When years ago I first heard of intermittent fasting (IF) , the act of voluntarily skipping meals and leave your stomach empty, at first I thought it was insanity! After all haven’t we all been told that we should count calories and never, EVER, skip a meal if we want to lose weight to not slow down our metabolism? It turns out that not only is this false (your metabolism needs many meals/days of insufficient food to slow down) but Intermittent fasting might have a lot of health benefits for you (explained later with links) and is definitely useful for me in terms of productivity and getting work done.
Nowadays I skip usually once or twice a week 1-2 meals and go on with my day as usual.
A simple way to see how IF helps with weight loss or maintenance is if you skip a meal your body simply goes into your fat reserves and burns calories there instead of panicking and shriveling up. Additionally, along the way the body does a lot of “rejuvenation work” with the resources not allocated to digesting food, as you will see later.
The “theory” that later came to explain the studied scientific behavior of our body while under IF is in our hunter gatherer times, we often had periods of famine, meals were not always guaranteed. Our body would not simply shrivel up and act sick because we skipped a meal, in fact most likely those who had a genetic advantage of being focused/healthy when low in food would have survived.
Personally, while I have used IF to effortlessly reduce my daily calorie intake once a week (and burn some body fat) I have been far more impressed with the potential health benefits and the additional productivity on days I do IF.
Some people call it an intermittent fasting diet, but it is not really a type of diet but rather a way to plan your meals (to mimic not having food all day). It doesn’t tell you the exact food you have to eat during the day but rather it is about eating at only a given period of time like only eating from 2pm to 10pm or 4pm to Midnight.
I will cover below 3 methods on how to do Intermittent fasting to lose weight, list some health benefits with sources and finally end with the unintended side effect of how IF helps me with productivity!
How to do Intermittent fasting for weight loss, 3 different methods to add this to your lifestyle
1) Martin Berkhan’s Lean gain guide (only eating 8 hours a day)
What is it? 8 hour feeding window, you usually skip your morning meal then end the fast with a workout and a big meal when you have around 8 hours left in your day. So 16 hours of fasting, 8 hours of eating.
I first heard about IF many years ago on Martin Berkhan’s blog in order to build muscle while reducing body fat, basically an intermittent fasting bodybuilding protocol. I used his method for many years which involves skipping one meal and basically limiting yourself to an 8 hour feeding window (16 hours, including sleep, under IF). He often cuts the fast with his workout and then goes eat a big meal. In his case, he does not necessarily lower calories, simply juggles them in the 8 hour feeding window with 16 hours of his body burning body fat.
Depending on your body type and goals, this could work for you (eating the same amount of calories but only during 8 hours) but for me it was not lowering my (already skinny but not enough to see abs) body fat unless I also restricted a bit my calories (eat less than a usual day.
2) Bulletproof intermittent fasting by Dave Asprey
What is it? 8 hour feeding window, but you are allowed some fats (butter/coconut oil/milk + maybe mct oil) with your morning coffee to curb the initial hunger period when you wake up. A little fat does not “stop” IF (unlike protein and carbs which do).
While skipping one meal was overall fine I enjoyed IF due to the health benefits I discovered, it was annoying in the morning to fight my hunger for a few hours before getting into the zone. I then discovered bulletproof intermittent fasting in this blog post and I highly recommend it If you find not eating anything too hard when you wake up. This type of IF is basically adding some butter (or some source of healthy fat like coconut milk or oil) to your morning coffee (or tea) alongside some MCT oil to have some initial calories from fat. Eating a bit of fat does not cut into the health benefits of IF, but if your goal is weight loss then you should not overdo the morning fats because for me it was leading me to not lose body fat (to go under 10%) because I was not in a deficit. You can find the recipe of the morning coffee here. The idea is that it will give you stable current of energy throughout the day, optimizes brain function and fat loss with caffeine, and boosts your metabolism up to 12%. The bulletproof fasting recommends the bulletproof diet. You can get a copy of bulletproof diet here which I personally use heavily for my meals.
3) 24 hour fasting (What I do now, because at this point I love the noticeable health benefits + productivity gains)
What is it? Instead of skipping 1 meal, skip 2. Basically 24 hours of no eating and you eat a small/normal meal a few hours before bed.
After doing IF for a while I noticed how much more productive I can be while not eating and I wanted to create a bigger calorie deficit in my IF days and it was simply easier for me to prolong the fast then to make sure I was eating 2/3 of my normal daily calories or less. So I simply start my day with coffee+ healthy fats from #2, and skip 2 meals and eat around 24 hours after last night’s meal. So if I ate my last meal at 8pm and went to bed at midnight, I fast the next day until around 8pm again. I personally love it this way but it is something you have to try for yourself!
On to the Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting!
Fasting has been a part of religious practice for a long time, such as the fasting being done by Christian during the lent season and by the Muslims during Ramadan season. Nevertheless, aside from the spiritual benefits you get, modern science has confirmed that fasting has a lot of health benefits. The following list of health benefits of intermittent fasting partly taken from Dr. Mercola:
- It normalizes the insulin and leptin sensitivity as well as boost mitochondrial energy efficiency. Intermittent fasting impacts insulin sensitivity which makes the body use fat as a primary source of energy instead of sugar. It also helps you gain more muscle weight when you do overeat after a big workout.