better understanding if it’s right for you or not.
The Most Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Intermittent Fasting
Q: Isn’t not eating for that long dangerous?
A: What’s more dangerous, eating all the time or eating when you’re actually hungry? Intermittent fasting isn’t about depriving your body of what it needs, it’s just creating a smaller window of time where you can give it what it needs. You’re not even restricting calories, you’re merely restricting the time frame in which you consume them.
Creating a larger window of time spent in the fasting state is actually really good for your health. It strengthens your insulin receptors and speeds up your metabolism, and it puts your body into a fat burning state that nothing else can.
As a culture, we’re afraid of not eating, I get that. But is there a logical reason for this? Not really. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors wouldn’t eat all the time, and they were a hell of a lot healthier than us.
Q: Will drinking coffee or tea in the morning ruin the whole effect?
A: You can definitely consume coffee, in fact, it’s beneficial if your goal is to burn more fat. Coffee also has a satiating effect so it’ll help you feel less hungry. Black coffee, even with a splash of cream, definitely won’t ruin the effects of IF. You can even do the bulletproof thing and add some grass-fed butter to your coffee.
According to Mark’s Daily Apple, you can have a pure fat source during your fast, it’ll just slow fat burning a bit. The extra fat does take the edge off a bit if you’re not used to fasting.
Q: Is it OK to keep fasting after a workout? Don’t I need a protein shake or something?
A: You can keep fasting after a workout, but your muscles still need to be replenished somehow. If you want to get bigger and gain muscle, time your workouts for when your fast is supposed to end so that you can have a big meal afterward.
If this isn’t possible then it’s time to look at your priorities, you can’t have it all. What’s the primary objective, gaining muscle or losing fat? If it’s muscle and your schedule doesn’t allow for a meal post-workout that fits with your IF schedule, then maybe do your more intense workouts on your days off work to allow for a post workout meal.
Taking a BCAA supplement won’t break your fast, just be careful to stay away from the ones with a ton of artificial sweeteners and colors.
Q: Do I have to practice intermittent fasting every day of the week?
A: Hell to the no. That’s the beauty of IF. It’s not something you must do consistently to reap the benefits. You’ll benefit whenever you can fit it in. If you work a really crazy job where you just can’t schedule meals and workouts to work together, you can fast on your days off and still benefit.
If you want to go out for brunch with your friends on the weekend, go for it. It won’t make the next day’s fast any less effective.
Q: What the hell does IF have to do with entrepreneurship?
A: Ha! Glad you asked. The benefits of intermittent fasting go way beyond just physical. The mental benefits are what hooked me to begin with. Fasting improves brain function in a few ways.
It boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which helps existing neurons survive while promoting the growth of new ones. To give some context, those with Alzheimer’s have been shown to have low levels of BDNF.
Fasting also boosts neuronal autophagy which our brains are entirely dependent on if we expect them to function at a high level. Autophagy allows our brains to repair themselves and get rid of waste.
Anyone can benefit from these brain-boosting effects, but most people don’t give a fuck. As a (successful) entrepreneur you become obsessed with improving your performance all the time. This is how you get better, and your brain and body play a huge role in this process.
Plus IF is a major time saver. Eating and preparing food takes up so much time I’d rather spent working on my business.
Q: How intense should my workouts be while fasting?
A: My favorite exercises to do while I’m fasting are chill ones like a long walk in the park or a hike in the woods. It’s one thing if you’re planning on eating a large meal after a really intense workout done in a fasted state, but it’s another if you can’t replenish after like I talked about above.
Here’s another way to look at it; fasting is stressful. That’s part of why it’s so beneficial. It offers a form of eustress (the good kind) the type of stress that makes you stronger and more resilient, yet it’s still stress in the end.
Exercise stresses your body too. Especially intense training that requires a lot of recovery time. Most experts like Martin Berkhan and Brad Pilon recommend no more than 2–3 weight training sessions per 7–10 days when you’re doing a 16-hour intermittent fasting schedule. Take that into consideration before you try and hit the gym every day while fasting.
Q: Can I do cardio while practicing IF?
A: You can do cardio while practicing IF but depending on the type of cardio you might want to time it right before breaking the fast.
If you’re doing a HIIT workout, you need to be replenishing afterward, at least with BCAA’s. Keep that in mind and run for your life!
Q: Can I take supplements during my fast?
A: You can, it’s not like they have calories, but be careful as some vitamins and nootropics should be taken with food for optimal absorption.
The one supplement you might want to consider taking is BCAA’s, especially if you’re working out during your fast and not eating afterward. Taking BCAA’s will help with recovery and it’ll ease the hunger pangs that exercise can sometimes induce.
Q: Is IF safe for seniors and kids or is it just for bodybuilders?
A: It’s not just for bodybuilders. Even people who don’t really exercise can benefit from intermittent fasting.
Seniors can definitely benefit, especially for the positive effects on brain health and the fact that intermittent fasting has been shown to keep cancer away and strengthen the immune system in general.
Fasting might even protect against stroke by reducing levels of inflammatory cytokines. Other studies have shown IF is beneficial for protecting against Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
Kids, on the other hand, don’t need to fast. They’re kids, they need as much food as they can get. If a kid is overweight, they probably get too much sugar and junk food, which can easily be fixed.
Q: I don’t get it, how does fasting extend your life?
A: The first question that needs to be asked, to truly understand the answer to this is question, is what causes aging in the first place?
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is thought to control aging. When mice were fed a strong inhibitor of mTOR, their lifespan increased substantially. Fasting and lowering insulin also inhibit mTOR and in turn have a longevity effect.
The first study done on the topic of intermittent fasting and longevity began in 1945 on rats. Each rat was given a fasting schedule, one day out of four, one day out of three or every second day. The females did best on the one day out of three schedule, while the male rats did best fasting every second day.
All the rats who fasted did better than they’re fully fed daily rationed ratty counterparts. The fasted rats were generally just healthier, they weighed less, lived longer, and lived happily ever after.
Of course, humans aren’t rats, but we seem to follow a similar trajectory when it comes to the side effects of intermittent fasting.
Q: Should women follow the same IF protocol as men and if not, how should they change it?
A: Stay tuned because I’m planning an in-depth article devoted to this very topic. To address this question right away though, the answer is a tad confusing. Everyone is different and some women can handle not eating for 16 hours, yet if the rat study on longevity that I talked about above tells us anything it’s that women might not need to fast as long to reap the benefits. Just another upper hand that the ladies have right?
I know plenty of women who fast for 12 or 14 hours instead of 16 and still maintain similar benefits. There’s evidence to show that women respond to intermittent fasting quite differently than men as they’re much more sensitive to hunger signals.
For most women, it’s safe to try if you’re not pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to get pregnant. However, it has to feel good. If you feel like shit while you’re fasting then you might be trying to stretch it out too long. There’s nothing wrong with doing shorter fasts, you’ll still get some results but without the excessive negative stress. Some women might opt to cut out breakfast but have a bite to eat later in the morning.
Q: I find when I skip breakfast that by the time lunch rolls around I overcompensate and eat more that I usually would. Doesn’t this negate the positive effects of skipping breakfast?
A: If you find that you’re overeating at lunch then it’s time to take a look at WHAT exactly you’re eating to create this cycle of excess. Intermittent fasting isn’t an excuse to eat high sugar refined crap foods. Eating those things no matter how long you go without them will inevitable set you up for failure.
Stick to a diet with plenty of healthy fats, lots of high-quality protein, fruits, and vegetables. It’s simple: just eat real food. When you do this, you won’t get the same insane urge to eat so much in one sitting.
Q: Will Intermittent Fasting cause me to lose muscle?
A: No way, in fact, many people even gain muscle with IF. How else do you think this shit got so popular? But seriously, you can make pretty crazy gains with IF, just make sure to get plenty of protein in during your feeding window and BCAA’s before or after your workouts.
I’m going to write an in-depth article on exactly how you can gain muscle using IF, step by step, so stay tuned.
So that’s that folks, what do you think? Do you have any particular questions about intermittent fasting and how you can make it work for you? Let us know in the comments.
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Originally published at www.biohackingentrepreneur.com on August 1, 2016.