What is Intermittent Fasting?
This is the process of confining all your eating to a 6-10 hour period (eating window), within every 24 hours. You can have drinks outside your eating window, but generally speaking your meals and calorie dense snacks are confined to an 8 hour period in the second half of each day.
Why do people choose IF?
There are lots of reasons, of which not all are correct or just (thanks to Chinese whispers within the fitness industry). Currently IF is on trend, it’s ‘great for fat loss’, has been used to market meal plans and support agendas, is anabolic, causes more growth hormone production, etc.
In general people use IF because it has been recommended to be superior for fat loss goals, have more health benefits and it is the new, fool-proof craze.
Is it effective for fat loss?
It is no more effective than a different diet where you eat the same amount of calories. Normal eating, IIFYM, the 5:2 diet, clean eating and so on, will all yield virtually identical results if each week the net calories are matched with someone using IF.
So I shouldn’t use IF?
Not necessarily. Different diets exist and flourish because they suit and work for different people. IF for example, is often great for busy people, those who are nauseas in the mornings and those with fat loss goals. The main benefits include:
- Bigger meals
- More varied food selection at meals
- Becoming habituated to genuine hunger vs boredom
- Greater calorie restriction and fasting arguably leading to positive health markers
For fat loss you can most certainly trial IF. For school run mums, city workers and those who are never hungry in the mornings, confining your food to a smaller period will prevent you worrying about breakfast and has proven successful in our experience. For people who tend to snack after dinner, reducing eating earlier in the day will leave more calories for treat foods in the late evening too.
So I should use IF?
For fat loss or weight maintenance goals it can be a very effective tool, which you can intermittently use across the week to balance out calorie intake. This means you can make amends for unexpected periods of high calorie intake like work events, a night out, takeaway, etc. You do this by limiting calorie intake before, or (most commonly) after the event, which would be easy with a confined eating window (IF). More on this here.
Some data suggests that it is inevitable that you will regain the weight you lost through IF, as you will eventually revert to a more normal eating pattern. So this may suggest it is unsustainable long term.
For muscle building we would not suggest using IF. Your ability to build muscle will be hindered, the large amount of calories over a small period may cause digestive issues, IF simply isn’t more anabolic than other ways of eating, and any change in GH within the physiological range (not administered by injection to become supraphisiological) will have no effect. Studies may come out to disprove this, but currently protein timing and synthesis (muscle-building) is sub optimal when using IF.
We do not think intermittent fasting has magic powers, but it may prove more successful for your fat loss goals than regular eating, as it may suit your lifestyle more appropriately, increasing your efficacy of sticking to your calories.
We would not use IF every day, but believe it is a great tool to have at your disposal and another great bit of evidence for counting calories. For those of you who find the weekends all too commonly scupper your goals, learning how to moderate calorie intake to account for these spikes may prove beneficial, and using IF may be a great way to implement this.
If you would like to try IF we would suggest ensuring your training is either immediately before or within your eating window. Then simply take your target calories and spread them across 3 meals, or 2 meals and some snacks. This will work with our Bikini and Cutting Guides.