Just as not eating breakfast and not worrying about 6 meals a day are quickly becoming a popular school of thought amongst fitness professionals, IF could also be included in the list of very popular protocols to live by. In my "fitness infancy" as I like to call it, I used to harp on people for not eating anything until lunch time. Little did I know they had inadvertently stumbled upon what could be a huge step in total overall fitness, assuming what they ate the rest of the day wasn't garbage. In a way, a lot of people do IF every day and don't even realize it!
On average, many of us go somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-12 hours between our last meal of the day and the next meal we eat after we rise from bed. As I've explained in previous posts, the body awakens and is primed for fat burning. IF plays directly into the hands of that fat burning process, but instead of waiting just 2 hours to eat after you get up, IF may have you waiting far longer before indulging in your first meal of the day. Most trusted IF protocols recommend around a 16 hour fast to reach optimal results.
This is the reason why. As most of you are carb eating people, your body turns those carbs into glycogen for storage in the muscle and liver, as well as glucose in the blood. The time frame for your body to metabolize carbohydrates is around 8 hours. If you never give your body proper time to metabolize your previous days carbs before you start eating more, glycogen in your muscle/liver and glucose in your blood stream is always going to be the fuel your body uses, not fat. As I have explained before, this is a great way to make sure your body is always producing new fat cells instead emptying out the ones you have. However, if you don't give your body that carb-based fuel for 12-16 hours, or hardly ever in the case of low carb dieting, your fat burning potential is going to go through the roof. Sounds great, right? But wait, theres' more!
Aside from the fat burning potential that goes along with IF, growth hormone production shot up between 1000-2000% depending on the subject. This means muscle growth and fat burning, which most experts will tell you is almost impossible to do at the same time. Other benefits include normalizing ghrelin (the hunger hormone) levels, lower triglyceride levels, and in some cases even improving memory and learning capabilities. Basically, IF has very few downfalls and a large number of benefits when compared with the standard "eat every 2-3 hours" diet.
That being said, if you're a healthy individual who is very dedicated to your personal fitness and have big goals in mind as it pertains to fat loss, muscle gain and better performance, IF could very well be the thing you're looking for. It's definitely something I have been enjoying for quite some time now. In fact, as I'm typing this, I've just entered my 16th hour without food, and I feel great. I couldn't even tell you the last time I ate breakfast first thing in the morning.
I recommend starting out with IF by just doing it a few times a week to see how you feel. I personally find the best days to try it is after your heaviest carb days. So if you did legs at the gym yesterday and had a lot more carbs than usual, the next day would most likely be optimal for skipping breakfast and possibly lunch. When you're ready to give it a go, here are some basic rules for beginners:
- As with all diet protocols, you must first determine your Basal Metabolic Rate, then adjust your calories based on activity level and goals. Just because you're going to only be eating 6-8 hours a day doesn't mean you will be eating less. You will need to fit all your required calories and macronutrients (fat/protein/carbs) into this window. I can't stress enough how much decreasing some of your carb intake and upping your healthy fat (omega 3s, coconut oil, avocado, etc) intake can help in the process of your body learning to use fat for fuel. However, it is not fully required to see success on IF.
- The night before your first fast, cut off your food intake around 8pm or so. The only thing permitted from here on out is water. Some black coffee with a bit of coconut oil and a multivitamin in the morning is fine for most people, but under no circumstances will you be eating anything solid until your first meal of the day.
- If you're a first time IF'er, shoot for an 8 hour eating window the first few times. So if your first meal is at noon, you will be done eating by 8pm. If this is your off-day from the gym, make the first meal your largest of the day (some people will make it up to 50% of their daily caloric intake in one meal). Otherwise, make your largest meal of the day after your workout. If your workout is still in the morning fasting window, that's okay. The noon meal will be your largest.
- Consume all your calories in 2-3 meals a day. If you're doing an 8 hour window, there's no need to try to eat 6 times. In fact, as I've previously said, there's never a need to eat that many times a day. If you're doing 2 meals, have one at noon and one before your cut off time at 8pm. Split the calories around 50/50. If you're doing 3 meals, split them accordingly, just make one meal is larger than the other 2 (either the noon meal or post workout meal, as explained above).
- Final rule: Lose fat, spare muscle tissue, and build muscle in some cases while taking the hassle out of all day eating!
That's simply just one way to do IF. There are many methods used by many different people. Some use the 16/8 method used above and do it daily. Others go 24 hours and beyond without food and just do it once a week. It's literally a trial and error thing, and ultimately it boils down to what works for you as an individual. I've personally been on an IF-type eating schedule for a long time and I have no idea how I would ever go back to "regular" eating.
IF isn't what I would call a "diet." It's a lifestyle, and a very sustainable one for most people. I will be writing more posts on this subject in the future, including an FAQ tomorrow to explain a few things a bit more in depth. My goal is to give all my readers an incite into the very large amount of ways to achieve better performance and overall health, and I believe IF to be one of the most effective, least talked about methods out there. I hope everyone has an awesome day, and if you haven't already, go work out!