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Intermittent Fasting: A Primer

Posted Jan 03 2011 11:34am

For many people, losing fat and keeping it off is an impossible task, and they’d sooner reach China by grabbing a shovel and flinging dirt around. The road to leanness is littered with the remnants horrible tasting food, dingy Tupperware containers and the dreams of those who abandoned their quest because of the seemingly insurmountable difficulty.

We’ve all been there at one point or another, but those who’ve managed to travel the wasteland and emerge on the other side victorious have done so by finding a way to stay on the path while others fell to the wayside, rules be damned.

And let’s face it: the fitness industry has managed to create a lot of rules and myths, both intentional and unintentional, to keep people in a constant state of fear and dependence, but the concept of intermittent fasting has come around and anecdotally proved that many of these claims are based off faulty and cherry-picked research, or are just flat out lies. Freeing people from the shackles of dogma and letting them indulge their inner hedonist without an ounce of guilt has helped hundreds, if not thousands, achieve the body of their dreams.

Forget about Atkins, low fat dieting, low carb dieting, the South Beach Diet, or any of those other fad diets. Here is a nutrition strategy you can use year in and year out to maintain an ideal body composition, to get shredded for a show, or to lean out for summer.

Without further adieu, I’d like to introduce you to the new sheriff in town and how he can help you get to where you want to be as fast and painlessly as possible.

Intermittent fasting (IF) is simply a unique style of eating where you alternate between a period of fasting and eating. There are several variations out there on the internet, but the one that I’ve had the greatest success with and feel is most beneficial to the weight lifting community is Martin Berkhan’s Leangains approach.

With this variation, one would fast for 16 hours while eating during an 8 hour window. During the fast, the only things that you’re allowed to consume are water, tea, coffee and other non-calorie containing beverages.

One of the biggest causes of dietary suicide, and why people fail to stick to their nutritional plan, is hunger. In our modern society where we’re rarely more than 5 minutes away from high calorie heaven, many folks simply aren’t used to being legitimately hungry anymore, so when the slightest stomach rumble rears its head they act as if the world is going to end if they don’t eat RIGHT AWAY.

Hunger is certainly a real issue when trying to lose body fat, but the truth of the matter is that it’s the price of admission you have to pay in order to transform your body. How much hunger you feel, however, is a choice. Dieting is associated with small, meager portions that leave you thinking about food constantly and counting down the seconds until your next unsatisfying meal, so it’s no wonder why this approach constantly backfires on people in the long term: dietary adherence falls to the wayside when you hate every minute of it.

This is one of the greatest benefits of intermittent fasting – actually feeling physically full from meals while on a diet. Since fat loss is first and foremost a matter of calories in vs calories out, the only thing you have to concern yourself with is getting in adequate macronutrients over the course of the day. Wanna know the best part? After a few days of adapting to this style of eating (some people are able to adjust right away), coupled with smart food choices, you’ll rarely find yourself hungry.

I’ve been eating this way for several months now and have gone as low as 1200 calories a day as part of a short term experiment and found that I only got hungry within an hour of having to end the fast, and even then it’s minor.

Many have also noticed that they feel more alert and productive during the fast, which runs contrary to the popular belief that fasting will lead to decreased mental performance and energy. The human body is an awesome and highly adaptable machine, so to think that it would begin to shut down in the face of a lack of food in the short term is nonsense.

Another plus is that intermittent fasting forces you to come to terms with your beliefs about eating and realize that you’re making it a lot harder than it needs to be. Don’t want to eat breakfast but can’t make the decision due to having the “it’s the most important meal of the day” myth beat into your head? Give abandoning it a try and see how it works out – no one will kill you for doing so.

Scared to death that your muscles will magically turn to dust while your strength levels plummet? Make sure that your nutrition and training plan is dialed in and set out to prove that this won’t be the case, despite what people may have convinced you to otherwise believe. Be open to experimentation, as it’s the only way to truly individualize what works for you and move beyond general recommendations.

Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, in the next part of this series, I’ll provide details on how to go about creating your own personal meal plan based off foods that you love eating and show examples from my own life.

A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Roger Lawson II received his bachelors degree in English Language and Literature. His passion for writing, teaching and helping others achieve their goals while improving their quality of life, has led him to pursue a career in the fitness industry. Wanting to first ask of himself what he would ask of his clients, Roger transformed his body and mind over the course of six months, finishing as a runner up in Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program.

Roger is a personal trainer at All Access Fitness Academy in Shrewsbury, MA, and is the owner of . He recently completed a three month internship at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA under the guidance of Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore and Brian St.Pierre where he learned the fundamentals of proper coaching and professionalism in the fitness industry.

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