Intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet, but rather a feeding widow. It involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating. There are different approaches to fasting and feeding windows. A popular one is the 16 hour fast. Fasting windows can vary from 12-18 hours, sometimes even 24 hours. Fasting windows can also be broken into split feeding windows (ex: eat, fast for 8 hours, eat again). This can be done daily or a couple times a week. Some studies show that allowing your body a longer fasting window aids in faster fat burning, helps increase energy, regulates hormones, reduces risk of cancer, boosts growth hormones, etc.
I was asked to write an article on this topic before experimenting with IF. So I spent the past few months experimenting to see how this would affect my results. Below are the typical questions I get asked and responses to my experience. I am not a certified nutritionist, all the information provided below is solely based on my experience and my own opinion regarding this approach.
Does IF help burn fat faster?
No. I do not believe IF helps speed up the fat-burning process. Some say that being in a fasted state allows your body to burn through fat, rather than the energy consumed from food. Sure, your body will resort to burning fat as energy when you are not in a fed state but ultimately being in a calorific deficit is what aids in burning fat. You can fast for long periods of time but if you are consuming a surplus of calories, you will not burn fat. Period!
What foods should I eat during my feeding window?
IF is not a specific diet that restricts certain foods. As a trainer, I would recommend that your diet consists of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, with occasional treat meals.
Should I train fasted?
This is all personal preference and it depends on your goals. If you are looking to add mass, I would recommend following a meal plan that keeps you in an anabolic state, rather than catabolic. If you are looking to maintain or lose weight, then IF may be a good option for you. In my experience of training fasted, I have not noticed any muscle loss. I always supplement with Max Muscle Nutrition’s Pro BCAAs, this helps preserve muscle and keeps me energized through fasting hours.
What is the best fasting window?
There is no “one-fits-all” option. Find what window works best for you and your schedule. I typically do a 14-16 hour fast and break my fast post-workout.
What do you like most about IF and how has it benefited you?
1). I like not depending on the clock to tell me when to eat. For the longest time I followed a regimen where I consumed my meals every 2-3 hours. Although, this is still a good method it did not always work well for me. I always found myself thinking about food and obsessing about what I would eat next. Not to mention on busy days prepping 6-7 meals would be a challenge.
2). I feel more satisfied eating 3-4 larger meals, rather than 6-8 small frequent meals. Doing so allows me to get more creative with my meals, being that I have a larger amount of calories per meal.
3). I feel more energized performing my workouts in a fasted state.
Take-away: Do what works best for you. Your fitness journey will differ from others, so take what you learn and pave your own path to success. You do you!