Intermittent Fasting

By: Arthur Anderson

Intermittent fasting (IF) is simply a change in eating habits where you eat the same amount of food in a shorter time span.  The most common form of IF is not eating for a 12 – 16 hour period each day.  For example you would have your first meal at 10am and finish with your last meal at 6pm and not eating again until the next morning. Some more extreme forms of IF can have fasting periods of up to 72 hours (not recommended for the faint of heart).

We as a race did not begin eating three meals a day until recently in our history, like 300 years ago. It’s obvious that we didn’t have regular meals while were in the hunter gatherer stage, we ate when we found food. During most of our agricultural period we would work in the fields early in the day and come in during the afternoon heat for our first meal and then maybe an evening meal with the family.

Now that we feed ourselves from sunrise to sunset our bodies have adjusted to the abundance of food by not needing to tap into our energy reserves and happily forming new cells when the old ones are not working efficiently, neither of which is good for us.  We know that too much food will lead to weight gain, but a continuous supply of food has your body uninterested in using this stored energy.  The constant forming of new cells leads to premature aging and compressing the lifespan of these cells (Hayflick limit).  High carbohydrate diets and the Standard American Diet create a lot of inflammation in your body from over insulin stimulation as well creating oxidative residue from the metabolism of carbohydrates in the cells.  So, if the cells are continuously bombarded with carbohydrates they never get a chance to clean house and eventually become inefficient and new cells are created.  Intermittent Fasting allows the cells to be more metabolically efficient, clean house, and grow more mitochondria (the cell’s power cell) in the cell.

The studies supporting the benefits of Intermittent Fasting are numerous and make common sense, so how hard can it be?  The transition to a compressed eating schedule can be difficult, especially if you are also consuming lots of carbs in your diet.  Carbs are a quick burn energy source that trains your body to expect a continuous supply of food/carbs.

I started eating on a compressed schedule about 2 months ago.  The transition wasn’t too difficult as I was on a fairly low carb diet when I started.  One of the first things I noticed is that my sleep improved.  I feel I have more energy for my workouts and I am hitting new PRs while working out in a fasted state.  I have also found that my energy level throughout the day is constant; I haven’t needed a senior nap for quite a while.

If Intermittent Fasting is something that you might be interested in trying I would suggest going at it slowly, meaning shorten your eating time by maybe an hour whenever you can. Then when you’re comfortable with that take away another hour, and so on.  You will gain nothing if feel like you are starving, all this will do is raise cortisol levels and create inflammation, which you are trying to avoid.

Here are a few references that might help:
Mark’s Daily Apple– A six-part guide to fasting
Leangains– considered an early pioneer in IF and strength training
EatStopEat– More information on the ‘whys and the whats’.