In this new weekly series I will breakdown different dieting strategies, the pros and cons behind these diets, who they are best suited for, and practical applications for use in your own diet. I will also give out a few different (very easy and simple) recipes to try that relate to the dietary technique being discussed.
Intermittent fasting: one of the most interesting ways to implement a dieting technique. This diet is unique in that it can essentially be transformed to any goal that the person may have. Truthfully, I would call this more of a tactic or supplement to another diet, than a diet itself. You can implement other dieting techniques around intermittent fasting, so in a way this is just another tool to help facilitate another diet. However, there is some application to those that choose not to follow another dieting style; meaning it can fit into normal eating habits (you know, if you are not disciplined enough to follow a diet).
Intermittent fasting is a very simple concept, and very easy to follow. You basically have a selected window to eat during the day; otherwise you are fasting, or not eating. There are different levels to fasting, meaning that some fasts last longer than others. It’s an interval type style of eating, just as you would interval training or cardio. So, think of it like HIIT cardio, where you go faster, and then at a slower pace. You would not eat, then eat, then not eat essentially (although it’s obviously slightly more complex than that).
It’s important to understand your daily calorie and macronutrient requirements needed to reach whatever goal you are trying to attain. These requirements will remain the same, but in a shorter period of time. Some will find it difficult to eat that much in such a short window, which is another reason why intermittent fasting leads to weight loss; as a byproduct of undereating. It would seem as though you are eating a lot more than if you were following a normal eating schedule.
Intermittent fasting goes against the notion that there is a strong thermic effect to food, but is this true? Or is there a thermic effect to food but fasting for a long period of time is more effective? Many believe that eating smaller meals more frequently will yield the best results for fat loss and muscle gain. Is intermittent fasting superior to this, or is it inferior?
- Flexibility. This diet is incredibly flexible in the application. It can essentially fit into any other dieting plan, while potentially boosting the effects of the diet. Intermittent fasting can be incorporated into keto, paleo, or any other dieting style. Studies have shown that those following whatever diet they choose to, will actually see increased effectiveness (fat loss) in that particular diet when following intermittent fasting.
- It’s great for insulin response and insulin sensitivity. When glucose is not present for long periods of time, sensitivity will be increased. When the presence of glucose is then introduced it will be used much more efficiently with a potent insulin response. During a fasted state insulin levels drop significantly, and growth hormone levels actually increase. This is the perfect environment for insulin sensitivity and decreases the likelihood of insulin resistance.
- When cardio is performed during the fasted window, you are assured that the calories being expended will aid in fat burning. Without calories present in the body fat burning will be optimized. The argument for fasted cardio being that with nothing in the body to burn in the form of calories, fat is the energy source used.
- Intermittent fasting may help to reduce inflammation in the body by ridding it of free radicals. The absence of carbohydrates is an anti-inflammatory as well. This can help in overall health and has anti-aging type properties.
- It’s great for those in a caloric surplus who do not want to accumulate unwanted body fat too rapidly. You can eat the same amount of total calories in a day, but with the added benefit of burning fat during the fasted window.
- When water intake is high, fasting is great for overall digestive health by helping flush the digestive tract. When food is not present during the fasted window, the digestive tract gets a break from digesting food. This can also aid in recovery, where blood is usually rushed to the digestive tract to digest food, the blood can now be allocated to muscle cells.
- This is a very easy diet to follow, especially for the casual dieter. You can still reap benefits from this diet even if the total calories consumed during the day remain the same. It’s much more convenient not having to worry about packing so many meals to get through the day.
- Nutrient partitioning efficiency could be increased, meaning food is allocated to muscle and not body fat. Nutrient partitioning is increased following a workout; this could actually be amplified following a workout that is completed while fasted.
- For those with blood sugar issues, this could cause problems. This type of diet is too inconsistent and could actually make blood sugar fluctuations worse. Those that have issues with hypoglycemia could make these bouts of low blood sugar more pronounced.
- For competitive bodybuilders this could also be a very difficult diet to follow. With calories already at such dramatic lows, this could be very problematic. Performance in the gym could also suffer, especially if you have to train during the fasted window. Recovery would also be compromised if you cannot consume anything post workout.
- Cognitive function could also take a pretty significant hit, especially for those unfamiliar and new to fasting. I would not suggest this type of diet to anyone who needs to have very high cognitive function for long periods of time during the fasted window.
- For those in a caloric surplus wanting to put on mass this diet can actually hinder progress. Ectomorphs, who need higher amounts of calories as a baseline, would have a difficult time putting on weight with intermittent fasting.
No other diet might be as a person dependent and individual as intermittent fasting. Not everyone can function for long periods of time without food. Intermittent fasting is very flexible in that anyone can essentially use it. However, depending on goals, this diet is better suited for some people than it is for others.
There are different ways to implement intermittent fasting, depending on the length and type of fasting window. The most common fast is the 16:8 method, meaning you fast for 16 hours and eat during an eight hour window. This method is the best if you want to try and gain some mass while following intermittent fasting.
Another common way, although a little more dramatic, is the 5:2 method. In this type of fast you eat normal five days a week (while still having a fasting window), and then on the other two you are restricting calories to 500-600 a day. This is a great way to drop weight quickly, although I am not so sure if it’s best for retaining muscle mass.
The last fasting method I will touch on is the every other day fast. You will fast for 24 hours every other day. This fasting method will be very difficult for many to follow, but results will come very quick (if the desired results are to drop weight quickly). For many, this is a very unrealistic way to diet.
What’s the verdict on intermittent fasting?
It depends. Very anticlimactic I know, but that is the only answer I can give on intermittent fasting. It would be unwise and irresponsible of me to give a blanket yes or no here. This diet is much too person dependent to say if it will work or not. The only thing I can say is give it a try. I have personally used intermittent fasting as part of a mini diet during a bulk to increase insulin sensitivity and I can say that I saw some very positive results.
Weekly Recipe- Since there is no particular recipe that I can associate with intermittent fasting, here is a favorite recipe of mine during a lean gaining phase.
Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Meatballs
- 1 pound ground chicken.
- 1/3 cup of quick oats
- 3 green onions.
- Roughly 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning.
- Roughly one tablespoon of garlic salt.
- 2 sticks of mozzarella string cheese.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- In a large bowl mix chicken, Italian seasoning, and garlic salt together
- Chop the green onion, using only the bottom 4 inches of the onion.
- Pour in the oats and mix together with hands.
- Slice the cheese into 10 separate pieces.
- Roll the chicken mixture into balls and stuff with the cheese.
- Place meatballs on a greased baking dish.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked thoroughly.
Approx. Macros per Meatball (Makes roughly 10-12 meatballs)
Protein: 11 g
Carbohydrates: 3 g
Fat: 4 g