There are several things I get asked about over and over and over again. Like...
Q: Where did you get your living room rug?
A: World Market.
Q: What are your favorite shoes to lift weights in?
Q: Where did you get your "A" necklace?
I also get tons, tons, tons of questions on Intermittent Fasting, and even though I've written two posts on it already - a post about my first experience with 16:8/"Leangains" and a post about what I ate in a day while intermittent fasting - I decided to write a third because so many of you wanted more information!
Here's what you wanted to know.
Q: Why fast at all?
A: One point I want to make upfront is that FASTING and INTERMITTENT FASTING are two very different things. Intermittent fasting does NOT equate to starving yourself.
I think the reason intermittent fasting is so appealing to people is because you're not necessarily changing the foods you're eating or reducing your caloric intake, rather you're letting time be your guide. Some people say, "You can eat whatever you want while doing IF," and I don't agree with that. I don't believe it's an excuse to go balls to the walls at the gourmet donut shop. I DO believe it can allow you more flexibility with your meals.
Case in point: if you're trying to eat 1400 calories a day and you budget yourself 450 for breakfast, 400 for lunch, 350 for dinner and 200 for snacks, well, you can see how that could be a bit daunting. However, if you're trying to fit 1400 calories into 8 hours... it's a whole new ball game.
I love IF for many reasons. Now that I have a baby, my mornings are a little crazy and not having to worry about making and feeding myself breakfast and a mid-morning snack is a plus. I find that IF also helps to cut down significantly on my sugar cravings. When you're fitting ALL of your nutrition into 8 hours, you think twice about every single thing you're consuming. Empty calories become FAR less appealing. Personally I also love having a clear cut start and stop time for eating. No more midnight snacking or late night glasses of milk 'just because.'
Most of all, I love IF because it's EFFECTIVE. (Keep reading!)
Q: What kind of fast do you do, and how long is it?
A: I do a 16:8 fast, which is also known as Leangains. The idea is to fast for 16 hours and eat for 8. Leangains was established by a nutrition expert and former model who figured out that this way of eating is extremely effective when you're trying to lose fat without sacrificing muscle. Hence the name. Most people I've talked to "skip" breakfast as this is the easiest mealtime to give up for several reasons: 1) a lot of people don't like to eat breakfast; 2) a lot of people are busy in the morning and don't have a ton of time to make, get, or eat breakfast and 3) socially, it makes the most sense. When I intermittent fast, I typically eat from either 12-8 or 1-9, depending on what day of the week it is or what my/our plans are for any given day.
Keep in mind that 16:8 is not for everyone, and there are several other ways to try an IF plan for weight loss. Leangains was created to be done in conjunction with weight lifting, which is why I love it. But I realize that not everyone is interested in making "lean gains" (losing fat while still maintaining and gaining muscle mass). I don't have any experience with the 5:2 (eat normally 5 days a week, eat less than 600 calories the other 2) or Alternate Days (eat normally one day, eat less than 600 calories the next). I love this Today Show segment that shows Kerry Sanders trying all three methods.
Q: How do I know if 16:8 is for me?
A: 16:8 might be for you if...
· You're looking to change your body composition (IE lose fat, maintain/gain muscle) in a healthy way (IE no crash diets, no gimmicks, no rapid weight loss, etc.).
· Your schedule allows you to work out in the late morning, afternoon or early evening. (You can pick any window to eat in you choose, but I personally think 12-8pm or 1-9pm is the most realistic and sociable.)
· You already lift weights or are interested in getting started.
16:8 might NOT be for you if...
· You have ZERO interest in weight lifting or being a muscular individual. Keep in mind it was established to be done in conjunction with weight lifting. This isn't to say it WON'T work otherwise, but personally I wouldn't recommend it to someone who doesn't do any sort of resistance training.
· Your schedule ONLY allows you to work out very early in the morning or very late at night. (Personally, I wouldn't want to have to skip lunchtime or dinnertime in order to make 16:8 work. Technically you can eat from 6pm to 2am and fast for the rest of the day, but to me that doesn't seem super realistic or like it would be easy to stick to, unless you have a unique schedule.)
· You have any sort of history of disordered eating and feel IF might be a trigger for you.
Q: Do you count macros while doing IF?
A: You can, but you don't necessarily have to. This really depends on the individual's goals. The first time I did intermittent fasting, I did it for 16 days and did not count macros. In those 16 days, I lost 2.8lbs of fat and gained 1.1lb of muscle. (I know this because I took my body composition immediately before and after. I would recommend doing this, and not going simply by your total weight. It's much more important to know your body fat mass and muscle mass.) This time around, I have more fat to lose and therefore I've been watching my macros a bit closer. My recommendation would be to try IF for a few weeks without counting macros, checking in with yourself and going from there.
Q: Can I drink anything other than water during the fasted period?
A: I get this question a ton, and the answer is complicated because it differs depending on who you talk to. Some people say to stick to black coffee or plain tea. Martin Berkhan (the creator of Leangains) says that a tiny splash of milk won't really affect anything. I've also read that the body can technically stay in a fasted state if 50 calories or less are consumed during the fasted period. This is the theory I followed during my first stint with IF. I had iced coffee with a little milk every morning (always measured) and still saw great results. This time around, I'm trying to stick to black iced coffee. My advice would be to start with adding a tiny bit of something (honey to tea, milk to coffee) and see how you feel. If you feel you're not getting the results you want, take that away and keep on. (People ask about sugarless gum as well and my advice is to skip it. Gum isn't all that great for you to begin with and it can also cause bloat. The chewing motions may make you hungrier. I just don't think it's worth it. Concentrate on upping your water intake instead.)
Q: What's the deal with fasted cardio?
A: I admittedly don't have a ton of experience with this, so if you're looking for more information I recommend checking out this article.
Q: How can I lose body fat more effectively?
A. Start lifting weights! Muscle burns fat. Period. If you want to lose body fat and keep it off, you need do some form of resistance training. (Also - see next question.)
Q: Does IF burn fat rather than sugar?
A: Here's the deal. Your body wants to burn the sugar off first. However, when you're working out in a fasted state - let's say you stopped eating at 8pm on Tuesday and started your workout at 11am on Wednesday - your body doesn't have a recently consumed meal to burn. At this point, you've been fasting for 15 hours, and there is no readily available glucose or glycogen (sugar or complex carbs) to use for energy - you've already burned through that. Therefore, you're forced to use the only energy source available to you: fat stored in your cells.
Keep in mind that even if you're not at the gym or working out, you're still expending energy in your daily life. So this rule still applies.