What is this “Intermittent Fasting” business all about?

Basically it means restricting your food intake for X amount of hours and then eating your calorie requirements within a limited time frame. Now…many people that ask me about intermittent fasting think that it means not eating all day long and then finishing the day with a gorge fest! Although this sounds like fun (sorta), it’s not the case.  I have to admit, when I first heard about this method of eating, I also thought it was a “eat one meal per day” diet plan.

Many studies have been done on people with higher body fat levels, which doesn’t always apply to us – the fitness freaks. A new study, involving athletes, shows that intermittent fasting can be quite useful for burning fat and maintaining, or improving, athletic performance.

Intermittent Fasting vs Normal Diet

intermittent fasting

But this doesn’t mean fasting all day and eating one or two giant meals at the end of the day.  Researchers had the athletes fast for 16 hours a day and then eat 3 meals to get their caloric requirements (1pm, 4pm and 8pm). Which, to me, sounds very much like what many of us already do, give or take a few hours.

Personally, I will eat my first meal of the day around 9am and my last meal of the day around 10pm. That means that I’m fasting 11 hours of the day and eating for 13 (4-5 meals spread over that time, eating every 2.5-3 hours).  In the study, the “non-fasting” people also ate 3 meals – at 8am, 1pm and 8pm.

I’ve always recommend athletes, especially bodybuilders, not go more than 4 hours without eating to avoid going into a negative nitrogen balance and halting protein synthesis. Of course, when we’re sleeping this is not necessary.  I think sleeping is far more important to growth and recovery than waking up for a meal or shake.

When I look at the non-fasters I see that they’re going 7 hours between meals which is far too long! The fasters eat every 4 hours, which is better. It would have been interesting to see how the non-fasters would have compared to the fasters if they had eaten a meal every 2-3 hours.

Nevertheless this study does show that intermittent fasting can work.  I still don’t recommend it for people who break their muscles down with weight training. It’s not nearly the starve and binge I personally thought intermittent fasting was. I hope this article cleared up any confusion you may have had as well.

Sources: Journal of Translational Medicine, SuppVersity