Intermittent Fasting – ‘To fast or not too fast…’

Intermittent Fasting, Growth Hormone and a whole load of fat loss! Let’s get stuck in!

What is intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting (usually meaning consumption of water only) and non-fasting.

16:8 intermittent fasting is where you fast for 16 hours (say 8pm until 12 noon the next day) and feed for 8 hours. Another way of fasting called 5:2 Fasting – 5 days eating normally, 2 days eating a reduced amount of calories (500 for women, 600 for men).

What does it do?

(As well as making you hungry for short periods at predetermined times)
Intermittent Fasting is reported to reduce body weight (fat & muscle) and improve blood markers such as IGF-1, glucose and cholesterol (BBC, 2012)

Some claim fasting triggers your body to decompose and burn cells and tissues which are diseased, damaged, aged or dead. I certainly like the sound of this! Though before we get too excited let’s explore a little more.

Whether it is a good/reliable/easy way to lose fat and improve ones health is another question.

Problems with Intermittent Fasting

The major drawback, which is more of a technicality than a drawback, is the exact thing the BBC made a right pig’s ear out of on in their recent review. They said the faster can eat “anything” during the feeding time – stupid advice! Fast for 16 hours then smash chemically altered sugars and fats, frankin-bread, tortured cow, processed steroid head zombie chicken – very silly.  That kind of crap messes with your body AND mind!

Intermittent fasting also takes a great deal of willpower.  And willpower is important if you want change though there might be a an easier leverage point before diving into I.F.  At the beginning staying focused, working, working workout, doing anything is probably going to be tougher because of the changes to your energy intake when your body is normally expecting it.  The first week of fasting is quite a shock to the system. Something I REALLY love about this topic is that it brings about more questioning of the way we have been told to eat.  The breakfast, lunch, dinner + snacks model was made up by someone who probably owned a cereal company… and the guys who said – eating lots of small meals throughout the day the keep your metabolic fire burning was definitely misinformed – it doesn’t work that way. Take the Romans for example, they only ate one meal per day and saw breakfast as a form of gluttony (ironically gluttony does not mean excessive gluten intake, though a Westerners breakfast often does).

If your current diet consists of a lot of grains, whole-wheat foods, dairy, sugars and you embark on an IF experience you’re going to experience some serious cravings (serious changes for the better too but most certainly cravings). My advice is if you’re eating that list of foods above then there is probably some other refining and learning to be done to your diet before experimenting with IFing.  Paleo can be very decent place to begin resetting your system, a great base way of eating to see what food intolerances you may have – most of us have them.

I say paleo because it takes out many potential allergens and, if you’re tuning into the integrity of the food you eat (organic, local, wild, grass fed being key playa’s) you’re instantly connecting with and improving the environment around you without making hardcore changes to your eating. The more I learn about the meat, fish and poultry industry and the environment impacts, the less I eat – I’m eating around 1/3 the amount I ate 2 years ago and at least organic, local, wild or grass fed.

 

They’re my initial thoughts, let’s see what the everyone else is saying…

World renowned strength and conditioning coach Charles Poliquin (2011) says “Breakfast skippers are not only more likely to have more fat than those who eat it, but they are more likely to get even fatter due to susceptibility to overeating later in the day” He recommends a meat and nut breakfast for best fat loss and muscle gaining results. I’ve pulled this quote from Poliquin because it emphasises a point in my conclusion at the end of this article.

Think about driving a Ferrari or Aston Martin – awesome, high quality, high performance vehicles. Now take the traction control off. It’s difficult to control. Still very high performance vehicles though if driven by someone without the skill (willpower and knowledge of which foods to eat) there is going to be a crash! In my opinion the kind of foods you consume during the feeding time of intermittent fasting are VERY important – not just for you but the wider impact on the World around you – your environment – which you need to exist – right!? Does cleaning the inside of your fuel tank and car engine mean you can pump junk like coca-cola or sugary cereal into your car for fuel and expect it to function properly? Nope. Same goes for your body.

Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Body) is someone I have been following (such a bizzare way of describing that I have been ‘reading his stuff’), he says: “If I had to make an intelligent guess, I would say that Paleolithic man probably ate once per day or maybe even twice every three days. In data gathered from humans still living in non-Westernized cultures in the last century, it appears that they would gorge after a kill and sleep and lay around doing not much of anything for the next day or so. When these folks got hungry, they went out and hunted and started the cycle again.”

So I interpret that as he’s saying it is very natural for humans, as the conscious animals we are, to eat a LARGE meal and then be ‘forced’ into a fasting period through lack of availability of food and general lack of desire. This said, he does mention resting a lot afterwards until the next kill is necessary. In either way, people of the Paleolithic period were eating food local, wild and organic and they would go for long periods of time without consuming food – ie not causing an insulin spike. The whole thing about ‘paleo’s’ having short lives could be a factor though when the stats on this are investigated it becomes obvious that infant deaths (i.e dying at a VERY young age because of disease, death during birth and vulnerability in their younger years) skews the numbers. Add on to this the likelihood the mother (young-ish) would survive and we can’t really derive any meaningful outcome about average lifespan and diet. Boom shakalaka.

Let’s get a little geeky here:
Robb Wolf (2012), author of ‘The Paleo Solution’ says that the benefits of intermittent fasting are all down to the individual. Wolf references a study by Jack Kruse who brings up the point that if a person is leptin resistant they should not try intermittent fasting because of the way our bodies utilise fats and glucose as energy and letpin’s role in the process.

“If our leptin signaling is not functioning properly then our metabolic pathways cannot handle the stress of Intermittent Fasting and it can result in undesirable effects.” It’s also really important to note that Intermittent Fasting puts a lot of stress on our body. “If we are over-trained, sleep deprived, or generally stressed out, then Intermittent Fasting should not be attempted until all of those factors are taken care of.” (Wolf, 2012)

The BBC (2012):
Michael Mosley of the BBC tried the 5:2 fasting plan (see top for explanation). In 5 weeks he reported losing nearly a stone in weight (they don’t say if this is fat or muscle), and that his IGF-1, glucose and cholesterol improved. He went on to say that if he sustained it he would “greatly reduce his risk of contracting age-related diseases like cancer and diabetes”. Interesting and positive results which I like!

Let’s get into some more light science:
(This time about the hormones we are affecting through IF)

In their program the BBC touch on the topic of IGF-1 – Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 as one of the things humans should aim to reduce because of it’s aging properties. I found this particularly fascinating because people, including celebrities you know take growth hormones like IGF-1 thinking they are ‘drinking from the fountain of youth’. It (growth hormone including IGF-1) is often taken by people wanting to gain muscle quickly and to become very lean (Brainum, 2009). There’s no doubt, I’ve seen the results on people close to me, if taken correctly with the right training and nutrition a human can do just that – build muscle and become very lean (think – veins
on the abs) very quickly.

WAY back in 1999 (seems so long ago…) Harvard University reported on IGF-1: “Levels of IGF-1 drop when people eat less. Animal studies show that decreases in food intake lessen tumor growth and increase lifespan. “However, it’s too early to make specific recommendations about restricting calories on the basis of our results”.

In 1999 Cromie of William J. Harvard University also reported that “The growth factor, known as insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF- 1, is necessary for proper growth in children, but studies of men and women more than 40 years old raise the possibility that it contributes to the growth of tumors.

(I told you we were going to get geeky…)

“Because IGF-1 spurs cellular growth, some scientists voice concern that at high concentrations could stimulate cancer… “Studies with worms and other invertebrates show that a lack of IGF-1 helps extend life. Mice and rats deficient in IGF-1 live longer than rodents not deficient in it.

“These results raise concern about attempts to slow aging in older people by giving them growth hormone to increase their IGF-1. Since levels of both substances decrease with age, some observers suggest that injections of the hormone may counter several effects of getting old.

“…in a six-year study of 32,826 nurses, those with the highest levels of IGF-1 had a two-and- a-half times greater risk of colorectal cancer. High levels of IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) produced the opposite effect.” This was backed by a similar finding in 14,916 male physicians: “In the case of those with the highest IGF-1 and lowest IGFBP-3, the relative risk of colorectal cancer rose fourfold, after accounting for differences in weight, height, alcohol intake, and other known risk factors.” (Cromie 1999)

Iron Man Magazine (2009) reports that injecting high doses of IGF-1 for enhanced performance stimulates internal organ growth, which is why you see bloated abdomens on some athletes. The same holds true for Growth Hormone: Small doses can be beneficial, but large doses place you in unknown biophysical territory.

And back out of geeky territory

The BBC’s disclaimer comment at the bottom of their report displaying love for Intermittent Fasting is quite amusing: “Current medical opinion is that the benefits of fasting are unproven and until there are more human studies it’s better to eat at least 2000 calories a day.”

I ask, do we want to wait until medicine proves or disproves the foods we should eat or rely more on listening to our own bodies? That’s up to you though it could take 20 years of eating grains and 99% fat free, high sugar ‘healthy foods’ for ‘medicine’ to complete their research and find the balls to say: “oh yeah, Intermittent Fasting works, sugar is actually making you fat, (good) fat is actually good for you and grains and wheat are most probably killing you… sorry about your diabetes, brittle bones and fat kids”.

I’m all for Intermittent Fasting and believe there are great benefits to be had if you have the willpower to eat the right foods on your feeding days. Get your general feeding right first then maybe try intermittent fasting.

(IF is not for everyone and you should listen to your body and, to cover my own arse I’m required to say always consult a medical specialist before taking any of my advice)

Rich Eats Conclusion

Consistently for the past 3 years I’ve naturally been training in the morning before breakfast (just green tea and occasionally some almonds) as a means of burning more fat. My experience – it got me lean though as reported by many of the sources above I definitely lost muscle mass.

In terms of Intermittent Fasting – if you’re an elite athlete and looking to experiment with some fine tuning then get stuck in. If you’re starting to get into nutrition and training make sure you’re getting good quality sleep, cutting back on (or eliminating) grains, wheat and refined sugar and training effectively for your goals first – then if you want to, try IF. And, I’d like to suggest you take peek at the integrity of your food… the animals life, how the fruit or vegetables were grown / treated…

Growth Hormone Conclusion: If you’re tempted to start injecting Growth Hormone (GH) as a means of getting bigger and leaner, and you’re perfectly healthy my advice is don’t. If you are 60+ and are seriously considering GH because you;ve been advised by your doctor then seek a second opinion from a specialist in the subject, don’t buy it from the guy at the gym and ‘give it a blast’.

I say this next part with the kindest heart and genuine love for your longevity; if you’ve already injected GH and are concerned about the possible effects for the future I highly advise you to speak with your GP, get blood tests done as a starting point then find a specialist (not your GP) to find the best ways to protect yourself for a long and prosperous life! I base that advice on my instinct and having interviewed some of the top longevity specialists in California.

Further Reading:

Definitely check out The Guys at Ultimate City Fitness, Gav has been doing IF for a few months now and has some great things to say in their post.

Dr John Beradri has a great site on Intermittent Fasting here:
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/intermittent-fasting

Bibliography

BBC (Molsley, 2012) ‘‘The power of intermittent fasting’’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19112549

Iron Man Magazine (Brainum, 2009) ‘‘IGF-1: Killer or Savior?’’ http://www.ironmanmagazine.com/anti-aging-research/

Havard Gazette (Cromie, 1999) ‘Growth Factor Raises Cancer Risk’ http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/1999/04.22/igf1.story.html

Charles Poliquin (2011) ‘Top Ten Reasons to Eat Breakfast: It Will Make You a Better, Happier, More Attractive Person’

http://www.charlespoliquin.com/Blog/tabid/130/EntryId/423/Top-Ten-Reasons-to-Eat-Breakfast-It-Will-Make-You-a-Better-Happier-More-Attractive-Person.aspx

Robb Wolf (2012) “To Eat or not to eat, that is the question” http://robbwolf.com/2012/03/08/eat-eat-question/

6 comments on “Intermittent Fasting – ‘To fast or not too fast…’

  1. Great article Rich, very insightful and I like that you take a common sense approach to what is presented from new methods to diet and train.
    I’m going to have a go with the IF myself soon to see what happens.

  2. Interesting article. Just to recount my recent experience with IF: Having trained consistently following a periodised programme for several years, I struggled to lose significant body fat (I’d lose some during more conditioning orientated phases but put it back on during strength phases). I realised I had not been sufficiently disciplined with my diet. After getting serious about what I ate (or rather what I shouldn’t eat) I lost some fat, but progress was pretty slow. I then tried following Martin Berkhan’s IF pattern of not eating after 8pm and not before midday the next day – basically fitting in three balanced meals between 12PM and 8PM. I found to my scepticism I consistently and predictably lost fat and inches around the belly and managed to largely retain performance – that conclusion being based on a before and after general strength and fitness test where I dropped approximately 10% 1RM from bench and deadlift. For me it made a very significant difference psychologically because it seems to offer me a predictable method of fat loss. One thing to note: I followed this plan for 12 weeks during an extended conditioning phase (dropped from 96.5kg to 89kg). Now I’ve reintroduced breakfast and am experimenting with increased (but controlled) calories during strength and then power phases. I’ll see whether I can keep control of the body fat without affecting performance gains.

    • Hey Greg, my apologies for the late reply – a few years – I missed this!!

      Thank you for commenting and your experience, it’s really interesting to read!

      How are you getting on?

  3. Great article Rich I got a lot from that. You said that when you train before feeding you lost weight and muscle. Is there something different we should if we train before feeding and want to try IF? If we train before eating and don’t want to lose muscle should we not IF?

    • admin on said:

      Hi John, thanks for getting involved 🙂

      It always depends….. everything health and training always depends. Now knowing you, I’d say try IF for a couple of weeks and see how you feel and how your body changes. Expect a few hunger pangs the first few days in the morning / evening depending on how you work the timings to create the 16 hour window of not ‘feeding’, observe them and push through.

      The fasting time gives your body plenty of time to digest and then rest and get to work on other things you body needs work on (for example healing anything and or balancing your hormones).

      If you’re concerned about not eating after training and muscle loss, (for example, if you train early in the morning then have to wait until 1pm for your first meal) you might want to choose to stop eating earlier in the evening so when you’ve finished training the time gap between training and your first meal is less.

      Useful?

    • Hola John! Thanks for messaging amigo! It always depends… play around with it and see what works for you. I’ve read articles that say it doesn’t matter when you eat or what you eat if you are IFing… (I don’t buy that). What I do know is that it always depends on the human in question and that your best bet is to play around with it and see what feels best for you. Some seasons (yes the seasons like summer, winter…) will be better suited to certain foods at certain times, depending on your lifestyle and stress / happiness levels. I just posted this article on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and consider it more important that most of the other posts I’ve made about paleo, fat loss etc… let me know if you like it: http://richeats.tv/2015/10/traditional-chinese-medicine/

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