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Spitting in the Wind: John Berardi's Fasting Experiment

Posted Jun 02 2012 11:30am

John Berardi recently did some fasting experiments that got a lot of attention.  He tried one-day-a-week fasts, short daily fasts, along with some combinations and variations of those two.  Reading through the document, however, there are a number of statements that don't seem to add up.  He didn't seem to consider hunger in general, or eating to hunger and satiety, as important tools in weight loss.

John's goal was to lose 20 pounds, even though he was already lean.  Here's one quote from the article when he did an intermittent fasting protocol.  It shows that this is a mechanical diet, and that there is no connection to hunger or satiety in the plan:

"Because you have to meet your daily calorie quota within fewer meals, you sometimes have to eat until you’re feeling more than 100% full.

At times the meals felt too big, like I was force-feeding myself."

Okay, so let me get this straight: he is trying to lose weight, but yet he is force-feeding himself at meals?  That doesn't sound very logical to me.

This came from a forced schedule that he followed:

"Noon Workout session with 10 g BCAA during session

1:30 PM Eat first meal, largest of the day

4:30 PM Eat second meal, moderate sized meal

8:30 PM Eat third meal, moderate sized meal"

Why not just eat to satiety during the 8-hour window?  How could that be any less effective?  Why eat at these exact prescribed times if he's not hungry at these times?  And above all else, why force yourself to overeat at meals if you are trying to lose weight?

Even if he was looking to cap total calories for the day, I don't see any benefit to strictly scheduling the food intake.  Better to eat to satiety and at least not be hungry some of the time. 

This leads me to my next point.  He generally limited the calories per day and tried to consume a similar number every day.  Why not add some flexibility to this?  You could cap the total number of calories for a week, and still allow some day-to-day flexibility.  Hunger is not 100% equal every day - some days the body might need more or less calories.  Even when aiming for a weekly calorie deficit, I don't see any benefit of rigid day-to-day calorie caps.

Something else that was prominently mentioned in the document was moodiness and food cravings.  In my view, this goes hand-in-hand with not eating to hunger and satiety.  You are not giving the body what it wants when it wants it. 

You could argue that what he is trying to do, going from 10% bodyfat to 4%, isn't natural and cannot be obtained by natural eating to hunger and satiety in the first place.  This could be true.  Even given that, there is no reason to totally ignore hunger and satiety (i.e. force yourself to overeat or eat only at prescribed times) during this period.  After all, he states in the document that he wants to remain at this new weight long-term.  I would argue that in the long run, you can't do this by ignoring the body's signals for hunger and satiety.  To do so is just spitting in the wind. 

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